The impossible task of choosing a crew

For those of you who read my last post, rest assured that I had my moment with the bean sprouts this morning, and, though it wasn't as profound as it could have been, I let them break me out of my mind for a breath or two and appreciate their strength.  Yes, I kept my rambling mind in check today, enjoying the random moments of mixing fertilizer or showing volunteers how to spray carrots, setting up hoses and sorting through random piles of labels.  There's one thing that I've been allowing my brain to continue mulling over and over, even as the day ends and the evening light sparkles hundreds of wishes in the orchard.

Wishes (dandelions) in the orchard

Wishes (dandelions) in the orchard

The crew.  Jen and I have been interviewing a couple dozen applicants for this season's youth crew, and it's one of the most difficult processes I go through all year.  We hire them at minimum wage, fifteen hours a week throughout the summer, teach them how to work hard and collaboratively, and give them classes and leadership opportunities.  It's a great way for them to make some money, sure, but it can also be really transformative as they learn to work with their bodies and a diverse group of other teenagers.  They're accomplishing real, tangible things for the benefit of their community, and so many of them grow more into the adults they want to be during their time at the farm.  

So it's a really hard decision.  Who will put in extraordinary effort?  Who can work best in a team, stepping up when needed and stepping back to let others lead?  Who would gain the most from the experience, and who would best use it to help achieve their future goals?  Who can contribute unique perspectives that will help everyone in the group grow as people?

They're impossible questions.  We give each applicant a short tour of the farm, sit them down for 10-20 minutes for a series of questions, and look over their application and reference letter,  From that minimal interaction we try to imagine how they would handle tediously thinning a bed of beets, hoeing acres under the hot sun, deciding whether a pink strawberry is ripe or not in a split second, and shoveling loads and loads of manure to spread over the fields.  We also try to imagine how they would respond to their crew leaders, peers who might be younger than them, giving them directions and feedback.  We wonder what difficulties they're facing in life, and to what extent having a job like this might help them succeed.  Then we look at all the applicants we think would make a good team and see if we have a reasonably good mixture of ages, genders, schools, ethnicities, and personalities. 

What a responsibility, to imagine these things.  They all deserve an opportunity to learn, work outside with friends, earn money, accomplish big things over the summer.  I wish we could hire them all.  I wish there were more opportunities like this for teenagers.  I wish they would all come back and participate, even as volunteers, just to do something active and real with their summers.  It's such a privilege, to end up on the youth crew, and I'm struck now by what a privilege it is for me to help form, train, and mentor this group of young adults each year.  It's humbling.  I can't wait for them to be on the farm, nervous and excited and determined, itching to dive in to this whirlwind.