July 17. 2016 7:29PM

Farm to Fork program for teens starting new business in Peterborough

Union Leader Correspondent

Peterborough Cornucopia 1 Farm to Fork is a new high school aimed educational agriculture program in Peterborough. Meghan Pierce 

PETERBOROUGH — Four ConVal High School students are on the ground floor of a new business as the first employees of the Cornucopia Project’s Farm to Fork program.

The Farm to Fork Fellowship is a new high school program aimed at mentoring high school students and encouraging them to be farmers and gardeners as well as entrepreneurs.

The program started four weeks ago and is running as a 10-week summer intensive program in which the four students, two sophomores and two seniors, will start and run a small farm business on Route 202 across the street from ConVal High School.

The students — Daisy Young and Kelley Akerley, both 15-year-old sophomores from Hancock and Amanda Klinger and Juliet Hunt, both 17-year-old seniors from Antrim — have already assembled the hoop house and started planting.

“Today we’re preparing beds and doing some more planting to get the crops ready,” Young said.

“We’re also working on irrigation, which is setting up watering systems for the plants,” Akerley said. “We have cucumbers, cantaloupes tomatoes and herbs.”

The students are working four days a week with flex-hours for special projects. During the school year, they will work four to five hours a week, continuing to grow year-round in the hoop house.

Each student’s employment through the program is being sponsored by a local business.

The idea is for the students to learn about agriculture and sustainability and to create a self-sustaining business, said Hannah Bissex, Cornucopia Project’s administrative coordinator.

“They’ll still be managing that hoop house though the school year,” Bissex said.

Next summer, four more ConVal students will be hired; the original four will train the new students.

The Farm to Fork Fellowship will max out at 12 high school students/employees, Bissex said.

Once the farm is up and running, the plan is to sell the produce to the ConVal School District and a local nursing home. Students will also be challenged to create a product from their harvest in a commercial kitchen.

The new program has been spearheaded by Cornucopia’s new executive director, chef Tony Geraci, Bissex said.

Geraci was the former head of the ConVal School Food Service. He later went on to be food-service director for Baltimore’s public schools, where his mission to replace processed foods with locally grown fresh foods was the focus of the 2011 documentary “Cafeteria Man.”

Young said the job will look great on her resume, but she was also drawn to it because she believes knowing about sustainability practices and how to grow food is important.

“You want to know what you’re putting in your body,” she said.

The Cornucopia Project was founded in 2006 by Kin Schilling of Hancock, who wanted to integrate gardening and healthy eating education into the community.

Cornucopia now has gardening programs in all eight ConVal School District elementary schools and several community gardens.