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Astoria native among participants in apprenticeship program at Queens County Farm Museum

Photo via the Anne Saxelby Legacy Fund

Sept. 7, 2023 By Ethan Marshall

Astoria resident Xochitl Fernandez was one of four college students selected to take part in an apprenticeship during the summer at the Queens County Farm Museum. Fernandez, who currently attends New York City College of Technology, received the apprenticeship through the Anne Saxelby Legacy Fund.

The apprenticeship program’s main jobs involved seeding and transplanting, cultivating, harvesting and selling produce at the Queens County Farm Museum’s farmstands, among other duties. Through all this, Fernandez and the other apprentices learned the aspects of growing vegetables in an organic system. This apprenticeship also provided valuable hands-on experience in sustainable, regenerative growing practices; caring for farm animals and general farm maintenance.

Fernandez’s apprenticeship ran weekdays from July 1 to July 20. While she admitted to finding much of the work difficult at the beginning, she thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

“We were always involved in something, whether it was agriculture or just feeding the livestock,” Fernandez said. “It made me appreciate being sustainable about my own produce. Everything that we couldn’t use was composted.”

Fernandez said the experience opened her eyes to just how big of an effect composting can have on the environment. It goes a long way towards helping grow plants for the next season.

Entering her sophomore year of college, Fernandez majors in Hospitality Management. This study involves the integration of applied management practices and theory with liberal arts and sciences. According to Fernandez, one of her main goals is to learn more about produce and the difference it can make as part of a prepared meal.

In addition to enjoying learning about growing and preparing produce throughout the apprenticeship, Fernandez said she also enjoyed the opportunity to socialize with others within the program, working at the farm and looking to purchase the produce at the farm.

“I want more young teens to know about this program,” Fernandez said. “I want them to know the importance of sustainability and experience something that they are not used to. This is a great opportunity for someone who wants to gain experience.”

The Anne Saxelby Legacy Fund was established in 2021 in honor of the late great New York City cheesemaker Anne Saxelby of Saxelby Cheesemongers. The organization provides fully paid apprenticeship opportunities for students at farms like the Queens County Farm Museum. These apprenticeships offer the opportunity for students to learn about the artisan trade, the importance of sustainability and incentivizes them to launch their own businesses.

The Queens County Farm Museum showcases the 300-year history of agriculture in New York City. A NYC Landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places, it hosts a wide variety of acclaimed education programs and public events. It is a vital resource connecting people to agriculture and the environment. More than 200 varieties of fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers are grown there. Additionally, it produces its own honey and eggs.

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