Monday, June 10, 2013

Student Highlight! By: Clare Hyre

Yona Hudson is a graduating senior at W.B. Saul High School and has worked at the Henry Got Crops! CSA for all four years. Saul High School, Weavers Way Farms, and Weavers Way Community Programs have a partnership that allows 130 students to work on the farm per week to learn every step of the farming cycle as well as about cooking and nutrition.  Students use the farm as a hand on educational tool and harvest food from their raised beds to take home.  The farm provides food for 130 families and a variety of educational opportunities for community members. Yona has watched the farm develop from its beginnings and has been invaluable to the farm and to the farm education programs. Over the summer she will work as a crew leader for the Urban Nutrition Initiative and then will attend Penn State in the fall. We couldn’t be more excited or proud of Yona. I, Farm Education Coordinator Clare Hyre, interviewed Yona about her experience at the CSA over the past four years in early June.

CLARE  HYRE:  Hi Yona. To begin the interview can you tell me how you first find out about Saul and why you chose to go to an agricultural high school?
YONA HUDSON: I found out about Saul by accident. My old elementary school teacher knew I was into food and I was looking up schools with cooking programs so he told me the school was cool and had animals and stuff and although they don’t have a cooking program they had a food science program. So I applied and I got accepted.
I chose to go to an agricultural high school because this school had something different from the rest. Students could go outside for classes. I wasn’t sure what agriculture was at first but I researched and thought it sounded cool.
CH : What was your first experience and impressions of the CSA?
YH : I found out about the CSA through talking with the farmers, Nina [Berryman] and Nicole [Sugerman] I asked them about Alice Waters and wanted to know if the CSA had a similar program [to the Berkley Edible Schoolyard]. I had a good impression of the CSA and thought what the people were doing was cool and unique. I was like “this is where my food comes from!”
CH : You worked as an summer intern in  2009, 2010, and are currently the Saul student farmer. What made you interested in working at the farm over the summer in the first place and what made you keep coming back?
YH : My experience freshman year was what made me want to work at the farm over the summer. I saw the farm at it’s beginning and the vibe that I got from people that worked here made me want to come back. The atmosphere and the work felt good. I got a lot of joy out of seeing things grow. I had the experience of seeding arugula and then watching it grow! I knew it was mine. I thought the summer internship was great because the school offered jobs to youth to work at the farm and pays them.
The good experiences I had on the farm kept me coming back. I liked meeting the farm interns and learning about their experiences. I got to become closer with Nina and Nicole and developing friendships with them.  Also I learned enough to teach other youth about farming and I really enjoyed that. I liked going to meetings and potlucks and meeting people from all over who are doing this work. Working at the farm and as the student farmer allowed me to explore what farming really is beyond the labor. Going to the farm became something to look forward too.
CH : In 2011 you went to the Rooted In Community Conference in 2011. Rooted In Community (RIC) is a national youth led food justice conference and it was held in Philadelphia. What did you learn at that conference and did it change your relationship with farming? Food justice?
YH : At RIC I learned that I wasn’t the only youth doing this.  I learned that there were other organizations besides Weavers Way and Weavers Way Community Programs that were doing it. I learned that there was a lot of diversity amongst the youth who were farming. At RIC there were people from all over and the youth and adults all treated each other with respect and appreciation.
At Saul I sometimes get criticism for loving the CSA but at RIC we were in unity over our love for farming.
At RIC I learned that the whole idea of food justice is that people no matter what (race, gender, economic-status), we all have a right to access to food. I learned so much about food justice and food deserts. Until that time I didn’t realize I lived in a food desert. RIC made me want to learn about recourses and how to build a more just food system in my community. There I learned about SNAP benefits and how to use your benefits at farmer’s markets around the city. RIC made me feel like I was farming for a bigger cause and that I could use what learned to teach other folks.
Ultimately, RIC helped me meet youth who were enthusiastic about what I was enthusiastic about. I am still in touch with many of the youth and adults from RIC.
CH : I know you stated it above but could you define food justice for me again?
YH : I would define food justice as anyone, or anything despite of gender, race, age, class , etc. , has the right to good and wholesome food. The food has to be organic, pesticide free, good for you and with the intention of keeping you healthy.
CH :  Well said. What are your favorite things about working at the CSA?
YH: Meeting all the different people who come to the farm. I also like the labor of farming and knowing that as much work as I put into the farm comes back out of the farm and seeing the farm benefit others. Making connections with people that will last longer than my high school experience.
CH:  How would you say working with the educational programs at the CSA [WWCP] has changed how you eat or think about food?
YH: Before the cooking demo’s [with Clare during the summer internship] I would grow the food but I wouldn’t know what to do with the food. But after I learned how to cook a little more it diversified my palate and my eating habits.
CH : Congratulations on getting into Penn State. What are you planning on studying there? And, I know this is a loaded question but what do want to do as your future ‘career’? 
YH : Haha. I’m studying environmental studies at Penn State. I have no idea about careers but I know that I want to continue to work in food justice work, sustainability, and farming. I’m not sure WHAT I will be doing but I won’t be inside, that’s for sure.
CH :  You got a job this summer working for the Urban Nutrition Initiative, a Southwest Philly Food Justice organization that works with teens, as a crew leader. What are some of the things you are looking forward to /hoping to learn by working there?
YH : I’m so excited to work with UNI. I’m not sure if the people who work there know how cool they are but I think they are amazing. I’m so excited to work with the people I’ve looked up to for so long. They are very inspiring. They have so much diversity within their program because they work all over and their staff is really unique. I’m really excited to be a crew leader and work with youth. I’ve never really lead youth my age before and it will be a hard but also great for growth. I t will be a challenge but I’m looking forward to learning how to be a teacher and a stronger leader for food justice.
CH : Thanks Yona. I’m so excited about you going out into the world with all your experience in farming, cooking, and food justice. For the last question can you tell me your top three experiences relating to farm education and the CSA in the past four years?
YH :  1. Making connections and relationships with people for future jobs. I’m still in touch with past apprentices from the farm and folks from RIC.
2. Attending Rooted In Community in 2011. I also really enjoyed the 2013 Regional gathering at Bartram’s Garden.
3. Seeing the farm grow… it was just starting when I got here and I got to feel like I really supported its growth. I got to see a lot of people come and gain knowledge here.
CH: Thanks Yona! It’s been such a delight to work with you and I wish you the best of luck in your next steps.
YH : I’m still here for two more weeks. Don’t make me cry!

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