A Farmer in the Making

Alison Limoges, Alameda Backyard Growers--Encinal High School senior Oliver Stouffer tends a compost pile.

A Farmer in the Making

Alameda Backyard Growers (ABG) invited a youth at Farm2Market to share their perspective on gardening. Oliver Stouffer, a 17-year-old senior at Encinal High School, accepted their offer.

I first heard about Farm2Market (F2M), a community-supported agriculture organization at Alameda Point, from my mom when she worked there for a few growing seasons. I applied for a summer job in 2017 when I was 12 because I enjoy being outside and it’s a five-minute walk from where I live. I am currently the farm’s compost site operator. But during the spring and summer I also complete whatever tasks that need to be done including bed prep, weeding, harvesting, and food deliveries. Last summer I had the opportunity to take more of a leadership position leading/helping other teens my age to complete a variety of tasks throughout the day.

I work at the farm Wednesdays after school until 5:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to about 3 p.m.

A typical day for me at F2M usually starts with me heading over to our compost area, checking on our compost piles, watering them, flipping them inside out, building new piles, and storing/collecting wood chips and food scraps in containers so that I can build those compost piles the next time I’m there. Lately it’s been a solo job. Sometimes my dad will pay a visit and help me out for an hour or two, and other times I’ll sneak off and work with my good friend Ed to help him with whatever task he’s working on. When I’m not working on compost I’m almost always working with another person or group completing a task that my boss would like to have done, which can be a variety of things.

At first, I started working at the farm because I had no work experience, so I saw it as a good learning opportunity and I wanted to make a little cash. My priorities have slowly changed after working there for some time. When I first started I had only a little experience working in a garden. Nothing close to working on a farm, though. Mostly just pulling weeds and planting some flowers. At the time, I expected to make a little cash, add my time at the farm to my resume, and not really think about it again. However, my time spent there was pretty fun. I connected with a lot of people, learned about caring for plants, learned what food should look/taste like, learned about the impact food has on the world, and gained an interest/new perspective on agriculture for the better.

Here are some other things I’ve learned at the farm: not all plants like the same things, when a certain fruit or vegetable is ready to be picked, the role soil plays in growing plants, and that weeds will ALWAYS come back!

The things I like most about the farm are the friendships I’ve made, the impact it has on the environment, and that it can be a fun physical challenge.

Some things I would change about the farm would be to definitely add some chickens and to try and get more youth my age involved by reaching out to middle schools and high schools. If I could change the time, I’m able to spend at the farm it would be to work at it full-time. The longer I work at the farm, the longer I want to stay.

Some things I will for sure use throughout my life are the social skills I’ve picked up by working at the farm. I’m always meeting new people there, and a lot of the time I work with them, so I’m constantly trying to get to know each person little by little.

Here is some advice I have about gardening for youth. If you start to get tired of something, switch things up. Do a different activity since there are many to choose from. I found that there is almost never just one way to do something. Everyone has their own opinion/twist on things. So it’s important to try different and new things to not get sick of an activity so fast.

To learn more about Farm2Market, a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm that is part of Alameda Point Collaborative, visit https://apcfarm2market-csa.square.site.

Alameda Backyard Growers is dedicated to teaching our neighbors how to grow food. ABG is pleased to announce that on Saturday, March 26 from 10 a.m. to noon, we will offer a free, outdoors, in-person tour of Farm2Market at Alameda Point. Please register to join us for this special opportunity to visit a working urban farm: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/farm2market-farm-tour-tickets-288885633707.