In the next 3-5 years, we aspire to expand our current summer internship program into RuralYear, a 9-month program on the Island that educates young adults in sustainable agriculture through classroom education and apprenticeships at Gathering Ground as well as local farms and farm-to-table kitchens. We imagine opportunities for participants to acquire hands-on experience in a diversity of agricultural trades, including viticulture, orcharding, maple syruping, beekeeping, animal husbandry, vegetable gardening, mushroom cultivation, wine and cider making, and culinary arts.
RuralYear will meet several needs. Increasingly, young people are looking for gap year programs that help them explore their interests before they complete college or start their careers. Currently, many U.S. programs, such as AmeriCorps and CityYear, are based in urban areas. We hope RuralYear will be a complementary program for young people looking for a different set of skills and hoping to learn about rural living, sustainability, and local foodsheds. At the same time, RuralYear will help support the Island’s green economy. On the Island, it can be hard for the local farms and businesses to find seasonal staff enthusiastic about their missions, and when they do, housing is often a challenge.