Nineteen local teenagers participated in the inaugural season of “Rooted at Carnation Farms.” “Rooted” is an immersive job and leadership development program in sustainable farming, food systems, nutrition and cooking, and food justice. The full-time program lasted seven weeks and took place at the historic Carnation Farms.
Over the course of the season the teens learned about local agriculture and were also challenged to grow personally. “Rooted is so much more than just a job,” says Martha Marino, Director of Education at Carnation Farms, “It’s a life changing experience that will give these teens the foundation and the tools needed to be agents of change in our food system.”
The teens divided their time between the farm fields, the classroom, the kitchen, and local food banks. Each day started with field work where they got firsthand experience in sustainable agriculture, from starting seeds to weeding to harvesting to getting food ready for market. “No textbook could teach me how to properly harvest garlic or what the peak ripeness of a marionberry is. I learned so much about planting, weeding, pruning, harvesting, irrigation, bees, chickens, etc,” says Rooted teen Kaila. “I felt like I grew so much in my knowledge and appreciation of farming over the course of the summer, just like the sunflowers we were able to watch- going from tiny seedlings to towering giants in just a few weeks.”
Learning about the local food system was another important piece of the program. “Working at Carnation Farms has definitely given me a greater appreciation for where my food comes from and has challenged me to think of ways that I can contribute to our food system,” says teen Jimmy. “One way is through food policy. We learned about how policy impacts agriculture, especially the rules around organic farming. This information and insight has given me the confidence to find ways to get involved to help advocate for farmer needs.”
In addition to learning about farming and food systems, each week the teens participated in a nutrition and culinary session. Cooking classes were taught by professional chefs who helped give them the skills needed to be able to prepare food on their own. “The culinary aspect of ‘Rooted’ is especially important to me because I help cook for my family,” remarked teen Sophie. “My mom depends on me to make dinner multiple times a week as well as meals for guests and on special occasions. Learning from the chefs at Carnation Farms has been really valuable.”
The teens also spent one day each week at the food bank. Half the teens worked at Hopelink in Carnation and the other half at the Snoqualmie Valley Food Bank in North Bend. At the food banks they’d sort, clean, organize, breakdown boxes, whatever needed doing. They would also bring a donation of produce they harvested each week. In this way, they were able to see how their work directly impacted people’s lives.
“Rooted” has made a lasting impact on the teens, their families, and communities. “Not only will I be able to change my own behaviors to better myself and the planet, but I’ll get to pass that knowledge to my family and friends, the people I love the most,” says teen Jessie. “And I hope, with a little help, they will all have a better understanding of and stronger relationship with the food they eat, and that my grandchildren will have the same appreciation for the natural world as I do.”
Many of the teens will continue to work part-time at Carnation Farms throughout the year. The “Rooted” program will continue next summer with a new crop of youth, ready to make a difference.