The Syracuse Downtown Farmers Market returned for the summer in June for its 46th annual season. This week, it saw a stand run by local youth for their second season selling in Clinton Square, Urban Delights Produce.
The Syracuse high school students set up lettuce heads and charred greens while giving customers a chance to smell the mint leaves. By 10:00 a.m., the Urban Delights farmers stand had already run out of their popular greens, and director Kristina Kirby had to go back to the garden to restock.
The kids are ages 15 to 21-years-old, and they operate the stand as a summer job. They’re hired through Central New York Works of Jubilee Homes of Syracuse Inc. to garden and sell their products around the Syracuse area. Kirby is one of the ten workers who is gaining work experience and educating Central New York’s youth about organic produce.
“We have got a lot of kids that come and they have never touched soil in their life. They’re like, ‘What’s a compost?'” Kirby said. “One thing they know about is maybe collard greens but a lot of the vegetables they really don’t know anything about.”
The initiative became a hands-on learning experience when Jubilee Homes created the Jubilee Southwest Community Learning Farm where Urban Delights student-employees grow their crops. Now the students work every Tuesday at the Urban Delights Farm Stand at the downtown farmers market.
“This is real manual labor,” said Karisa Kirby, an Ithaca College student employed for the summer to help supervise the teens. “We have raised beds that we plant our crops in. We fill those, we weed those, we harvest everything. We don’t use pesticides, everything’s organic so we have to make sure we have to kill any bugs or any pests. We also use an irrigation system to water everything, we have a compost pile- we use that to refill beds.”
Nearly 87% of farms in the United States are owned and operated by individuals or families, and this farm is one of them. The kids are connecting with each other, as well as their community.
“This program has helped me connect with my community,” Kirby said. “I grew up in Syracuse, I have lived here my whole life. This program really made me aware of some of the issues that we have, things that we face. So it makes you want to make a difference.”