Youth Leaders in Agriculture at Project GROWS

Vision: Our vision is to build a career pathway for traditionally underserved youth into the local food economy, complete with mentorship, leadership skill-building, hands-on farming experiences, and justice-oriented instruction.

The Youth Leadership in Agriculture (YLA) is a career exploration and mentoring initiative to teach local high school junior and seniors skills in farming, leadership, and entrepreneurship. YLA benefits students through teaching, mentorship, and hands-on learning, as well as the broader community through greater food access, education, and nutrition.

Launched in 2021 in partnership with the Staunton High School Counseling Department and Staunton City Schools, this program is open to all local high school students in the summer. Spring and fall spots are reserved for Staunton High School students.

Career Exploration & Mentorship

Farming & Sustainable Agriculture

Personal & Community Health

Reflections from Rosey, Youth Leader in Agriculture

By Rosey F., Youth Leader in Agriculture Staunton High School, Class of 2022 Going back out into the world after the COVID-19 lockdowns was scary. Being pulled into a “new normal” was very hard for me, and I felt as if my life was turned upside down. The isolation...

Youth Leader Spotlight: Garrett

By Garrett P., 2021 Youth Leader in Ag (Summer Youth Staff), Staunton High School ’23 Project GROWS is a really nice experience. I would recommend it to anyone who likes to be outside in nature—you can learn about all the different plants and when to harvest and plant...

Youth Leader Spotlight: Kyra

By Kyra H., 2021 Youth Leader in Ag (Summer Youth Staff), Staunton High School ’23 After getting major spine surgery and relearning how to walk, I wouldn’t have expected myself to start working at a farm. I love the environment here. Everyone is so respectful of...

Youth Leader Spotlight: Seth

By Seth Z., 2021 Youth Leader in Ag (Summer Youth Staff), Staunton High School ’22 I began this job at the beginning of June with my fellow staff. I feel I have developed some important skills for farming and in general. Although it is a paid job, it can sometimes...

Youth Leader Spotlight: Rosie

By Rosie C., 2021 Youth Leader in Ag (Summer Youth Staff), Fort Defiance High School ’22 Growing plants has always been an interest of mine since I started keeping a small backyard garden with my mom when I was younger. I heard about Project GROWS by attending a...

Youth Leader Spotlight: Patricia

By Patricia W., 2021 Youth Leader in Ag (Summer Youth Staff), Staunton High School '22 I've gone to Staunton High School, and COVID-19 has made it difficult to prepare for college. That's why I was enthusiastic to apply when my guidance counselor, Mrs. Pleskonko,...

Reflections from Fiona McGhee, 2021 Youth Leader in Ag

by Fiona McGhee, Spring 2021 Youth Leader in Agriculture If you had told me a year ago that volunteering on a farm at the end of a global pandemic would be my favorite activity of the week, I would have given you a quizzical look and walked away. Watching things grow...

Spring and Fall: During the school year, the YLA program functions like a hands-on, outdoor academic class, held on the farm during Staunton High School’s fourth block Mentorship elective class until 5:00pm, Tuesday through Thursday, led by the Project GROWS Director of Education and education team.

Summer: In June and July, the YLA program is a paid part-time farm job for rising (or recently graduated) seniors from all local high schools. 

Youth Leaders learn about sustainable agriculture, farming methods, nutrition, and local biodiversity, hear from guest speakers like birders, soil scientists, entomologists, and beekeepers, and participate in field trips to other farms in the area. Most importantly, Youth Leaders function as a key part of our dynamic farm crew as we plant, tend, harvest, and then package and prepare produce for wholesale distribution and our Mobile Markets. Youth Leaders learn about the value of hard work in an outdoor setting alongside a group of peers and seasoned outdoor educators.

For more information, please contact Nichole Barrows, Director of Education.

Youth Leaders in Agriculture is made possible by generous financial support from the United Way of Staunton, Augusta County, and Waynesboro, the JustPax Foundation, the Schowalter Foundation, and the Gannett Foundation. Videography provided by MillPond Photography.