From School Year to Summer with Dig It STL

Blog | School Year to Summer 05/2017 01
Dig It STL 2017 Interns installed new beds in the Demonstration Garden made from upcycled materials found in the local community.

This week, our first year of Dig It school year internships came to a close as our interns graduated from high school. In the 2016/2017 school year, our crew of 16 seniors from McKinley, Collegiate, and Soldan high schools racked up a cool 560 hours of service on the Gateway Greening farm, and they can see the impact. The garlic they planted in the fall is almost ready to be harvested, the fruit trees they pruned are filled with tiny green cherries, plums, and peaches, and in the words of one intern, “It’s sad we have to leave just when it’s getting good out here!”

Our teens explored a wide range of topics this year, including hunger and food insecurity, no-till soil management, medicinal herbs, and food policy. This highlighted the interdisciplinary nature of urban agriculture, and the connections between our farm and the diverse fields of ecology, biology, food science, public health, and business or nonprofit management. These are topics many teens don’t even know they’re interested in! One intern said, “I just signed up for this internship so that my friend wouldn’t be the only one at the info session, but Dig It has been interesting and fun and had made me more interested in environmental farming.”

Working on the farm also allowed interns an opportunity to reflect on their own health and habits. During our last-day reflection, many of our interns said they felt inspired to eat more fresh foods after this experience, and to seek out food grown organically, despite the fact that healthy eating was not a topic we explicitly covered. Some students came to the farm right after a difficult chemistry class and expressed how relaxing and peaceful it was to be able to spend part of the day outdoors, a feeling substantiated by research on green space and mental health
Blog | School to summer with Dig It 5/2017
Just as the soil food web in this no-till bed interns researched and implemented supports a spinach seedling, may the web of connections and experiences students had on the farm support them as they grow.

Work-based learning programs like this can result in higher lifetime earnings and better postsecondary outcomes for youth, and we are incredibly grateful to the Career and College Readiness team at Saint Louis Public Schools for their support. However, Dig It STL school year internships benefit Gateway Greening as well. We have the opportunity to train the next wave of nonprofit staff and citizens that will keep our St. Louis food projects running for the long haul. Young people who never would have sought us out on their own have the opportunity to realize that they are interested in our mission. Even if our interns never set foot on a farm again, we hope we have cultivated an affection for land and food that sticks with the students for life.

PS: We’re excited that two of our school year interns, Adam and Caroline, were hired onto the summer Dig It STL crew! Stay tuned for more when the Dig It STL summer session kicks off on June 14th.


Written by Carolyn Cosgrove-Payne, Teen Programs Coordinator


Discover more about the Dig It STL Program: 

April on the Urban Farm with Dig It STL
A Semester in the Dig It STL Internship Program
No-Till Proposal by Dig It STL
USDA Awards Grant to Support Green Jobs for St. Louis Teens