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Sunday, April 11, 2021

Apprenticeships aim to create more urban farmers

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Growing Places Indy will expand its urban farming initiatives with two apprenticeship programs, one for adults and another for high schoolers, to develop more Black farmers.

The adult program — Grow Getters — lasts one year and is broken into four terms: summer, fall, winter and spring. Candidates should be able to commit 20 to 25 hours per week throughout the program, though the program is unpaid. Applications are open until May 1.

The youth program — Young Grow Getters — is open to those ages 16 to 18. Participants will earn $10 an hour and work an average of 15 hours per week over six weeks. Applications are open until April 30.

Each program starts in June and will have 10 participants. Learn more at growingplacesindy.org.

Victoria Beaty, executive director of Growing Places Indy, said urban farms could also play a role in reducing food insecurity.

“We can never feed an entire state with a few urban farms,” she said, “but we can supplement people’s incomes by putting urban farms in the communities where they don’t have access to grocery stores.”

Participants in the Grow Getters and Young Grow Getters programs will get experience not just in farming, but in other parts of the food system by taking field trips to restaurants, organizations and farms. The adult program also includes business development classes and help sourcing land to start a farm.

Beaty said the apprenticeship probably isn’t a fit for someone who just wants to have a small garden at their house.

Growing Places Indy started its urban farming programs in 2012, but it was only during the summer and students weren’t paid.

The most recent census from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in 2017, shows Indiana’s 94,350 farmers are overwhelmingly white and older. A little more than 99% of farm producers — anyone involved in making decisions — are white. The average age of a farm producer is 55.5, and about 30% are 65 or older.

Beaty said urban farming could be an attractive option for younger people who want to farm but don’t want to move to a rural community.

Danielle Guerin, farm manager at Growing Places Indy, is 31 and has been farming for about eight years. She also started Soul Food Project to help serve the Martindale-Brightwood community.

Guerin will help lead the apprenticeships and hopes one of the results is creating more collaboration among urban farmers to better serve Indianapolis.

The most important thing, Guerin said, is having a passion for growing food and helping people. From there, the program can teach the mechanics of farming.

“It’s hard work,” she said of urban farming. “You’re gonna be burnt out. You’re gonna be tired. You’re gonna break your body down.”

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

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