Where Are They Now? Youth Farm Alums’ Album!

Tari Ayala, UFTP ’13, UFTP Crew Leader ’14:

Tari Ayala, UFTP ’13, UFTP Crew Leader ’14: While training on The Youth Farm, I founded Tierra Sana Holistics. As a sustainable health coach I improve my clients’ health by teaching them about eating and gardening, with a focus on home and body detox. Since graduating from the program I’ve continued my education with Farm School NYC and worked as a Seasonal Instructor with the Garden Apprentice Program at Brooklyn Botanic Garden. I stay involved with the Youth Farm, most recently running a workshop on Lean Farming in 2017. I count The Youth Farm as my second agricultural home (Grandma’s came first!). The UFTP reawakened the farmer within and I will forever be indebted for that.

Liz Dowd, UFTP ’12, UFTP Assistant Manager ’13-’15: I took my love of farming to the roof and am now the Farm Manager at the Brooklyn Grange in Long Island City, Queens. I live and love in Brooklyn, NY. The Youth Farm offered a strong set of practical and sustainable growing skills and provided me both the support and independence to practice those skills which gave me the confidence to go on to manage my own farm.


Martha Jackson Suquet, UFTP ’10 and YF Assistant Manager ’11-’12: I live in Hillsdale, New York, in the Hudson Valley. After working at the Youth Farm, Phillies Bridge Farm, and Locusts on the Hudson, I started Graylight Farm with my husband in 2015. On 3 rented acres, we raise naturally grown vegetables and pastured pigs, marketed to CSA members in NYC and local farmers markets. The Youth Farm MADE my path – it solidified my commitment to farming and food justice, and gave my the production and business skills needed to start my own business.

Quin Johnson, UFTP ’15: Since completing the Youth Farm Program I traveled in Colombia and moved back to Charleston, SC. I’ve started doing freelance floral design work during the wedding season. I would love to work with an urban garden while I’m here in Charleston, and intend to continue working with flowers in some capacity in the long run, most likely freelance floral styling. The Youth Farm helped me learn the about proper care and best practices for working with plants and flowers. I hope to some day have my own permaculture garden. Here is a photo of me at a coffee farm in Filandia, Colombia.

Cait Keller, YF Intern, ’13: I am a California transplant currently residing in the Hudson Valley. I graduated from NYU with a master’s in Food Systems in 2014. I apprenticed at Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett, NY, last season and am now apprenticing at Glynwood Farm in Cold Spring, NY.

Shannon Lai, UFTP ’16: I am currently an apprentice at Amber Waves Farm in Amagansett, NY. After a season at The Youth Farm, I was curious to explore the pace and systems of tractor scale farming. The Urban Farm Training Program was incredibly formative for me and has helped me discover a true and real passion for growing food. I am forever grateful for my experience at The Youth Farm and for Molly and Erin for being such encouraging and inspirational mentors and friends. I am excited and eager to continue exploring, learning, and growing!

Bersi Mesgna, UFTP ’15: I am currently an Education and Training Instructor at Project EATS, where I design and lead farm training programs with high school students and community members around our urban farm sites here in NYC. My time at the Youth Farm was pivotal in continuing my education in urban agriculture and food justice. The memories, education and community I gained through the Youth Farm will stay with me for a life time.

Arielle Pasquier, UFTP ’15: Hey all! I’m Arielle, and I currently work full time at Queens County Farm, and am in the beginning stages of planning my own flower growing/floral design business (when I’m not cuddling with baby goats!). The Youth Farm Certificate program was a real turning point for me. I can’t stress enough what an amazing opportunity it was, and how many connections I made. I will forever be grateful to the Youth Farm and to Molly, Erin, Liz and all the crew leaders for all their guidance and patience.

Mia Riddle, UFTP ’12: After graduating from UFTP in 2012 I moved west to manage the 200 member CSA at Blue House Farm in Pescadero. Two years later, I became the Garden Manager at Miramar Farms in nearby Half Moon Bay. All the while I was planning for the opening of my own dahlia farm and garden shop, The Pescadero Flowery. Now open, The Flowery offers visitors a hands-on experience in gardening through workshops, U-pick and a DIY potting station. I hope to bring more awareness to sustainable floristry and the joys of digging in the dirt.

Azadeh Tajdar, YF Intern ’14: I am a Social Entrepreneur and emerging markets startup and organizational capacity expert. At the Youth Farm, I learned a great deal about the opportunities and challenges of running urban farms, growing and sowing crops, and met amazing individuals in the process! If interested, connect with me on LinkedIn.

Jenna Hammerslag, YF Intern ’15: I am currently working in Criminal Justice Reform for an education technology company delivering education and rehabilitation tablets to prisons across the US in an effort to reduce rates of recidivism, and prepare inmates for successful reentry. I live in Brooklyn, NY and still have no idea what my real life objective/goal is, or if I’m making the right decisions as far as my career choices go (cue existential crisis). I’m still passionate about urban farming and food justice issues, and would ultimately love to take my marketing and communication expertise into this field; In the meantime, I hope to integrate some aspect of farming into my schedule as I miss the benefits of being in nature, away from the desk, at least once a week! The Youth Farm helped me in my path in the sense that it confirmed I most likely do not want to ‘farm’ for a living, but rather incorporate it as a healthy practice into my daily life, whether it is having a vegetable garden of my own some day, or continuing to volunteer at local gardens/farms. In addition, it re-solidified my passion for food related issues and the dramatic changes that need to be made in our current system- from food production, access and consumption patterns, to the importance of food-based education programs.

Matt Mili, YF Apprentice, ’14: While living in NYC from from 2010-2014, I worked with community and school gardens at organizations such as Green Guerillas, GreenThumb, and GrowNYC. Also during my time in NYC, I was fortunate enough to be a student at Farm School NYC, where I became part of an incredible and diverse community, gained a thorough education on urban agriculture and food justice issues, and visited many gardens and farms.  I am currently taking time to travel the country to gain exposure to a wide variety of agricultural endeavors. I have WWOOF’d on 12 farms so far and will be applying to farm apprenticeships and agricultural continuing education programs, to help me towards my goal of being part of a community based, mission oriented farm. The Youth Farm was my first experience working on a production-oriented farm, and really showed me what can be done with a dedicated and knowledgeable team, organization, and a guiding mission



Allison Manne, UFTP ’14: I’m forging ahead in my floral design business (focusing on sustainable, local and seasonal flowers), Bird Watching & Pruning Floral and working at Queens County Farm this season part time (in the field and also helping with their growing on-site market) and in the interim freelancing installing and maintaining gardens for private clients in the city. I’m so grateful for my time spent at The Youth Farm, it provided me with a strong foundation in understanding the many aspects and realities of running a diversified farm and also gave me hope for the many possibilities and opportunities related to agriculture in an urban environment. Even more, I met so many inspiring and like-minded great people because of the program.

Emily Pek, UFTP’16: TYF solidified my passion for food and food justice and opened up the world of farming and small business. With my newfound knowledge and skills I moved back to my home of Cleveland, in pursuits of starting my own small farm. Currently I manage a small property in a Cleveland suburb where I sell diversified vegetables to neighbors, local restaurants and The Westside Market downtown. I also work part time at Spice Acres, 6 acres in production in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. We sell exclusively to Spice Kitchen & Bar and run a 60 person CSA. Words cannot describe my experience at TYF. I wouldn’t be where I am without it and I can’t imagine a better place to learn how to farm. I am forever grateful for the mentorship of fearless leaders Molly, Erin, Janelle and Sawdayah, the lifelong friends I made and the community who graciously allows TYF to continue amazing work in the heart of Brooklyn.

Aimee Bowe, UFTP’12: Torn between my love for plants and my love for animals, I went, for the time begin, with animals! I became a Licensed Veterinary Technician and I currently work as an Emergency Nurse at Blue Pearl Veterinary Hospital in Brooklyn. I’m also becoming a dog trainer! I still keep my love for farming alive on a small scale in my backyard garden and with occasional landscaping jobs. The Youth Farm helped me with everything from team skills, to leadership, to critical thinking – applicable in any walk of life. One of my other loves is canning and preserving, and I hope to move upstate and grow enough food to preserve on a larger scale. I learned enough on the Farm to feel confident in setting up a growing plan for my own small homestead someday!