Article originally published by Edible Rhody
A pilot program for teen volunteers teaches valuable job skills—topped with fresh, local food and a side of good fun.
Like the birth of countless great ideas, Bevan Linsley had a fit of inspiration while listening to NPR. The story was about teens struggling to find summer jobs on account of not having basic jobs skills, recalled Linsley, who is the farm market manager of the Coastal Growers’, Aquidneck Growers’ and Hope St. Farmers’ Markets.
Now in its eighth summer, the Coastal Growers’ Market at Casey Farm in Saunderstown, Rhode Island, had grown and grown each year, but its budget had not. It was up to Linlsey to wrangle a way to manage a huge weekly event without charging the vendors more money to sell their local goods.
“I kept noodling this idea,” said Linsley one gorgeous Saturday morning at the market. “What’s the best way to interface these young people at the market so they can understand where their food is coming from, what the issues of growing food locally look like and the importance of growing locally? Also, what would provide benefit to them and also to the market, and have everybody have a great time in the process?”
Thus, the Teen Team program was born. Run by Linsley and two longtime women volunteers, they put the word out to local schools and got fourteen teenagers from five neighboring schools. The age range is 14–17, although most of the participants are 14 and 15 since they cannot yet be legally employed. The teens fill five different positions within the market: the information table, the market store, an eco-tent where they educate about waste management, helping various vendors, and … parking.
“My line about parking is ‘this is the best experience you’re ever gonna get in human relations,’” Linsley said with a bright laugh.
Allyson Jennings, 16, says her science teacher made an announcement about it at school and she decided to fill out the application. The Saturday morning time commitment fits in with her competitive dance, schoolwork and babysitting. “It’s interesting and the atmosphere is really great,” says Jennings, “it’s a great learning experience in so many aspects.”
Over at the market store, Indigo Eisenderatch, 17, and Jake Loberti, 14, are working the cash register selling Casey Farm jams and jellies. Both their parents are frequenters of the market and both thought participating would be a good opportunity to learn more about local food.
When I asked if they’d had any embarrassing goof-up moments yet (remembering my own battles with cash registers at my first summer job), they crack up and tell me how Eisendreratch one time accidentally charged $600 instead of $6.
“We quickly voided that one!” she said.
By the end of the summer, these young teens will have valuable basic job skills, references for future employers, and possibly other jobs from the many vendors who need help during the busy season.
Linsley hopes this first class of adolescent farmers’ market volunteers will spread to other markets throughout the state. She thinks they’re a huge help to Coastal Growers’ Market so far, saying, “It takes the edge off a bit, when it comes to July and it’s baking hot and everybody’s dropping by noon, having their energy and enthusiasm will really make the difference.”
Coastal Growers’ Market
2325 Boston Neck Road, Saunderstown, RI
Saturdays, May 19 – October 27, 2012
9 am – noon