14089298_270059580045165_2182080018312052058_n 15036428_319191375131985_7368027658709322104_nWe are proud to partner with Sheri Cooper, teacher/councelor at Johnson City’s Alternative Center, and her Foodtopia program, where kids get hands on training in cooking, gardening and growing for market.

Austin is 17-years old and a recent graduate of Science Hill. Part of his diploma was earned while at the Alternative Center, where he has was drawn to the Food program.“Cooking gives me independence,” says Austin.  It turns out that Austin is quite a good cook, especially of biscuits.

Independence is a key goal of the grantor (the Washington County Community Foundation) that is allowing the ARC&D and the Alternative Center to partner up and employ teen “Earn2Learn” Foodtopia interns, including Austin, at good wages to gain life skills through food and farm work experience.  All teens must volunteer for 40 hours before getting promoted to paid work.

Since September when hired as an intern, Austin has worked an additional 80 hours. In addition to cooking for school culinary lessons, catering meals, packing CSA orders, helping at Food Forest events and the Mountain Masala curry dinner, Austin has also enjoyed harvesting pumpkins and beans at Sunset View Farm, a large family-owned produce farm in Jonesborough, learning about equipment and larger scale operations.


Interns helping set up for Mountain Masala curry dinner — in their Foodtopia uniforms they tie-dyed themselves.

Our intern fleet has grown to include Austin, Aaron, Clarence, Darwin, Dezmond, Harry, Jade, Kobalt, and Nakyla, who work hours according to their availability, anywhere from 5 hours to 30 hours a month and are paid a starting salary of $7.25/hr with promotion to $9/hr according to hours worked.

Austin will move to central Tennessee in the spring of 2017, but he’s hoed a good row for future interns to follow. Good luck Austin and may you grow good seeds where ever your journey takes you!