Before starting her six-week summer internship with nonprofit FunkyTown Food Project, Francis Gulde, 18, didn’t have any experience farming.
Walking onto the farm on the first day June 21, she wasn’t sure if she would like her new job.
“It was really an overwhelming experience,” Gulde said, “especially because I was walking into a group of people I’d never met before and something I was completely unfamiliar with.”
As the weeks rolled by, her perspective changed, and she found herself in love with harvesting.
Gulde, along with 10 others, serve as FunkyTown Food Project’s first class of summer interns for its first harvest. Their goal: to grow food that goes into communities across Fort Worth.
The nonprofit’s goal also is to create a productive community of youth from diverse backgrounds to build a sustainable food system. Organizers work to provide leadership opportunities and inspire others to create change in their own communities, according to their website.
“We talk all the time about having a voice and using your voice to make things happen,” said Reginald Robinson, executive director of FunkyTown Food Project. “I’m really excited about some kids who are local, coming back to Fort Worth and making the city as great as I know it can be.”
The first class of interns included junior and senior high school students. Enrollment was free with interns working 32 hours per week and getting paid a stipend of $360 per week.
The nonprofit was co-founded by Fort Worth native Cort DeHart and chief operating officer Kent Bradshaw in 2021. DeHart serves as president of MBSi Corp., a software company that provides solutions for the auto repossession industry, according to the company website.
FunkyTown Food Project is partnered with Conundrum Farms, a farm founded by DeHart in 2019. It sits on six acres near Benbrook Lake outside of Fort Worth.
“At the beginning of COVID, I had the opportunity to rethink what to do with that property,” DeHart said, “either sell it and move back into town or figure out a way to make something of it.”
FunkyTown Food Project is funded by DeHart and Bradshaw with an annual budget of $210,000, Robinson said.
The nonprofit partners with local agencies Tarrant Area Food Bank, Art of Living and Funky Town Fridge to get its produce into the community. They have harvested over 2,000 lbs of food, Bradshaw said. The nonprofit donates about 25% of harvest each week and sells the rest through local farmers markets.
The model for FunkyTown was inspired by youth leadership organizations Urban Roots in Austin and The Food Project in Massachusetts, Bradshaw said.
“To spend this much time with a group of kids that are not your own, but you end up rooting for them, and you want to see them happy and fulfilled,” Bradshaw said. “I know that we’re giving them skills that will make them better. It’s a very profound experience to have.”
With the summer internship’s last day, July 29, approaching, Robinson hopes the lessons inspire their students to take leadership positions in and out of school.
“It has been just remarkable to be a part of this process and listen to some of the extremely profound students,” Robinson said. “I had a student say she’s learning how to better cope with the heat. I told her that’s a metaphor for life in ways that she wouldn’t even understand. Life is going to bring you heat and if you can just lean into that, you’re going to be better by it.”
FunkyTown Food Project will continue its work to educate youth through its fall and spring programs.
David Moreno is a multimedia specialist fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.