Just under a week ago, I stood in the parking lot of Long Branch Baptist Church anxiously awaiting the arrival of a motley crew of youths ranging from fourteen to seventeen years of age. These teens are the members of the annual Mill Village Farms Youth Entrepreneurship Program and, before this past weekend, complete strangers. As an intern, it is my job to lead a crew of seven. Being my first true position of leadership, my mind raced with the possibilities of the summer: the fun, the troubles, and the new experiences. I eagerly paced back and forth on the asphalt. It was a Friday.
At around 4:30 PM the youth members began trickling in, escorted by their parents. Each teen sporting a sleeping bag and a backpack full of supplies for the overnight orientation retreat. With demeanors ranging from sheepish to jubilant, the youth partners mingled and made small talk. By 5:15 everyone had arrived and Dan Weidenbenner, the Executive Director of Mill Village Farms (MVF), explained to the parents we would be back by 3 PM the next day and we loaded into the cars.
The retreat was fantastic, largely thanks to MVF interns Lauren Taylor and Kristina Benson. The retreat consisted of a cookout, games, a bonfire, and s’mores, all punctuated by name games and orientation sessions. While I enjoyed all of the weekend, there was one activity that stood out to me: fishing.
At Serenity Farm, the location of the retreat and one of MVF’s three farms, there is a small pond stocked with bass and a few turtles. On its banks is an old john-boat. Early Saturday morning a young man approached me about taking him out on the boat to try and catch a few bass. It was his first time on a boat and he stepped into its tin hull like a deer into a clearing. Being the mature person I am, I immediately began rocking back and forth. He grabbed onto the sides and angrily commanded me to stop. After a few minutes, he began to relax. Fishing has very little to do with farming or the entrepreneurship program but that young man stepped out of his comfort zone and embraced a strange new experience which I believe to be the point of the whole summer. We may be hot and sweaty but we will learn and experience new things that will help us grow and shape our perspective on the world around us.
-Hal McLeod, MVF Crew Leader