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Monday, May 19, 2014

Garden Sale is fundraiser and learning experience

aBerkshire Farm Center and Services for Youth saw more than 10,000 visitors at its residential campus in Canaan, NY on May 17 and 18. The annual Garden Sale is both a fundraising event and a learning experience for students in the Workforce Development Program.

Staff and students working in Berkshire's Greenhouses are very busy for months leading up to the two-day sale. In addition to learning skills needed to raise the plants, participating students also learn the business side of a nursery. During the sale, in addition to assisting customers they spent time surveying them as well because market research is an important part of starting and running a business.

The Nursery/Greenhouse workforce area is popular with Berkshire students, and they work hard, according to Bruce Wood, who heads the Nursery/Greenhouse operation. image"The students working and learning in the greenhouses spend many hours tending and raising thousands of flowers, creating hanging baskets and other arrangements, and raising vegetable plants and herbs for our sale each spring," explained Wood. "But the work doesn't end after the sale. There is plenty to do year-round."

Customer service is an important part of the Workforce Development Program curriculum. In the photo above, Sam B. assists a customer during the sale. Our students helped customers select plants and carefully packed them into their cars.

This year, in addition to the flowers and plants, visitors also had an opportunity to purchase pure maple syrup produced by youth and staff in the Maple Syrup Production Program, which recently added a new, high-volume stainless steel evaporator that turns the sap from Berkshire’s 2000-tree “sugar bush” into delicious, high quality syrup. Youth in the various workforce areas learn far more than how to raise plants and produce maple syrup, however.

"In addition to job skills specific to particular trades, our youth learn workforce readiness skills in high demand across all industries such as critical thinking, problem solving, professionalism, and work ethic," said Timothy Giacchetta, Berkshire's President and Chief Executive Officer.

Other important skills and values our students learn include creativity and innovation; teamwork and collaboration; lifelong learning and self-direction; oral and written communication; and more.

Other Berkshire Workforce opportunities include Culinary/Pizzeria; Vending Services; Small Business and Entrepreneurial Program; Building Trades; and the Cisco Networking Academy, which provides IT Helpdesk internships imagein this rapidly growing field.

Berkshire's Workforce Development Program has proven itself highly effective: in 2013, 100% of our graduating seniors enrolled in college or advanced vocational training. The program is popular with students, who gain paid work experience as they learn. In addition to attending regular school classes, they have an opportunity to build a resume that will serve as a foundation for their careers.

In the photo above, Tariq Johnson (left), who graduated in 2013 and is now a student at the University of Albany, excelled while at Berkshire. On his heels, however, is Saadiq W. (right in photo), who says he intends to do even better. Julie Ann Jennings (center), an English teacher at Berkshire High School, has taught both young men. 

View article in Chatham Courier newspaper

Students in the Workforce Development Program often remark that they appreciate learning how to do things they’ve never done before and wouldn’t learn anywhere else. All agree that being getting paid when they work is a powerful incentive and a source of genuine pride.

Berkshire's continuum of programs, on campus and throughout New York State, serve children who face the most severe challenges of poverty, have experienced trauma, and have been deemed least likely to succeed. Berkshire welcomes these youth and work with them to help turn their lives around and find real hope for their future.

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