Urban Roots Farm Internship Alumni Study: A qualitative investigation of postparticipation highlights, lessons learned and recommendations on sustainable agriculture-focused development programming from the perspective of young people
The Urban Roots Farm Intern Program addresses youth development by increasing healthy lifestyles and building social competencies among adolescents in Austin, Texas. This two-pronged method makes for a unique mission: "to use sustainable agriculture to transform the lives of young people and improve access to healthy food in Austin", (Urban Roots, 2013). Urban Roots streamlines their approach to tackle multiple social and public health issues. The organization hires youth, age 14-17 years, to work on a 3.5 acre urban farm in East Austin for a paid internship program that builds vocational and developmental skills, with a goal of improving healthy lifestyles and future success. Young people do not always have access to the education, support, guidance, and resources that they require to become active, engaged citizens. They are typically highly affected by social issues, yet often disregarded and underutilized (Kahn, et al., 2009). By empowering these youth with skills, confidence, inspiration, responsibility, hope, service, and courage, this program provides a path to a productive life. By challenging and rewarding them, the fulfilling nature of this work can plant a seed of purpose in their lives. Unhealthy and healthy habits formed in the adolescent stage of life, such as physical activity and nutritional practices, have been found to travel into adulthood (Craigie et al., 2011), which makes this stage of life critical to instill positive behaviors and form skills that turn into permanent healthy lifestyles. This practice-based culminating experience will use qualitative methodology to explore the long-term effects of the Urban Roots Farm Intern program on life and job skills, lifestyles, and diet. The information will be important to understand the long term influences of the program as young people start to pursue lives, further their education, and become adults. I partnered with Urban Roots to collect data for this study through one-on-one phone interviews. Youth were contacted 2-5 years after they completed the internship with the aim of improving program delivery and providing substantial evidence of the outcomes and impacts the program has on the youth after they complete the program. When asked about their experiences during the Urban Roots farm internship, interviewees thoughtfully reflected on their time spent on the farm, in workshops, battling cold and hot weather, developing skills, making friends, learning how what it means to be of service to the community, and working hard all summer. For the majority of the participants, this was their first job- the professional experience to which the rest will be compared. If they say you will always remember your first love, you will definitely always remember your first job. The most valuable aspects of the program were: opportunities to try new and different things, life-changing personal growth, and connections to people, places, and things. Overall, they all seemed to have fun, enjoy themselves, and learn more than they expected. Urban Roots as a youth development program is no doubt having a significant impact on the lives of 14-17 year olds that complete the farm internship. Their program embodies the most dire and vital aspects of youth development programs. Youth are treated with respect, kindness, caring, and held accountable for their actions. The interviews were overwhelmingly positive and experiences were reflected upon with joy and appreciation. The meaningful opportunity that Urban Root provides for youth through workshops, curriculum, and hands-on activities will continue to be worthwhile. The fact that youth were overwhelmed with excitement at the thought of all high school students participating in the program shows that through their sweat, time, and hard-work, they believe in this program and its potential.
Agricultural education|Nutrition|Public health
Powell, Katharine B, "Urban Roots Farm Internship Alumni Study: A qualitative investigation of postparticipation highlights, lessons learned and recommendations on sustainable agriculture-focused development programming from the perspective of young people" (2014). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1566355.