Holyoke Youth Interns Create a Special Place for the Community
Three farm interns – Jose “Toli” Gomez, 17, Jose “Bebo” M. Garcia, 18, and Javier Rodriguez, 18, all of Holyoke – worked this summer alongside Neil G. Greene, The Trustees’ Agricultural Property Manager, to prepare Land of Providence for its public dedication ceremony in October.
The farm interns have been creating walking paths, cleaning up river views, and otherwise maintaining and improving the property. In Holyoke's urban environment, Land of Providence serves as a green contrast, which intern Gomez finds relaxing. Rodriguez agrees, “Our vision is to make this place nice for people, welcoming, so they come and enjoy the property more often.”
All three youth have become interns after gaining years of experience in The Trustees’ Youth Conservation Corps, a teen summer-jobs program in which youth learn job skills and get exposure to potential careers in the environmental field as they steward conservation properties in the Holyoke area. In 2009, the Land of Providence Internships and the Youth Conservation Corps have both been funded by anonymous gifts from individuals and private foundations.
This summer, these three farm interns have been hired to care for The Trustees’ newest reservation, Land of Providence, 25 acres of fields and forest along the edge of the Connecticut River that were donated to The Trustees by the Sisters of Providence. Part of the land is leased to Nuestras Raîces for its agricultural programs.
The interns are learning about the natural world through their work, and all three say clearing out invasive plants is an important part of their daily activities. They have learned about the threat of invasives and how to identify and remove various species. Garcia has taken his new-found skills home and removed some invasive species there, while Rodriguez has helped his mother create a garden in their yard and says he looks forward to maintaining his own yard someday. Property Manger Greene appreciates that the interns are working hard, developing new skills, and always maintaining positive attitudes. He is also impressed with their high level of interest in wild things and the natural world.
The heat, humidity, and rain do not seem to bother the interns: Gomez notes that he is used to doing physical activity outdoors in a variety of weather conditions because he plays football and paint ball. He notes that the knowledge they gain on the job is not only valuable to themselves, but it’s also important “to share it with their friends and family” as a benefit to the community.
Rodriguez feels that learning about nature is important for all people. All three young men are looking forward to the day that their families and friends will see all of the improvements that have been made to the property. Garcia is confident that this sense of pride will continue on into the future, “I'll be here in a few years and I'll be able to say, ‘I did this.'” In addition to their work at Land of Providence, the interns will leave behind a painted mural that will hang outside at The Trustees’ Dinosaur Footprints Reservation – something they’ve been working on when severe weather sends the team indoors.
Excited about the new property and proud of their progress, the interns are hoping that, as people visit and stroll the trails, see the views, and find a place to relax, they will come to know that Land of Providence is a special place that the community can take pride in and enjoy. Garcia, Gomez, Rodriguez and Greene all recognize how unique and extraordinary a beautiful piece of land in the middle of a city really is. They look forward to sharing Land of Providence with the public when the property opens this fall.