I recently volunteered at Urban Roots, a farm on Austin’s east side that aims to “empower youth and nourish the community”. What that means practically is it gives at-risk youth a place to learn skills (farming and leadership), eat healthy food, and – most importantly – find a strong sense of positive community and connection.
The volunteer shift was from 9:00am until 11:30am on a Saturday. In addition to my three friends and I, there were approximately 30 other volunteers, ten youth Urban Roots “interns”, and eight adult Urban Roots supervisors.
We broke out into “teams” of 8-11 people to complete goals such as harvesting garlic (actual task: using a steel broadfork to loosen the surrounding soil before pulling bulbs from the earth), processing kale and swiss chard (actual task: dumping crates of veggies into a 20-gauge water tank and then removing dead leaves and an abundance of insects from them), and moving mulch onto moist soil.
During our 2.5 hours of productive work with Urban Roots, I was amazed by the leadership ability of the young people heading up each team. They were organized, enthusiastic, knowledgeable, friendly, helpful, and passionate about the farm and its mission. These high schoolers displayed the type of leadership qualities that employers seek, and to see it displayed in people so young was inspiring.
As we worked, I enjoyed hearing the kids talk about their future plans to become executive chefs, teachers, and entrepreneurs. They seemed to feed off each others aspirations to fuel their own goals. I left my volunteer shift with a deeper appreciation of the hard work that goes into organic farming, and encouraged by kids who’ve found a positive place to connect and thrive.
The farm also lets volunteers take home some of the bounty they harvest, so I spent the next week eating a massive zucchini, summer squash, spinach, and kale. If you enjoy young people, organic vegetables, and the outdoors, I highly recommend Urban Roots as the recipient of your Austin volunteerism.