Summer on the FarmPublished by Tom Porter
Charlotte Youkilis ’20 and Katherine Pady ’21 became familiar with all kinds of farm work over the summer, helping to tend livestock, harvest crops, and put up fences. They were among a handful of students who spent the summer getting their hands in the soil with a nonprofit that helps immigrant farmers.
They worked at Hurricane Valley Farm in Falmouth with a group called Cultivating Community, which aims to empower immigrant farmers by helping them transfer their skills to Maine, teaching them sustainable farming techniques, and connecting them with markets for their produce.
“We do a lot of odd jobs,” said Pady, “helping farmers weed their crops,” an especially tough task this season, she added, because of the wet spring. “A lot of our farmers are growing things that wouldn’t traditionally grow here, like African eggplant or molokhia, which is like an African version of spinach,” said Youkilis, the recipient of a Denning Summer Fellowship. African eggplant, which tastes nothing like eggplant, she explained, is a particularly popular choice, with farmers shipping it to consumers as far away as Texas.
Pady, who received a Peter Buck Internship Award, said she was attracted by the idea of learning more about food justice and understanding where our food comes from. “There are a lot of innovative farming practices being done here, which I’m excited about,” she added. These include permaculture, which keeps the nutrients in the soil by adding to it rather than plowing it. “This is something that the farmers are learning about,” said Youkilis, “how to create really healthy soil that will last every season. So, we’ve put seaweed on the soil, and mushrooms, and various other compostable things that are going to help.”
Also working with Cultivating Community over the summer were Tashi Brundige ’21, who received a Career Planning Internship Award, and Aidan King ’21, the recipient of an Ajmera Funded Internship Grant. All were supervised by the McKeen Center for the Common Good.
Cinema studies minor Charlotte Youkilis ’20, who is featured in this piece, is working on a video documentary of her own about Hurricane Valley Farm and some of the farmers who work there. Check out these two features she has produced.
- John Yanga is a graduated farmer of Cultivating Community's Farmer Training Program. Originally from South Sudan, John is growing culturally significant produce in Maine's climate.
- Sandy Alles works to relocate a swarm of bees at Hurricane Valley Farm while explaining the significance of beekeeping.