This year, Grow Food Northampton has had the privilege of hosting three MassLIFT-AmeriCorps service members, Caroline Rosa, Diego Irizarry-Gerould, and Katie Carr. In their different roles, they have greatly increased our capacity to strengthen the local food system. They have also made our office much more full, as they have doubled the number of desks! Not to mention their Bee Beet Beats costumes, which won the highly-coveted “Best Costume” for our team at the Northampton Education Foundation Adult Spelling Bee, an award that speaks to their creativity and fun-loving sense of humor!
Sadly, we will have to say goodbye to them this summer, when their terms of service end. But in the meantime, we want to celebrate their hard work with us and recognize all that they have done for our organization.
Caroline is the Youth Education Coordinator and has been tasked with expanding our education programming. In the fall, she led field trips to Crimson & Clover Farm, where students learned about organic farming and where their food comes from, while getting a chance to harvest and try vegetables like kale and radishes. She is now planning spring field trips to the Giving Garden, where students will get to give back to the community by helping prepare beds and plant vegetables for donation to local organizations. Her work this winter has focused on developing and delivering in-class workshops, in which students tried their hands at making food with local ingredients (omelets, muffins, kale chips, sprouts, rainbow salad) while learning about healthy eating, plant science, and environmental and economic benefits of local food.
Serving as the Youth Education Coordinator with us this year has given her valuable experience in developing original farm-to-school programming, and Caroline hopes to continue in this same line of work in the future, leading educational programming at a nonprofit farm or school garden organization. With more than 40 field trips and 120 in-class workshops under her belt, and with rave reviews from teachers and students, her future employer will be lucky to have her.
Diego is our Land Stewardship Coordinator. He has only been with us since February, but in that time he has been involved in a number of different projects. He has explored productive conservation options along the Mill River, researching how to integrate perennial food systems into the flood-prone area. He has also helped us refine and rethink how we approach lease management on our 120-acre community farm, considering both the needs of future farmers for land and infrastructure and our needs for a cohesive approach to management of the whole farm.
The main focus of his work has been on our Giving Garden—a half-acre, volunteer-driven, vegetable farm that grows food exclusively for donation to local food pantries and soup kitchens. He has consulted with our meal site and food pantry partners, developed the crop plan to meet their needs, ordered seeds and seedlings, and planned the locations of all of vegetable crops and soil-building cover crops within the half-acre. Currently, he is out in the Giving Garden preparing for the first plantings: applying compost, tilling, and raking smooth beds. This is all great practice for him, as he plans to start his own small farm in Haydenville when his service with us ends this summer.
Katie is our Community Engagement Coordinator, and has been focused on communications, event planning, and a couple of our food access programs (the Red Bag Program and the Red Bag Senior Share), among other tasks. In her work on our communications, she writes articles for our blog, manages our social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram), helps manage our website, writes press releases, and does general outreach to the press. She does this all while developing a communications plan for us, which will guide our communications and outreach strategies after she leaves. She has planned a number of events that have engaged hundreds of people, including our Open House and Office Warming Party, Seed Swap, and a movie screening in our office. The first week that she started, she jumped right into being the on-site manager for the Red Bag Program, working with volunteers to distribute the subsidized farm share for low-income families at Jackson Street School. This spring and summer, she is helping us organize the Red Bag Senior Share, a subsidized farm share for low-income seniors distributed at the Northampton Senior Center.
This work is a career shift for Katie, whose background is in rare book librarianship. She hopes her experience with Grow Food Northampton will help her to get a position with a local nonprofit, and we’re sure that her many accomplishments this year will make her stand out as an applicant!
We feel so lucky to have had such capable, intelligent, motivated, and fun individuals serving with us this year and will be very sorry to see them leave us this summer. But we hope that their experience with Grow Food Northampton has served them in their career goals as well as it has served us and our community!
We are in the process right now of recruiting three individuals to serve with us next year in the same positions. If you are interested, or you know someone who may be interested, please share this post and the 2017-18 Terracorps position announcement with them and let them know about this great opportunity!