I live on a six-acre family-owned pig farm. The pigs are fed with some of the produce grown on the farm as well as Hogbuilder feed and cracked corn. With the help of the SARE grant, we also grew vegetable crops including corn, Michigan potatoes, mustard, okra, squash, watermelon, bell peppers, tomatoes, and green beans. Five to six acres were planted for harvest. Unfortunately, due to financial hang-ups, only one acre produced a substantial amount of crop. The others produced hardly anything at all.
Before this grant, I used a few sustainable practices; including planting several red oak trees and using the acorns from those trees to feed the pigs, chickens, and ducks.
The sole purpose of this grant was to bring the children and seniors of my community together to learn about each other and from each other. It was about community growth and community involvement.
We started by building raised beds; six beds per acre, 30 by 50 feet each. We roto-tilled, and added fertilizer. I really didn’t care for adding the fertilizer; I had some concerns with runoff into a well that was on the property. But we added it anyway to insure maximum production. We purchased hoses and sprinklers for manual watering of the beds.
One hundred sixty people turned out for harvesting. They were split up into teams for different sections of an acre. The teams were anywhere from 6-10 people. We picked corn, Michigan potatoes, mustard, okra, squash, bell peppers, tomatoes, and green beans. We even had watermelon and cantaloupe.
After harvesting, my church sold some produce, and cooked up 10 bushels of mustard and turnip greens. We sold squash. The squash did extremely well.
* Jasper Recycling Company
* Guriad Trucking – donated topsoil
I would estimate that for each pound planted, the return was 60-80 lbs of produce. The squash flourished; all root vegetables did wonderfully. We probably picked two lbs of green beans a day for six weeks.
If I could change anything about this project it would be to keep better records of who was involved and better records of the returns on produce. Also, I would do a better job of keeping the produce I planted within the time of year it would flourish most.
I was extremely happy with the amount of people that took part in this project. It by far exceeded my expectations. It was marvelous to see the children having a great time and learning with the seniors. I have no doubt that in ten years, any of these kids could grow a successful garden.
If I could give advice to anyone if they tried to replicate this project, I would tell them to keep good records of produce returns, people involved, and to plan, plan, plan. I would tell them to find out how many people want to be involved and then plan for the amount of land that way; designate 1/10 of an acre per individual and let them grow what they want. Again, I can’t say enough how much they need to have a plan.
The project was planned as a get-to-know-each-other program for the Senior Citizens and the 4th – 10th grade children. It was very successful and this mission was accomplished. Most of the children now have God-Grandparents.
From this grant, I learned that citizens and children are a great combination. They learned about each other, they learned about themselves, and their town. Some families are still coming back to grow. I believe we overcame the barrier between seniors and kids.
I’ve had to file bankruptcy, so I can’t afford to buy the supplies and materials, seeds, and plants. However, I would like to keep this program going. I would like it to be overseen by someone else from now on.
Economic impacts – with the right resources, these children could grow up to be farmers after their experiences with this grant. Also, when you plant, you don’t buy. Buying fresh produce is so expensive. This way, children know how to grow their own food.
Environment impacts – total reverse of damage. This grant insured rebuilding and restoring.
Social impacts – Seniors and children grew closer as well as families. The social impact was phenomenal. The children heard about the farm at church, where we announced it, and went home to tell their parents. As soon as the children started asking questions, the parents got involved because the children showed interest.
I communicated with the 22 Seniors who participated with 44 children. We created flyers, held get-to-know BBQs with burgers and hotdogs. All involved were very pleased. The seniors explained to the children the importance of weeding and cultivating the soil.
We got the word out for this grant by word of mouth. Announcements were made every week at church and before long, everyone in our small town knew about it.