OutGrowth: Connecting College Students and Farms
Linking student leaders of tomorrow with socially-conscious farms of today through immersive, out-of-the-office internships.
I have had the honor of getting to know OutGrowth Founder, Anna Fitzgibbon, over the past few months. Her work inspires me endlessly. As a beginner farmer in my late 20s, I admire Anna’s mission to help college students find their passion earlier in life. OutGrowth provides an opportunity for students to get real, hands on, in-the-dirt experience with sustainable agriculture while also providing a way for the next generation to nurture their expertise and find the confidence needed to bridge the gap between college education and real-life experience. in turn, Outgrowth provides farmers with extra hands, new perspectives, and resources.
read below to learn more about the why & how behind outgrowth today
By Anna Fitzgibbon
When starting a business, there are two big “why” questions that every entrepreneur addresses. The first is “Why does this particular set of problems matter?” and the second is “Why do I want to be the one who solves them?”
For me, the second “why,” which I will get to in a minute, is a no-brainer. It is the first “why” that took some digging. As an avid traveler who spent five years post-college working and volunteering around the globe, I am an advocate for the power of diverse experience. I think it does wonders for your quality of life, your appreciation of others, and your professional and personal skill development. Whereas we tend to use travel as a means of vacation or escape, I believe it should be used as a tool for self-discovery, connection and intentional development.
How, I wondered, were we as college students expected to go from classroom to the office without any opportunities for true independent decision-making, problem solving, or even discomfort? How were we to gain relevant experience without being given the opportunity to test the waters, fail miserably and take risks?
It turns out that there’s something to this. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, only 11% of business leaders and 14% of the general public feel strongly that students who graduate from college have the skills necessary to be successful in the workplace. Additionally, only 33% of the U.S. workforce feels engaged at work (Gallup Business Journal, 2016). Among the top sought-after skills: critical thinking/problem solving, collaboration, communication, leadership and a strong work ethic.
How are we structuring education so that we are properly preparing students to excel in new environments, all while ensuring that they know enough about themselves to make career decisions that reflect their values and interests? How are we ensuring that our future leaders are connecting to purpose at an early stage? I believe there is a call to action for us to immerse students in new environments, earlier and more often. We are putting students on tracks starting at the age of 18, and there is something missing. Students leap from a major to a pool of career choices. Life choices are taking place before life-living, and this is leading to a society of disengaged workers who are ill-prepared for the workplace.
The good news? There are organizations that are deeply connected to purpose, community and sustainable living. They just so happen to be everywhere, and they just so happen to need resources. They are the farms, sustainable small businesses and eco-friendly companies that are sprinkled throughout every city and state. These businesses are helping to solve issues surrounding food production (after all, by 2050, food production needs to increase by 70% in order to accommodate our population). They are also creating social good by tackling the food desert problems so commonly found in cities. They promote health and wellness by giving communities access to fresh ingredients and fostering a deep connection to the earth. They are educators who look to raise awareness and mentor future farmers. They are influencers who impact legislation. And just like any small business, they need to manage systems and processes related to marketing, partnership development, product line expansion and grant funding.
That’s where OutGrowth comes in. My “why” translated into a “how” when I began to build solutions to these two emerging needs by partnering students and farms for project-based placements. Today, OutGrowth works to build a powerful community of professional go-getters. Farms and small businesses can delegate priority projects to top student candidates, and students can gain hands-on, project-based experience that reflects their coursework and connects them to meaningful professional development.
As for the second “why,” like I said, it’s a no-brainer. I believe that we have an obligation to tomorrow’s leaders, to our planet and to small businesses. If I can build a community and business that stays true to those values day-in and day-out, well, then I will have honored my own professional purpose.
Anna is a die-hard advocate for immersive learning and the founder of OutGrowth, a company that partners student leaders of tomorrow with socially-conscious farms of today for residential, project-based summer internships. Currently, they are accepting applications for the summer 2018 Legacy Cohort. To subscribe to their monthly newsletter, follow them on social media and learn more about the summer 2018 program launch, visit www.outgrowthtoday.org