Turning Over a New LEAF

college farm

Photo by Carl Socolow '77.

2016 Baird Sustainability Fellows help local youth-development program secure funding

by Tony Moore

Dickinson’s Baird Sustainability Fellowship involves its student fellows with the community through initiatives that both spread the word about the myriad facets of sustainability and introduce students to practical skills that will help them thrive in a professional setting.

The perfect combination came along recently when a group of Baird fellows—Cindy Baur (anthropology), Mackenzie Johnson (policy management) and Liz Plascencia (earth sciences), all class of 2016—wrote a grant proposal and helped secure $15,000 in new funding for a local program: LEAF (Leadership Education and Farming). (This comes on the heels of Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Heather Bedi’s spring Environment and Society class securing funding for local fresh-food program Fresh Match through another grant.)

“Going through the grant application process taught me that obtaining funding as a nonprofit organization is much more complicated than I originally thought,” says Baur, noting that the grant was to fund a Fresh Match greenhouse, which would extend the organization’s growing season. “We were able to promote sustainability goals … and provide more work opportunities for their youth interns, thus promoting environmental and social sustainability.”

An agriculture-based youth development program, LEAF sets out to build a healthy local food system from the ground up, through paid internships for participants age 14-18. A dozen teens from a range of backgrounds work with farmers and chefs in the greater Carlisle region over seven weeks while also learning about social sustainability issues through leadership activities and food-related projects.

“LEAF is one of our region’s most impressive new programs for teens,” says Becca Raley ’94, executive director of the Partnership for Better Health, the agency that fielded the Baird students’ grant application and approved it. “They’re purposeful in engaging a broad diversity of teen participants, and their staff is focused on fostering positive youth development and leadership.”

Finding its inspiration in programs based in large metropolitan areas, such as Grow Dat, the Food Project and Urban Roots, LEAF builds real relationships between participants and their local food system. And its mission is clearly more ambitious than telling kids to eat their veggies.

“As a health foundation, nutrition had long been one of our priorities,” says Raley. “But nearly four years later, we’ve come to appreciate that LEAF’s endgame isn’t to teach youth to produce and eat carrots, kale and tomatoes; it’s to empower teens as thoughtful leaders who will grow a better world for us all.”

In that sense, LEAF’s mission echoes Dickinson’s own.

“I was drawn to LEAF's mission because of my experiences at the College Farm,” says Baur, a farm apprentice who’s worked there since her sophomore year. “I know how difficult the work can be, but I also know how incredibly powerful it can be to be a part of a system that sustains a community. I felt like LEAF does similar work for the Carlisle community.”

Learn more

Published July 27, 2016