Silt’s Highwater Farm grows resilient community through local cultivation

Youth Crew Workers and employees at Highwater Farms pose for a picture after the community lunch.
Taylor Cramer/Post Independent

Summer is a time of growth — and not just for plant life.

Highwater Farm in Silt is not only growing produce, but it’s also growing its community.

Simple, organic agriculture, teaching farming techniques, providing food for the local community and giving people a fulfilling summer job is a lot of what the farm implants in the community. 

“The concept is basically using agriculture as a platform to train young people and give them access to what’s happening in their community and access to fresh food and a knowledge of how to grow that food,” said Highwater Farm Executive Director Sara Tymczyszyn.

Garlic hangs to dry as members of the community enjoy a community lunch at Highwater Farms.
Taylor Cramer/Post Independent

Pesky mosquitoes, squash bugs and having to wake up early were some of the downsides the Youth Crew Workers listed while working on the farm, but the advantages greatly outweighed any annoyances.

Highwater Farm hosted a community lunch on July 26, which gave the Youth Crew Workers a chance to talk about their experiences and what all they learned. 

“Mosquitos suck,” second year Youth Crew Worker Julian Jasso said, making the audience laugh. “They like to eat me, and I don’t like it.”

Besides the bugs and early hours, the crew workers said that being able to work with the community, learn the proper way to grow different kinds of plants and learn how much they are all capable of doing made the experience irreplaceable. 

“I really love learning about how we water plants because I just thought you grabbed a hose and sprayed them down,” Brittany Zepeda said. “I really appreciate the knowledge I learned here.”

Ava Gilbert, the youth program coordinator, said that she noticed many of the Youth Crew Workers gained a new found connection between themselves, along with a new sense of confidence. 

Julian Jasso jokes about bugs loving to bite him at the community lunch at Highwater Farms.
Taylor Cramer/Post Independent

“They learned they are capable of making a big impact,” she said. “It gives them an increased sense of empathy and greater community emphasis.”

The crew workers, employees and volunteers work long and tough hours with each other, which in turn creates a strong connection between them, causing them to bond more with their peers. 

“Because simple agriculture is hard to access, it teaches hard work and communication, camaraderie,” Tymczyszyn said. 

The food the whole team grows and harvests is sold through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, and around 15% of the produce is routed to the Farm to Food Pantry program or other local food pantries.

People who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits can also use them to purchase a CSA for half off if they sign up ahead of time. 

Tymczyszyn based the concept off of the Boston Food Project. She worked an AmeriCorp position on a farm that had a youth program, and she said she fell in love with the “youth farm model.”

After getting her teaching license and moving to the area to be a teacher, she ended up deciding to open her own farm with the youth farm model. 

“My background is kind of a combination of nonprofit, work, education and farming,” she said.  “It’s really exciting to have the confluence and all those things come together on the farm.”

Just because the summer is ending doesn’t mean the work on the farm is over. The fall Youth Program will begin at the end of August with about half of the crew workers staying for the continued learning experience. 

Rows of flowers to attract pollinators at Highwater Farms in Silt.
Taylor Cramer/Post Independent

Highwater Farm will be hosting a farm to table dinner at 5:30 p.m., Sept. 8. The event is a fundraiser that is open to the community to come see the farm and celebrate their hard work and harvest. 

People are able to volunteer during the remainder of the season if they want to learn about different farming techniques. They offer open volunteer hours on Wednesday mornings from 8:30-11 a.m.

“People can expect to learn about farming and a wide range of tasks,” she said.

There are also adult employment opportunities open next April through October. 

In late September and October, the farm will have a couple late-season tours, a movie night and a fall brunch. Tymczyszyn said she’ll be looking to hire AmeriCorps members for positions. 

“Part of what I love about that is just working with the community but also working with my team,” she said. “I have an incredible staff, and I have incredible Americorps members. Everyone works really hard and does a really good job.”

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