An Award to Grow the Youth Internship Program

Published in Questa del Rio News, February 2022
By Gaea McGahee, Questa Farmers Market Program Director

Photo by Gaea McGahee: (left to right) Kaylee Piper, Ashlynn Rael, and Alianna Gonzalez processing a harvest at Red Willow Center, Sept 2020.

Farmers and gardeners, bakers and makers, artists and youth – Questa Farmers Market is for all of us! The market keeps dollars local, offers fresh food, supports entrepreneurs, brings you live local music, and is a wonderful place for visiting with one another. We are EBT/SNAP authorized, participate in the double-up-food-bucks program (for New Mexico farmers), and accept WIC and Senior Nutrition Program checks. The market operates every Sunday from the end of May until early October, from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm, and has been in operation since 2017. It is located on land owned by the Questa Economic Development Fund, adjacent to the Visitor Center.

Questa Farmers Market is organized around three core initiatives that support tradition, adaptation, and resilience:

  1. Creating a hub for regenerating the local food economy by supporting and connecting growers, craftspeople, and customers. 
  2.  Caring for an inviting physical space that hosts vendors and customers, thereby supporting local food and community connection.  
  3.  Offering a paid youth internship program; work-based learning, mentorship and skill development focused on the local farm-to-market economic system.

We have been developing a youth internship program since 2019. Youth interns bring their perspective, hopes, questions, and vision.  And now we’re excited to announce that we received a 2-year Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation (LANLF) Education Enrichment Grant Award to support us in the youth internship aspect of our mission.

The internship program will employ teens (ages 14-18) in regenerating the agricultural community in northern Taos County in farm-to-market economics; during the 2022 and 2023 seasons, we’ll be able expand our participation in the farm-to-market economy through agricultural education opportunities such as farm apprenticeships and entrepreneurial opportunities, including an intern-led farmers market business.

Together we’re creating a marketplace to support small and even micro local businesses in order to help regenerate the agricultural community in northern Taos County and foster skills and opportunity for a new generation.

Do you want to be an intern?

The intended age group is 14-18, but if you are younger and have a strong interest, this program may be for you.

Contact

Email: growersmakers@gmail.com
Call: (575) 224-2102
Visit: QuestaFarmersMarket.org

How do internships work?

Interns arrive on-site at 9:00 am and finish by 3:00 pm on market Sundays. Contracts are six weeks long and can be renewed several times during the season with the possibility of employment ahead of the season and following the final market in October. Internships include season-long activities that happen every week as well as a variety of projects and additional opportunities tailored to interns’ interests.

Internship activities:

  • Market day operations: support vendors helping with market setup and take-down.   
  • Site beautification and gardens: plant trees, shrubs, vegetable plants and flowers, tend, weed, and water the on-site market gardens.
  • North Central Food Pantry (NCFP): along with market and Food Pantry volunteers, work together placing local food in distribution boxes (twice monthly, June/July through Sept/Oct)   
  • Local food pick-ups: work with a local food coordinator to pick up produce from area farms and deliver to the Food Pantry, organizing for the twice-monthly distribution. 
  • Local harvest teams: harvest local food. At some farms, like Red Willow Farm at Taos Pueblo, interns are able to harvest, wash and pack, and deliver produce to the NCFP.  
  • Creating social media: take photographs at the market and in the community (at farms) and create social media posts. QFM is on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok
  • Market information booth: greet community members, track market attendance, assist with the EBT and Double-Up Food Bucks disbursements. 
  • Merchandise booth: help sell QFM shirts, aprons, stickers, hats, and other items that support the market.   
  • Coffee booth: receive job training to operate a youth-led coffee booth, gaining experience in the economics and customer service aspects of a small business operation.   
  • Horno cooking projects: lead cooking projects on Sunday or other days of the week.
  • Mentor sites: join coordinated projects at mentor sites in northern Taos county; e.g. working at a farm or with a vendor in a community commercial kitchen, making value-added products.
  • Youth-led micro-business projects: Interns with a new idea for a market business will be supported in working through the development and economics of a micro-business.

Collaborating with Area Farms

Our interns meet local growers and learn about agricultural networks from operations like the Red Willow Center, Cerro Vista Farm, and Growing Opportunities hydroponic greenhouse in Alcalde, NM. The direction of the internship is set by interns’ interests. QFM matches these interests with the local community’s food needs.

This season we hope to add Virsylvia Farm in Sunshine Valley and Big Wheel Farm near Costilla, among others, to our farm outreach. If you have an agricultural project where you believe youth involvement could be vital, please contact Gaea McGahee at growersmakers@gmail.com.

The Market Site

An always important part of the internship is working together to care for (and improve) the market site. During the 2020 season, interns built new garden areas and a horno alongside the very dedicated local craftsman Andy Jaramillo. Projects are energized and enriched when they include peer-to-peer collaboration, mentorship, and intergenerational connection. We will use the horno regularly and interns will be able to lead cooking projects in the coming seasons. 

Participants in the Vida del Norte youth summer camps in 2019 and 2020 created multiple garden spaces, and interns also took part. We will continue to care for, plant, and harvest from the gardens this season.

Special Projects

Our focus is to create opportunities for employment, community engagement, and small-scale economic development with our interns and could include working at a farm or with a vendor, or creating a small market business. Last July we re-started a coffee stand at the market (it was closed in 2020 due to pandemic restrictions). It’s meant to offer an intern the opportunity to gain job training and business skills, and a familiarity with economics. Eliot Moody and Dedrick Rael were the two interns running this coffee stand last season. They made coffee using an Aeropress and pour-over methods (special thanks to Fernando and his coffee shop in Angel Fire, Just Joe).

Thank You QFM Interns and Supporters!

We are a program of Localogy, a local nonprofit 501(c)(3) to whom we are very grateful. And now for a shout-out to the interns who have come before. Your input, ideas, and our shared experience continues to generate momentum. Thank you: Amalia and Alianna Gonzalez, Kaylee Piper, Ashlynn Rael, Dedrick Rael, and Eliot Moody. And a special thank you to Ashley Cintas, who worked for QEDF in 2017. She spent many Sundays that summer running a farm booth at the Market. Because of you, Ashley, we were inspired to create an internship program that could assure youth involvement and employment in the local market scene. 

To our partners in supporting youth interns, especially the Vida del Norte Coalition and Red Willow Center at Taos Pueblo, we send out a song of appreciation for you, the many adults who have supported these young people. Gardens have been planted, weeds pulled, seedlings watered, and corn tended by many hands. These people; the teachers, elders, market volunteers, organizers, mentors, drivers, and friends—are vital, as is each young person believing that together we can make our home stronger and a place that reflects our vitality.

We received the LANL Foundation Education Enrichment Grant Award with gratitude and are exhilarated to have support for our work. We are thankful as well to the Questa Economic Development Fund (QEDF) for their support each season. We look forward to summer 2022! 

An Interview with Eliot Moody

Photo by Gaea McGahee: Pictured, intern Eliot Moody, running the QFM coffee stand, July 2021. Interns, Eliot Moody and Dedrick Rael, ran the coffee stand this last season, serving coffee from local roasters, Just Joe Coffee’s of Angel Fire and Sunshine Valley Roasters of Questa.

Eliot Moody was an intern for six weeks in 2021. By week three Eliot was running the QFM coffee stand, making coffee using an aeropress or a pour over method (thanks to Fernando and his coffee shop, Just Joe, in Angel Fire). 

Gaea: Do you want to write anything about your experience? Or share any reflections? You can do so by text if you like.

Eliot: Sure. I had a lot of fun and learned a lot. I learned about coffee and I learned about people. I talked to a lot of interesting people with interesting life stories. I learned about problem solving and critical thinking. Like how to make things more efficient or easier. At the food pantry I really learned how to do things quickly when I need to. I learned a lot and I’m glad I was able to do it.

Gaea: Cool! Do you have a favorite memory or place you want to talk about..? Or your best skill that you gained or refined?

Eliot: I really liked when we went to get those tomatoes [at Growing Opportunities hydroponic Greenhouse in Alcalde, NM]. It was cool to see the greenhouse and I also just really liked being around people I like. And I’ve gotten pretty good at making coffee: that will be helpful. And I learned how to tend a fire also, And how to make pizza.

Gaea: Awesome! What would you hope to do more of next summer? And what would you like to do that wasn’t possible this year?

Eliot: I’d like to do more work at the food bank. And it would be nice to do that coffee thing we didn’t have time for. I’d also like to learn how to help go around to the vendors and collect the coins and stuff like you do at the end of the day.

Gaea: Yeah! And do you want to see more farms and growing operations? Or harvest a bit?

Eliot: Yeah that would be cool. I’ve always liked learning in general. So it would be cool to learn more about all kinds of stuff. 

Gaea: It will be fun and helpful. We’ll all learn a lot. Thank you so much.

Our Youth Internship in Farm to Market Economics is funded by a 2-year grant from the LANL Foundation, supporting our youth interns during 2022 and 2023.

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