A Psi Upsilon Summer Fellow Cultivates Community through Farming

 

Matt Frongillo '13

Matt Frongillo '13

When he began thinking about what to do this summer, Matt Frongillo ’13 hoped to find a job that combined his interests in environmental studies and social justice. Also, after leading an Alternative Spring Break trip to Georgia in March to help Somali refugees resettling in Atlanta, Frongillo was interested in working more with refugees and immigrants.

So while scanning the Community Matters in Maine/Psi Upsilon Fellowships, offered by Bowdoin’s Environmental Studies Department and the McKeen Center for the Common Good, he came upon the perfect position. “Working with Cultivating Community was this amazing combination of my interests,” Frongillo said.

Cultivating Community is a 12-year-old nonprofit in Portland, Maine that’s working to end hunger by boosting local farming. The organization offers a number of programs, including teaching immigrants and refugees how to farm here. It also offers educational farming programs for high school students, provides food for low-income people and the elderly, and partners with schools that are developing garden programs.

Frongillo, an environment studies and history major and biology minor, said the fellowship is not only teaching him how to farm, but letting him see how a nonprofit works and how his coursework in environmental studies and sustainability can be applied to the real world. The Community Matters in Maine/Psi Upsilon Fellowship program each summer gives several qualified Bowdoin students a $4,000 stipend and places them with local organizations addressing environmental issues.

In the first few weeks of his 10-week fellowship, Frongillo helped prepare Cultivating Community’s farm sites in Portland, Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, and Lisbon for the growing season. He’s also working directly with the “youth growers,” kids between 14 and 17 who have summer jobs and internships with Cultivating Community. Together, they’ll farm, sell produce at local farmers markets, cook meals, and make pickles, jams, and preserves. “Workshops in the summer program are presented to the high school employees to help increase knowledge of food security and food justice,” Frongillo saild. The youth growers are hired based on a combination of skill and need, which includes both financial and job-skill development needs. Over 100 students applied for the 25 spots in this year’s summer program, according to Frongillo.

When asked what his favorite part of his fellowship has been so far, Frongillo answered that he’s been most impressed with the kids, “seeing how passionate and knowledgeable they are about their work and growing healthy food, and their dedication to it.”

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