The Office of Environmental Programs (OEP) for the city of Phoenix, AZ is currently accepting applications for The Urban Agriculture Fellowship Program – a bid to promote urban farming, farm entrepreneurship, innovation, and business ownership in the city. The program will match nine Phoenix residents between the ages of 18 to 24 with nine local farms. The apprentices will receive $15 an hour to work and train on their respective farm for 20 hours a week for 50 weeks.
The program is part of the city’s Phoenix Resilient Food System Program, which seeks to “develop a stronger, connected local food system with more sustainable food options for Phoenix residents” It is funded by $9.7 million in federal funding under the American Rescue Plan Act.
“For the longest time, the food system has been aware of a confluence of factors that have really put the squeeze on small farms in the city of Phoenix,” said Joseph Rossell, Food Systems Program Manager with the city. Rossell stated that some of these factors include labor shortages, zoning restrictions, “a general lack of understanding and support in local governments,” and climate change.
In designing the program, OEP interviewed 22 local growers about their needs and challenges, and a common theme among them was the difficulty of finding apprentices.
“This program is a direct result of us asking those farmers what their needs are. Our goal is to get these young agriculture folks embedded; they’re going to get exposed to all aspects of the farm — growing, distributing and selling food, and dealing with food waste,” Rossell said.