young farmer training program

Enthused by Enthusiasm: NCSU Soil Management Students Partner with Inter-Faith Food Shuttle Farms and Gardens

This semester, students from Dr. Julie Grossman’s Service Learning for Sustainable Soil Management class (SSC 428) at North Carolina State University (NCSU) have been working with a couple of Inter-Faith Food Shuttle’s farms and gardens programs teaching youth about soil science. Students Alyssa Degreenia, Will Hildreth, and John Galloway worked with the IFFS Youth Farmer Training Program (YFTP) apprentices, teaching them about soil carbon. Above, they watch proudly during the YFTP graduation ceremony on the farm.


The NCSU students combined both lecture and hands-on teaching methods to convey their knowledge to the youth involved, but found that it was their enthusiasm and passion for the topics at hand that inspired and motivated the youth the most.

This project not only benefitted the youth by building  their knowledge about composting, vermicomposting, carbon cycles, soil organisms, and potential careers in agriculture, but also allowed the NCSU students to learn how to share their own knowledge and enthusiasm and hone their leadership skills. By figuring out how to effectively transmit what they know to others,  they were able to hone in on their own passions as well.

Part of Inter-Faith Food Shuttle’s mantra is “Give a man a fish. Teach a man to fish. Stock the pond for all.”  We believe in the power of education  in so many ways, including teaching folks how to grow their own food, building self-sufficiency with  information and resources , and providing learning opportunities that spread this transformative knowledge throughout the community. This partnership with Dr. Grossman’s class at NCSU is a vital part of this community of knowledge sharing. It is only by working together that we can truly create a hunger-free community and transform the local food economy into a more healthy, just, sustainable, and secure food system that feeds everyone healthy, nutritious food.

YFTP Apprentices: Cooking Matters graduates!

They can farm, and now they can cook, too! On July 24, apprentices from the Young Farmer Training Program (YFTP) graduated from our Cooking Matters course. Cooking Matters is an interactive, cooking-based nutrition program that equips participants with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to improve their nutrition practices, eating habits, and food budgeting skills. The first day, volunteer Chef James taught the apprentices all about the  process of making pizza dough. To demonstrate, the teens were turned into human gluten, forming the elastic network that traps the carbon dioxide gas released by the yeast. Eventually, everyone turned back into teens who really love to eat yummy, healthy pizza!


Over the six week course, YFTP apprentices chopped fresh tomatoes to make salsa, processed basil into pesto, and transformed sage into a savory topping. With volunteer Chef James, they baked, mixed, stirred, and poured their energy into the creation of healthy meals using produce fresh from our Wake County Teaching Farm.  Our nutrition volunteers Anne and Laura taught the apprentices about whole grains, making choices about fats in our food, and how to read nutrition labels.  The apprentices left the course armed with the knowledge to make healthy food choices and the kitchen skills and recipes to create masterful culinary dishes for their families and friends from what they grow.


If you would like to volunteer and be part of a class as a chef, nutritionist, or class support, contact You can also volunteer as a cooking intern for the Young Farmer Training Program and help provide our Young Farmers with nutritious meals during their work days on the farm. Email for more information.

Jam Session: YFTP Apprentices learn to preserve what they grow

Last Tuesday on the IFFS Wake County Teaching Farm, the Young Farmer Training Program (YFTP) Apprentices were stirring up some great things – stirring a pot of Sweet Tomato Basil Jam, to be specific! Benjamin Filippo, of This and That Jam, came out to teach the teens how to can using tomatoes and basil they grew just steps away on the farm. YFTP Apprentices learn not only how to grow food, but also the importance of preserving the harvest for future use or for sale as value-added products. Canning is a great way for farmers to increase profitability by extending sales longer and making the most use of their crops. Having this knowledge and making a profit is a way to address both access and income barriers to food security.  The YFTP apprentices sell produce from the IFFS Teaching Farm at the Midtown Raleigh Farmers Market each Saturday morning from 8am-noon.

tomatoes for jamFor many of the teens (and for me), the concept of savory jams was somewhat unfamiliar. But by the end of the workshop, they couldn’t wait to try making some tasty sweet and savory combinations of their own. Canning preserves food at its peak – full of flavor and nutrients. You can still eat tasty tomatoes full of the same in-season flavor in the middle of January -- in sauces, salsas, and jams. The apprentices used several varieties of Heirloom tomatoes, all grown on the IFFS Wake County Teaching Farm, to give their jam a rich and vibrant flavor.

Ben (a former IFFS VISTA!) and This and That Jam buy from local farmers almost exclusively.  They buy produce that looks a little less than picture perfect, food that many people won’t buy but is still just as good as the more shapely item next to it. Like we do through our field gleaning program, Ben will ask farmers if he can glean their leftover produce, taking produce they can’t sell off their hands, reducing waste, and getting a ton of fruit, which he then makes into some pretty excellent jam.  And what do you eat a savory jam like Sweet Tomato Basil with? How about with eggs, on a burger, with any sort of meat, on crackers, on toast with cream cheese, or with anything else that sounds good!


Canning first started with Napoleon and his troops in France, but came to the US through George Mason (ever heard of Mason jars?).  Long a part of America’s history, canning fell out of favor in the 1950s with the mass introduction of packaged foods and preservatives. With This and That Jam, Ben is bringing canning back as a practical component of a truly sustainable food system.

Canning and making your own preserves also allows you to better control what you’re putting into your body, meaning without corn syrup and without preservatives. You can even make your own pectin if you want jam that sets more quickly. The apprentices’ jam ingredients included: fresh tomatoes, sugar, apple cider vinegar, minced basil, and salt.

Apprentices harvesting basil for the jam from our Teaching Farm

When fruits and vegetables are in peak season and produce a bounty, many people don’t know what to do with all the extra. Canning is a great way for people subscribing to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) boxes to preserve this bounty to use as an ingredient in something else – like salsa, jam, or a pickled product.

As a bonus, canning not only a builds a sustainable, secure local food system, but builds community! Canning lots of produce is best done with a crowd of people, gathered around, sharing stories and good times as they chop, boil, stir, and can. Along with the fresh fruit, the canning process preserves memories of togetherness. Then, when you open that can in the middle of winter, you can remember how you grew it or where it came from, how it was made, and the community who helped you produce that delicious, nourishing jam.






See more photos from the workshop on our Flickr stream.

Jill & Sun’s Excellent Cuban Adventure: Lessons for Food Production in NC

IFFS Farm Educator, Sun Butler, along with IFFS Co-Founder and Executive Director, Jill Staton Bullard, and IFFS Board Chair, Ardie Gregory, spent June 3-13 in Cuba where they participated in a sustainable agriculture and development conference. They travelled with 23 people from Witness for Peace--an organization dedicated to changing policies that contribute to poverty & oppression in Latin America and the Caribbean. Due to the US embargo on Cuba, there is much that we don't know about that country. For instance, did you know that Cuba used to import 80% of its people's food? With the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, they were faced with dramatic shortages--the average Cuban citizen lost between 20 and 30 pounds as a result! Without food, everyone had to learn to grow food in every single place they could. Now they have turned the tables, and produce 80% of their own food--which is why IFFS traveled there to learn about their organic & sustainable practices. These include pest control through use of beneficial insects and co-planting, and creation of fertilizer from manure and compost.


Growing Food In Tight Spaces

The group studied every kind of urban food production: women-owned farms that raise cows to provide milk to schools, neighborhood co-operatives that grow vegetables for food and worms for soil. They climbed up to rooftop gardens, and saw an urban garden that raises both tropical fish for decorative pets and larger fish, such as tilapia, for food. They saw cattle grazing on the grass in highway cloverleafs and corn growing in medians.

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Sun says that he has travelled throughout the Caribbean, and was interested to discover that the Cubans have a higher standard of living, a higher literacy rate, and better medical care than their neighbors. Most important to him, though, is learning from the Cubans how to get by on much less oil & fossil fuels.


Lessons for NC

Recently, Jill and Sun were interviewed on NC Policy Watch about food insecurity in North Carolina and about some of IFFS’s newest innovative solutions to grow a healthy local food system: the Young Farmer Training Program (YFTP) and Urban Agriculture training. Jill and Sun connected what they learned on their recent trip to Cuba back to solutions being developed by IFFS here in North Carolina. Check the full interview out here or read the synopsis below.

North Carolina ranks among top 10 states for food hardship even though agriculture is a $70 billion industry for our state. We are in a similar position to Cuba before the collapse of the Soviet Block, when their main export was sugar from sugarcane. NC may be an agricultural state, but we produce only 20% of our own food. While the economy may be beginning to improve, one in four North Carolina children is still at regular risk of hunger.

Additionally, the average age of our farmers is 57, and not many kids who grow up in agricultural areas are staying home to pass the farm on to the next generation. Through our Young Farmer Training Program, funded by the USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, we’re providing hands-on technical training for the next generation of local farmers.  IFFS is connecting young people to where their food comes from and making today’s youth aware of  career opportunities available in local food production.



We have the ability to create a healthy local food economy. We can grow food in the same spaces Cuba does - rooftops, backyards, parkland, and open spaces, and we have a population that needs jobs and revenue. With IFFS’  YFTP and Urban Agriculture programs, we’re combining the need for jobs and revenue with the need for healthy local food. We are teaching young people how to make a living out of 5 acres producing local food for the community, fighting hunger by increasing opportunities for local food entrepreneurship and creating jobs.

IFFS has been working to end hunger in our community for over 23 years – we started by putting food on plates for people who didn’t have food, but that alone did not change  the paradigm of people who were hungry. So, about 13 years ago, we started job training in culinary skills. Now we are providing workshops and job training around agricultural skills, creating revenue sources for low-wage people, and providing fresh produce for our community.

Jill says

“It is easy to fall in love with Cuba--the country is beautiful, the people are happy, healthy and productive.  They were friendly to us, clearly proud of what their country has accomplished and anxious to share their learnings with us. And, let me be clear-- we went to learn. They changed because they had to; we hope to accomplish some of the same pride and food independence because we want to. I pray that we never have to change due to circumstances beyond our control as the Cuban people did. I hope we do it because we need healthier and more nutritious food. I hope we do it because we need to grow the next generation of North Carolina farmers. I hope we do it because we need to have good local foods available in the urban food deserts that plague Raleigh and Durham. I hope we can muster the will, energy and commitment to do it, and do it well.”


Inter-Faith Food Shuttle and Longview School as a Growing Power ROTC: Training Young Farmers and Food Activists

Inter-Faith Food Shuttle and Longview School are proud to partner to become the newest Regional Outreach Training Center (ROTC) for Growing Power. Growing Power is an internationally recognized urban agriculture organization started by MacArthur Genius Award winner Will Allen. We are the only ROTC in the country with a focus on training young people. IFFS’ USDA-sponsored Young Farmer Training Program and Urban Agriculture program carry this focus year-round as we employ and train high school-aged youth and young adults to become North Carolina’s next generation of farmers and food activists. Longview  School’s Ag Careers class and Future Farmers of America (FFA) chapter, headed up by Mr. Patrick Faulkner, expose at-risk youths to career opportunities in agriculture and related disciplines. Will Allen has said that “what used to be a good food movement is now a revolution” – Together with Growing Power we are bringing a healthier, more socially just, ecologically sound, and prosperous food future to North Carolina and urban areas throughout the Southeast.

IFFS staff attend Growing Power Commercial Urban Agriculture Training

Thanks to funding from the USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, Sun Butler, our Farm Educator and Neal Wisenbaker, our Farm Manager, recently graduated from Growing Power’s Commercial Urban Agriculture (CUA) Training Program. The program is comprised of a series of five weekend seminars running January through May at Growing Power’s training facilities in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The seminars cover topics around planning (such as city regulations, zoning and licensing),  marketing, business plan development, and finding and securing land space. The program also provides hands-on learning experiences in composting, worm farming, aquaponics,  fish farming, soil testing, horticulture, farming  without chemicals, aquaculture, bee-keeping, small farm equipment and tools, food processing, water usage, and  renewable energy, as well as trainings on labor issues and hunger as a social justice issue.


Plant the Pavement! Workshops & Training

As an ROTC, IFFS and Longview will be hosting annual “Plant the Pavement!” workshops starting in fall 2012. These intensive, hands-on training opportunities will offer diverse groups the opportunity to learn, plan, develop, operate, and sustain community food projects. Look for our first round of workshops coming up in November!

  • Plant the Pavement! for Triangle Youth: November 8 and 9 at Longview High School in Raleigh. Regional youth interested in agriculture, sustainability, and social justice will have the opportunity to attend a full-day urban ag workshop led by experts from Growing Power, IFFS, and Wake County Public Schools. Topics will include hoop house season extension, vermicomposting, aquaponics, and the basics of sustainable urban food production. Will Allen himself will also be there to discuss how these types of enterprises can empower youth to help their families and communities eat healthier while generating income and jobs. The youth workshop will be offered on both November 8 and 9, and participants can choose which day to attend.
  • Plant the Pavement! Community Workshop: November 10 and 11 at the IFFS Wake County Teaching Farm on Tryon Rd. This two-day workshop with Will Allen is open to anyone who is interested in learning more about the sustainable production of healthy food, whether on a home, business, or community scale. Modeled after Growing Power’s “From the Ground Up” workshops, community members who attend this weekend workshop can expect to dive head-first into the nuts and bolts of intensive, sustainable food production for home, community, or market. Skills learned will be applicable in both urban and rural settings, and topics will include composting, hoop house production, vermiculture, aquaponics, mushrooms, micro-greens, project planning, and more!

To learn more about Growing Power’s Commercial Urban Agriculture series, visit their website at

IFFS Produce at Raleigh Farmers Markets!

The Food Shuttle Farm is entering the summer season, and cucumbers are bountiful, as are new potatoes and carrots! New this week: Pea shoots and water cress from our aquaponic system! Did you know that you can buy produce grown on our Raleigh Teaching Farm at two Raleigh farmers markets?  Come see us at the Midtown Farmers Market on Saturdays 8am-noon and the Downtown Raleigh Farmers Market 10am - 2pm on Wednesdays!

We grow local agricultural opportunities for our Young Farmer Training Program and community members in order to create a healthy and secure local food system. Revenues from our farm sales go to the teen apprentices and to fund Inter-Faith Food Shuttle's proactive hunger relief programs!

This week we have:

  • Basil – fresh summer flavor
  • Lettuce  Mix – Red and green leaf, very pretty and fresh. Spicy mix available, too!
  • Water cress – fresh from our aquaponic growing system!
  • Pea shoots – bumper crop, 3” tall
  • Tri-color Swiss Chard
  • Carrots – best in town!
  • New potatoes (amazing flavor)
  • Yellow Summer Squash – small and tender
  • We’ve also got
    • Transplants - tomato, pepper, and basil, grown in leaf  mold and worm casting
    • Soil amendments – red wrigglers to start your own vermicomposting worm bin, worm castings (black gold, the ultimate soil amendment!), and leaf mold (composted and pH neutral)

For more information, contact our farm manager Neal Wisenbaker at Look for updates on what's growing at Inter-Faith Food Shuttle's farm and what's available each week at the farmers markets via our Facebook and Twitter!

Human Gluten!

In today's first Cooking Matters class with teens from the IFFS Young Farmer Training Program, Chef James taught us all about the dough making process.  To demonstrate, the teens were turned into human gluten, forming the elastic network that traps the carbon dioxide released by the yeast.  Eventually, everyone turned back into teens who really love to eat yummy, healthy pizza!

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.

Hunger Fighters Visit Mobile Market!

On Saturday, May 19th Inter-Faith Food Shuttle's Hunger Fighters Group (made up of teens hired through the Young Farmer Training Program and Community Garden programs) came to visit and learn about the West Durham Baptist Church Mobile Market.  They observed the Food Matters cooking and nutrition demonstration, and then assisted the church volunteers with handing out fresh produce to the market participants.  To learn more about Mobile Markets go here!