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Interns in the Time of Corona(Virus)

Two of our intern teams at Sky Ranch amongst many rows of potatoes

Every summer, the Urban Farming Internship (UFI) is City Sprouts' most extensive program and becomes one of the busiest times of the year. We've held the program for the past several years, but this time around brought up many questions around the safety of interns and staff during the COVID-19 crisis and whether we'd have the program at all in 2020. We finally did decide to move forward with the program with a later start than usual and some additional precautions. We were able to offer a position to 17 interns and 3 team leads with paid, part-time work from June through August.

If you're unfamiliar, our UFI program provides young people, between the ages of 14-21, with hands-on education and work experience centered around the fundamentals of agriculture and horticulture. Interns help manage and grow various vegetables and fruits, learn how to harvest, clean, and process them for distribution to the community, and of course, they do a bit of weeding here and there as well!

The program serves as an entry point into the workforce for many of the interns, as the UFI is often their first official employment. We help our interns learn the workplace skills necessary to develop into successful team members and leaders while working in a low-risk and supportive environment. We also provide continued career support for current and former interns, particularly for those interested in pursuing careers in horticulture, agriculture, or culinary arts.

Second year intern, Alex, standing in the middle of our Sky Ranch growing site

In response to COVID-19 and to aid in social distancing, we have divided our interns into three groups that work at five urban farm sites. The program is managed by our Farm Manager, Aaron French, and each group is led by a team lead, which is the first time we've offered the position. The teams will be part of growing an estimated 20,000 pounds of food over this summer. This is nearly 10x what we grew in 2019, which is thanks to our three additional farm sites. Food grown through this program will largely be distributed to our interns and their families, local food banks, and other programs that assist individuals and families who are facing food insecurity.

Intern Hser washing some bunches of radishes

Under normal circumstances, our interns also gain culinary arts skills and knowledge about

nutrition through the program, but in the interest of safety, we've decided to take that part of the program out for this year. Instead, we provide opportunities for interns to sample the fruits of their labor and experience ways the food they grow can be incorporated into healthy meals through a daily intern lunch program. Interns can further connect with the food they grow by taking some home for their household’s meals. With the hands-on involvement in each step of the food’s journey from farm to plate, interns are expanding their diet to include new kinds of produce and preparation methods and are able to gain more confidence in cooking and eating nutritious meals at home.

City Sprouts South Team Lead, Mia Webb

Mia Webb, an intern last year who is back this summer as a team lead for the City Sprouts South Team, said “Since the internship, my perspective on the food I am putting in my body has changed immensely. I care more now about where my food is coming from. I have started eating out less and making my own meals at home more often.” Mia is excited to pass the knowledge she gained last year onto the first-year interns in he