Apprentices on the Farm: Feeding, Learning, Growing!

The IFFS Young Farmer Training Program is a paid multi-year farming apprenticeship for youth in Wake County. The IFFS Raleigh Farm hosts apprentices two days per week beginning each Spring.  Apprentices grow vegetables, herbs, mushrooms, and flowers on our 6-acre Raleigh farm, helping feed IFFS's distribution across over 183 agencies in seven counties. Not only do YFTP apprentices hone their green thumbs, they also become leaders who co-design and implement profitable farm plans, market their farm products while keeping good records, cook and share healthy meals, teach the community about farming and gardening, and advocate for a better food system! So what has this fresh crop of apprentices  been up to lately?

Learning about food and farm safety!

Food safety is of the utmost importance to us here at the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle in all of our programs. YFTP apprentices will be preparing some of the food they grow and making it into nutritious meals, so last Tuesday, Chef Terri from IFFS's Culinary Job Training Program came out to teach the apprentices about food safety, including

  • how to keep food safe on the farm
  • foods most likely to contain food borne pathogens
  • temperature regulations
  • sanitation
  • the importance of washing hands between working the soil and preparing food


But it’s important to stay safe working in the heat and variable weather conditions out on the farm, too! So, beginning with a jog across the field, Farm Educator Sun Butler taught the teens about acclimatization – summer is just around the corner, and soon it will be hot out on the farm everyday. It’s important to start adjusting their bodies now so that when the heat hits, they’ll be ready. Sun went over the signs of heat stress and heat stroke and emphasized the importance of staying hydrated.



Not only is it important to have your body acclimated to the outside temperature, but also for your muscles to be ready, too. Farmwork is great for coordination and strength – farmers use all of their limbs to accomplish their daily work.  To continue the acclimatization, Farm Aquaponics Intern, Volunteer, and Sensei Doug then led the teens in a series of exercises to get their blood flowing and their muscles warm.



Meanwhile, the second year apprentices headed to Southeast Raleigh with Maurice Small, IFFS Urban Agriculture Program Manager, to check out the sites for some new community gardens and urban agriculture projects they will be helping with! Stay tuned for more details coming soon…

Growing their own Gardens

The following Saturday, YFTP Apprentices were back on the IFFS farm in Raleigh, double digging a plot for their own gardens.  Good thing Sun had prepared them for the heat, because it was already starting to get hot! They had visited SEEDS in Durham the previous week, and were inspired to want to expand their own plots back in Raleigh. In the coming weeks, they’ll be setting up the garden beds, a drip irrigation system, and planting some seedlings they started in the greenhouse. The project was taking longer than expected, but the apprentices were undeterred – many even wanted to stay past their scheduled time on the farm to continue working.



To re-fuel from the morning of hard work, the apprentices helped prepare and then shared a meal together using produce from the farm.




They also recently learned from a guest teacher about fermentation in the forms of cheese and bread making. Yum!

Spring Graduation

But the Spring Session is rapidly coming to a close. They will wrap up with a graduation potluck and celebration this Friday before their last day on June 2nd, which they’ll spend at the Raleigh Farmer’s Market learning to buy food on a budget and then will head back to the farm to a big group lunch.

Many of the teens will be sticking around for the Summer Session starting June 12th, while others will take the knowledge and skills they’ve learned and head off on other ventures. The program will be accepting applications for apprentices starting in the summer as well.