At the heart of Roots to Harvest is our Youth Garden Program, which runs for six weeks during July and August. Each summer we hire ten Summer Food Interns, aged 15-18, through the "Focus on Youth" Lakehead District School Board program.
Over the 6-week period, Youth Food Interns learn to grow, harvest and sell food at the weekly farmer's market on site, and through our mobile bike market, which takes produce on the road throughout the city Tuesdays and Thursdays. The Urban Market Garden is a meeting place and destination for community members who come to visit the garden, meet the Interns, learn and share knowledge about growing food, and access fresh, locally grown produce. It is also a space for the interns to develop skills and confidence through contributing healthy, sustainably grown food to the local food system through the market stall.
Interns further their work experience by weekly workdays on local farms, helping to contribute to the success of the local food system and working alongside amazing role models. We have developed strong partnerships with farmers who are able to showcase a unique aspect to farming, mentor the Interns by working alongside them, and provide enough hard work for ten young people to get involved in. These farm experiences show Interns first-hand the realities and possibilities of farming in the north, and the ingenuity it takes for local farmers to establish successful farm operations. The connections the Interns make with the farmers last beyond the farming season, as these farmers offer references and possibilities for employment for Roots to Harvest Food Interns in the future.
Youth Food Interns also spend time helping local organizations that are working to improve food security for people in Thunder Bay. Over the course of the summer, the Interns work with organizations such as Shelter House, the Dew Drop Inn, and the Good Food Box. These organizations benefit from having a large workforce to prepare meals (with fresh food grown by the Interns), stock the shelves, clear more land for gardening and pack food boxes. Working with these organizations, the Interns gain perspective on an often-overlooked aspect of the food system that strives to ensure that everyone has access to enough healthy fresh food. Interns also connect with the non-profit and social service sector that can provide references and potential employment for Roots to Harvest Interns beyond the farming season.