A Contract for Hard Work and Leadership Skills

One of the keys to success for this eight-week summer farm program is the worker contract.

"The contract signifies they are joining a community that operates under common assumptions. Infractions and consequences are listed, and the contract becomes part of the overall culture of working on the land, being responsible to a team, and for establishing caring relationships in a community setting." says co-director Greg Gale.

Each of the 40 14- to 16-year-olds selected for the program is selected after extensive interviewing.

They sign a contract that comes with a weekly stipend of $125. Often the work on the farm is the teen's first job. Infractions range from a "poor attitude" to littering to being late for work. First infractions carry a warning, and discussions with the staff crew leader. A second offense, for instance, for not wearing The Food Project T-shirt means loss of a day's pay. But two weeks without further infractions brings an "earnback" of the pay.

Serious infractions, like lying or vandalism, mean a loss of day's pay with no possibility of earnback. A third offense brings automatic firing. But the participants soon catch the spirit of the program and major infractions seldom occur, according to Mr. Gale.

While the contract establishes the rules, the daily activities include an emphasis on specific values. Each day starts with a morning meeting with the crew leader, and incorporates a theme such as "hope" or "courage" or "initiative." The theme is explored through readings and exercises, and is integrated into the day's work. The teens are evaluated on performance, and evaluate each other following instructions on evaluation methods.

Often the teens are asked to explore community issues such as land use or building a community center, and role-play in offering solutions. Each teen keeps a daily journal. At the noontime lunch, guest speakers often talk about work, entrepreneurship, or community issues. Some afternoons are set aside for recreation.

Weeding, cultivating, and harvesting produce is hard work. "It's like camp and work at the same time," says Sheena Brown, a ninth-grade student at Roxbury High School. "I thought mosquitoes would be attacking me all the time, and sometimes its hot in the sun, but everybody gets to know everybody else, so its like family."

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