Pennsylvania First Lady Wolf Highlights Youth Agriculture

HarrisburgPA (STL.News) First Lady Frances Wolf recognized young Pennsylvanians playing a role in the local food system during a visit with the LEAF (Leadership, Education, and Farming) Project in Landisburg.  The First Lady thanked members of the youth-focused program for their work to address hunger and other food related issues and wished them success as they enter the growing season.

“LEAF is such a well-rounded program, and I am truly impressed by how they combine food security work with building valuable life skills,” said First Lady Wolf.  “This is a great example of how everyone in the food system benefits – LEAF participants gain experience, while feeding their communities.”

Founded in 2013 by Heidi Witmer, LEAF cultivates youth leaders from diverse backgrounds through meaningful work in the food system.  On its 3-acre farm, they produce diversified produce, and the program has hired over 125 youth since its founding.

During the growing season, LEAF provides a weekly share of produce grown on their farm;  everything is grown, picked and packed by the LEAF youth crew, giving them work opportunities that showcase their unique potential.  First Lady Wolf toured the LEAF farm during her visit and saw firsthand how the organization carries out its operations.

Additionally, LEAF sells its produce to local restaurants and grocers in Carlisle, Mechanicsburg, and Harrisburg, including Millworks, Mangia Qui, Grazery, Radish & Rye Food Hub, Smoke & Pickles Artisan Butcher Shop, and Yak N Yeti.  LEAF produce can also be found at the Allison Hill Farmers Market in Harrisburg, as well as the Farmers on the Square seasonal market in Carlisle.

During the summer season, Youth Interns have the chance to participate in public outreach at Salvation Army, where they harvest and prepare a meal using produce from their farm.  The meal is then served to those in need, allowing them the rare opportunity to follow their products from seed to plate in the setting of hunger relief.  This year, the Pennsylvania Governor’s Residence is partnering with LEAF to share its garden harvest in support of these important feeding efforts.

In January 2020, after reenacting Pennsylvania’s Ag and Youth Grant Program as part of the state’s first-ever Pennsylvania Farm Bill, Governor Tom Wolf announced the approval of $500,000 in Ag and Youth Grants to fund 55 projects that will improve access to agriculture education in the commonwealth, with a goal of addressing the looming 75,000 workforce deficit Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry faces in the coming decade.  In 2020, the LEAF Project received $7,500 to support their youth leadership program.

In addition, the West Perry School District, a 2020-2021 recipient of the Pennsylvania Farm to School Grant Program, partnered with LEAF to offer produce tasting opportunities and create ‘Grow Your Own Salad Bar’ boxes to its youngest learners.  The Pennsylvania Farm to School Grant Program provides schools with funding to improve access to healthy, local foods and increase agriculture education opportunities for pre-kindergarten through fifth grade.

“I am thankful that our Administration has created ways to support youth agriculture programs because it is our young people who will determine the future of agriculture in our commonwealth,” said the first lady.  “And we trust that they will continue championing important issues like hunger and food accessibility.”

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