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.


Aki Hirata-Baker, UFTP’11: Aki has been a resident of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn for 15 years.  She co-founded the COMPOUND COWORK & MINKA brooklyn  in Prospect Lefferts Garden, and offers private and group healing sessions using Flower Essence Therapy and Energy Medicine.  She met YF co-founder Stacy Murphy amidst her efforts to start the Youth Farm at the COMPOUND brooklyn. Aki’s passion for equality and food justice led her to the the Youth Farm to apprentice under Bee Ayers and Molly Culver in 2011, after creating Adopt-A-Farmbox projects.  The experience at TYF was tremendous to her personal and professional growth; being at the farm, learning to be close to the land and understanding the relationships we had fostered over thousands of years as human beings – these visceral understandings were crucial to her growth as a person.  At her current project, MINKA brooklyn, Aki is holding space for all who come to shed old skin to re-discover the most brilliant versions of themselves; her firm belief is that the healing work is one of the most important aspects of Resistance and Activism work – as we evolve as human beings, the quest for social and environmental justice is a natural course of development.

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: While interning at the Youth Farm, I was enrolled in a graduate program in food systems and after graduating decided I wanted to try out farming for a full season. I apprenticed at Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett, NY, followed by a second year apprenticeship program at Glynwood Farm in Cold Spring, NY. My first two seasons farming full-time focused on vegetable production with some emphasis on flowers. This season I wanted to be fully immersed in flowers and really take the opportunity to learn more about growing as well as arranging them. I also wanted to move back to the west coast so I ended up taking a job at Blue House Farm in Pescadero, CA, where I am currently the flower production assistant (and I love it — yippee!).


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!

Laura Hurst, UFTP ’16: Hello! I am currently living in Amagansett, NY working as an apprentice at Amber Waves Farm. Following my season at The Youth Farm, I was eager to move from hand-scale to tractor-scale growing and to work on a larger production farm. The Youth Farm and the people I met during my time there have been invaluable and formative in my farming journey and I am so grateful for the support, education, and respite the farm provided me! I aim to continue to explore farming both vegetables and cut flowers (which I became quite fond of over on Rutland) in coming seasons
Alexandra Kerr, YF Intern ’16-’17: I am currently a forestry technician at Prospect Park and completed a horticulture internship at Brooklyn Botanic Garden the year before. Earlier this year I Wwoofed on a small-scale market farm in Hawaii. The Youth Farm internship was a great place to begin exploring my interests in agriculture and horticulture, and connect with an incredibly encouraging and knowledgeable community of farmers, students and volunteers.? p.s. If you haven’t seen the goats at Prospect Park yet, they will be at the park until the end of September. They’re currently browsing on Lookout Hill. Let me know if you’d like directions to the area 🙂




Julia Lipner, YF Intern Spring ’17: Hello! I’m Julia and I live in Brooklyn, NY. I have been teaching programs in the Children’s Garden at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for the past year, where kids can plant their own veggies to harvest and take home. This coming school year I will be working as a Program Specialist for Trail Blazers to help develop after-school garden education programming for five public schools in Brooklyn. My time as an intern at the Youth Farm was extremely formative and taught me so much about growing and producing food on a small-scale farm. It solidified my passion for urban farming and farm/garden education, and I am so grateful to have worked with such a dedicated and inspirational team!

Mallory Watts, UFTP’16: I am currently co-managing a 12 acre farm as well as 10 acres of land on Martha’s Vineyard, both privately owned and maintained. Following UFTP, I was hoping to learn more about the business side of agriculture, and I was contacted by a recruiter to become a ‘personal assistant’ for a NYC executive. Turns out, he shares the same love and passion as I do for ecology, agriculture, and sustainability, and he owns property on Martha’s Vineyard. We sell produce from the farm to local markets, run a very small CSA, and have a farm stand each week. I am also managing the 10 acres of land, which we are working to restore with native species and preserving natural habitats. We’re concerned about the birds, bees, and butterflies! I certainly would not have been able to accept this position without my Youth Farm experience, and the knowledge I gained from the program has remained useful in every decision I make as manager. Molly and Erin both became mentors for me, and I so appreciate their dedication, effort, passion, and support during my time there. I am proud of my certificate and thankful for the friends I made as we weeded ‘thyme after thyme.’ It certainly was an invaluable experience – so much love for UFTP!

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.

Sarah Dames, YF Intern’17: I am a Pilates instructor and freelance performance artist living in Brooklyn, NY. I love teaching people about how to keep their bodies happy and healthy.  Searching for more, I decided to explore farming and flowers, something that has always been a passion of mine.  Interning on The Youth Farm has been a life changing and incredible learning experience for me.   It has allowed me to feel confident and eager to continue in this new path.  I now have a solid understanding of small scale farming and in general what it is like to work on a farm.  Erin, Liz, and Molly are so patient and kind, and have been so helpful and inspiring with what steps I can take to continue farming. I already feel connected into the farm and flower world!  Each week I genuinely look forward to Thursdays with such a positive and lovely crew!

Melissa LaFontaine, UFTP’13: Melissa completed a certificate in urban agriculture at The Youth Farm in 2013 where she discovered ways to give back to the earth through ecologically friendly growing practices. Her main interests were flowers and youth education. She deeply connected to the slow flower movement, embellished her voice as an educator and loved learning about the student-centered education approach modeled at the Youth Farm.  Since graduation, Melissa has led workshops on soil, bio-intensive growing and the importance of flowers and natives on farmland for children and adults. Melissa relocated to Missoula, Montana in 2014 to pursue a Masters of Science in Environmental Education. She also launched her flower business, Earth Within Flowers. She combined her certification in Western Herbalism and graduate studies in Ethnobotany to share the wonders of flowers as medicine and therapy. The Youth Farm continues to have a special place in her heart and she loves to visit when she’s back on the East coast.