Growing Relevant and Outstanding Work Skills (GROWS) for Unemployed Young Adults from Underserved Neighborhoods Impacted by Gun Violence Through an Urban Farm Meeting Program

Recruiting participants through our many nonprofit partners and Rochester Works, we will enroll 5 young adults, who come from neighborhoods where gun violence has been an issue and who are unemployed. The program will include basic horticulture education, utilizing our outdoor classroom area, and hands-on experiential learning from prepping vegetable beds, planting seeds and starter plants, maintaining those plants, building compost in our compost bins, harvesting produce, and sowing cover crops as we put the farm to bed for the winter. Participants will learn sustainable, organic growing practices as well as environmental responsibility. In addition, the participants will gain soft skills that they will need to be successful employees, regardless of where they find employment. They will learn about the world of work, about work commitments, about proper workplace behavior and they will create a plan for the next five years of their life. Distribution of produce from our growing operation will also offer lessons in caring for the community, as most of the harvest will be donated to partner organizations in the city with clients who are in need of fresh produce. Once a participant proves themselves to be work-ready (responsible, good attitude, able to follow directions), we will connect them to one of the farms in Monroe County, one of the many landscape companies in the Greater Rochester Area or help them find a school program that will enable them to pursue their future goals. If a participant leaves the program before the end of the season, we will bring on another young adult to take their place. Under this model, we could serve anywhere from 5 – 15 youth in a season.

    Roles and responsibilities 

    The intern will be responsible for farm operations (approximately a half acre) and supervision of the GROWS participants as they work on the farm. Marci Muller will work side-by-side with the intern to offer support and guide them in their interactions with the young adults. This program will provide a unique experience for a summer intern. While the main focus is on agriculture, particularly urban ag, the intern will learn how growing vegetables can help young people with little direction find a focus for their future. This internship offers a great opportunity for a Cornell student, who is interested in growing produce, but wants to expand their understanding and skills in working with diverse populations. For a student who is interested in exploring the field of urban agriculture, a field that is expanding across our nation, this would be the perfect fit.

    Qualifications and previous coursework

    This opportunity is available to non-graduating students in Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

    • An interest in Urban Agriculture
    • Knowledge of growing vegetables and desire to work on a small farm
    • Interest in learning from/working with young adults who have not had a lot of opportunities

    Learning outcomes 

    Measurable outcomes that the intern can track and report on at the end of the internship include the number of youth who enter and exit the training program, the number of youth who become employed or enroll in a school or additional training program, and the amount of produce that is donated to the community. The intern will also be able to work with the participants on their 5-year Life Plan.