Joseph Amsili is a student in Groundswell’s Summer Practicum in Sustainable Farming & Local Food Systems.
by Drew Walsh, Summer Practicum Teaching Assistant
|Joseph carries transplants destined
for the field at the Ithaca Youth Farm.
Joseph entered the world of local food in 11th grade at the Lehman Alternative Central School (LACS) as part of the Green Thumb Committee, spending his summers in the fields at the LACS garden and West Haven Farm. During 11th and 12th grades, he was involved in in growing food for the school cafeteria in the LACS garden and hydroponically. He recalls preparing lots of pesto, salsa, and other produce for the school, musing that even though slicing lots of peppers doesn’t seem like much on the surface, he was also forging connections between students and their food as well as gaining a better understanding the environmental consequences of agriculture, which he finds to be extremely important and meaningful work.
After high school, Joseph spent some time abroad in Barcelona, tending gardens in a housing co-op and working with Transition Barcelona and Wiser Earth, an environmental activist networking site, in between his many hours of skateboarding. Upon returning to the Ithaca area, he interned at Stick and Stone Farm, and resumed his volunteer work with the LACS garden and Localvores club. Joseph attended American University for about a year, finding himself again working in student gardens and even began an internship at Will Allen’s Growing Power, before that was cut short by a broken collarbone.
Joseph was drawn to the Summer Practicum in part by his desire to work in the Ithaca area. “A sense of place is important,” he emphasized. That sense of place, for Joseph, involves strong connections with the people around him. Everywhere Joseph has gone, he has grown relationships in the garden as well as food. He says he is always finding more and more admiration for the work of community gardeners, and learning there is always room for another pair of hands. The Practicum has continued this process, and he notes how great it is to meet new people from so many different places and backgrounds all branching out and trying new experiences, but still working towards common goals. The literature and discussions presented in the class, particularly around racism and food justice, have also proved useful, elucidating the complex interplays between many groups that together build a community.
Joseph finds exceptional enjoyment in the Monday work sessions on West Haven Farm. He always appreciates hands on experience, but he is particularly interested in the scientific perspective Todd provides on running a farm. “The little details are the most interesting part,” Joseph explains, adding he especially enjoys learning about weed management and pest and disease identification and control. But it’s not just agricultural science Joseph is learning from Todd. As a leader of the Ithaca Youth Farm, Joseph is looking to Todd as an example of how to teach and lead on farm. Joseph’s proudest achievement of the Practicum was teaching the class about the mission of the Ithaca Youth Farming Project, and leading his peers in a successful work session at Three Swallows Farm.