The 2022 High School Farm Team: Growing More Than Food in Our Fields

image of high school farm team harvesting carrots

Every year, Gaining Ground welcomes a team of local high school students who volunteer in the fields during their summer vacation. They learn and work alongside our farmers under the scorching sun and the pummeling rain, preparing the soil, transplanting seedlings, hand-weeding vegetable beds, and harvesting nutrient-dense produce for hunger relief. Throughout the 2022 season, this incredible group of young learners continually reminded us that we grow so much more than food in our fields.

“I would say the main reason I wanted to return to Gaining Ground was because of the farmers here,” said high school farm team volunteer Kendall Colleran. “It has been really impactful for me to have a team of female leaders to look up to. Seeing how capable and tough the farmers are has helped me gain confidence in my own ability to lead.”

We were grateful to have Kendall back for her second season on the farm, bringing a full summer of experience along with her as she served as team co-leader. Not only do the team’s co-leaders help fellow members learn the ropes of various tasks and projects, they also help instill the tone of respect, kindness, hard work, and curiosity set by our farmers.

image of farmer Rae with the farm team, and the high school farm team harvesting scallions

“With one farm season under my belt, I was able to offer more help to people who were new to the farm team by showing them where things were kept and how to bunch scallions or dig for potatoes,” said Kendall. “Being more comfortable with basic tasks gave me the room to learn new skills as well, such as transplanting broccoli. Every time I come to the farm, I feel like I pick up something new, whether it’s about farming tactics, sustainability, or the plants themselves.”

Fellow co-leader, Elisabeth Weber, also just completed her second season on the farm team. Not only did the farm’s mission to help people experiencing food insecurity appeal to Elisabeth, the atmosphere on the farm itself also drew her back.

“When I first started last summer, I loved how welcoming everyone was, even though I had no previous experience with farming,” said Elisabeth. “The farmers were all very friendly and hardworking, and I got to learn a lot and have fun while also giving back to the community.”

Our farm team members—just like our farmers—love a challenge. So it doesn’t surprise us that the opportunities that the farm presents to improve at familiar techniques while also engaging with new ideas and practices throughout the season also appeals to volunteers like Elisabeth.

images of the high school farm team harvesting carrots

“This year, I was able to use what I had learned and help others who were new to farming and volunteering at Gaining Ground,” said Elisabeth. “I was also able to feel more sure of my work when we did things I had done last summer. However, there were always other tasks that I hadn’t done before and still got to learn from and grow as a farmer.”

We are incredibly fortunate to have had students on the team this year who embraced the spirit of collaboration and learning that our farmers do so much to foster. Just as importantly, this fantastic team shared with us a deep respect for the land, its history, and the people it enables us to feed.

As we moved about the farm, we learned to always be conscious and respectful of the environment we were working in,” said Kendall. “It is meaningful to know that all of the produce we tended to was grown from soil cared for by hand, without being disrupted by tillage machinery. Even more significant was the knowledge that many other hands had worked to preserve the land that we grew and harvested from; it has been cultivated for hundreds of years, starting with Indigenous communities. Knowing the history of the land gives an incentive to protect it for the future, and sharing in that responsibility highlights the collaboration on the farm that extends way beyond just our team.”

We are grateful to each member of this year’s farm team, and to Kendall and Elisabeth for sharing their reflections from the past season with us. The need for fresh, nutrient-dense produce remains urgent, and this dedicated group of students helps to make our critical hunger-relief work possible year after year.

Photo credit: Tony Rinaldo Photography LLC

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