Last August, more than 120 young people and adult allies from across Connecticut gathered in Bridgeport for a C.R.A.F.T. (Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training) day – a day that used agricultural engagement to support young people’s learning and professional development. Hosted by Green Village Initiative (GVI), the event was planned by and for members of the Youth Food Program Alliance, a network of 16 youth food justice programs across the state, whose membership includes PFF partners Grow Hartford, FRESH New London, and ICR (Institute for Community Research).

ICR’s Kathy Engle-Dulac shared that Connecticut youth were the driving force behind planning the day-long gathering. After members of the Youth Food Program Alliance participated in a similar event in New York, they were inspired to address the disconnected food justice work being done at home in Connecticut.

In addition to helping build bridges and networks across food-focused programs in cities throughout the state, the C.R.A.F.T. day provided reference points for participating youth to envision their own futures in the field and maximize their own professional networks and connections. The day featured a tour of the farm, group discussions, and vegetation tastings led by GVI’s youth crew. Additionally, the Reservoir Community Farm hosted a panel discussion on professional possibilities during which young people had the opportunity to hear from a wide range of food system leaders, from chefs and business owners to advocates and organizers, including Chef Rachel Rivera of A Pinch of Salt Cooking and Catering, Jharikem Borrero and Luis Colon of Nuestras Raices and Nuestras Comida, Isa Mujahid of CT CORE/Organize Now!, Ted Moye of The Berkshire Co-Op, and Anthony B. Rodriguez, a botanist and explorer.

All of the invited groups attended the event, including some of PFF’s own grantee partners Make the Road CT, Grow Hartford, and FRESH New London with over 70 youth and youth leaders present overall! Some takeaways from the event were:

“It felt good to give tours to other [youth] that do what I do farming, to talk to [their] bosses and supervisors and show our land – I know what I’m doing here” – D

“The day brought all of us together and was like a melting pot – the point of it was to learn from others and I definitely did that!” – J

“Walking around to the panels – all adults and hearing that they didn’t always know they’d do what they do now when they were my age was super interesting. I got a new perspective and it was ALL NEW, nothing I knew before” – P

Want to see more of the event? Grow Hartford shared pictures to their Facebook showing just how sunny and bee-autiful the day was. Be sure to follow our grantee partners for regular updates on youth organizing in their communities across Connecticut.

*Images courtesy of Grow Hartford’s Facebook page.

Thank you to Sarana Beik, Ellie Angerame, and Kathy Engle-Dulac for contributing to this blog post.