Therese Niemier, Small Farmer and Farm educator since 1996. I am the farmer and co-owner of Bertrand Farm, an 11-acre farm using all organic and sustainable practices. Education and outreach are central to our mission as we connect people to their food and promote farming that is environmentally restorative and sustainable.
At Bertrand farm our main production is distributed through CSA shares, but includes roadside sales, direct to restaurant sales and online market sales. Our CSA memberships have experienced ups and downs throughout the recent years with a 75-membership high. We offer a unique working membership for those interested in learning more about food production.
As part of our commitment to environmental restoration we have undertaken a five-year project transitioning our traditional organic orchard into a permaculture perennial planting known as a linear food forest. These linear plantings are separated by pasture plantings and annual production in an alley cropping fashion. The design included installing water capturing swales. As a result we have greatly reduced groundwater usage and tillage by 75% increasing our carbon sequestering many times over. We currently have two acres of intense annual production and about 2.5 acres of perennial fruit and berries. Season extension practices include; seasonal walk in tunnels, row covers, a 2000 square foot hoop house and raised garden beds.
In 2009 we began hiring college interns interested in food production and sustainability. Since then, we have been working toward a comprehensive teaching model for interns that reflect our local needs and incorporates permaculture practices with a focus on localized food systems.
This project will produce a 14 part video series of information bytes, to be used in the classroom to augment the students’ hands-on exposure to ecological farming as it relates to consumer responsibility, environmental restoration and creating a resilient food system for the future of food security.
We can increase demand for ecological farming through education. Eaters need to understand what ecological farming is, what it looks like, how it works, where to find it and most importantly, why to seek it out. We, the ecological farmers, are the best teachers of this subject. While it might not work for all farmers to get out there and teach a Jr. High or College class, some of us can (and while it is exciting and rewarding to share our knowledge and passion with the younger generations, teaching can also create another income stream for small farmers).This project proposes to create 14 Youtube videos, most 3-5 minutes in length that will bring three local farms into the classroom. I have chosen 14 videos to correspond with the weeks in a typical semester class. This series will look at ecological farming on three levels of production, backyard, urban and small farm, and includes many best practices from each. The first video will be a general overview of eco-farming, 5-10 minutes, including introducing each of the three farms participating in the video series. The remaining 13 videos will be sequenced for individual use. The videos will be designed to engage students in a hands-on understanding of the importance of ecological eating, for the consumer, the farmer and the environment. To ensure a quality presentation that includes as much information as possible in each video clip, I will hire a videographer (interested in restoration agriculture) to do the filming and production. Interns and farm volunteers will be part of the cast as we spend one season collecting an abundance of film to create this series. Year two will be used to bridge any gaps in filming, to compile video, do reviews, final edits and outreach
Our project started with several planning meetings that included grant participants: Randy Orak, the videographer, and up to four participating local farmers: Theri Niemier; project coordinator and co-owner/operator of a 10.5 acre rural farming business with a permaculture focus; Joe Gady; two acre intensive vegetable production farmer including multiple acres in other diverse production with a value added (fermented vegetables) focus; Stephanie Storer; a 1/8 acre homestead farmer on a South Bend city lot and Richie Janssen; an urban farmer on 5 city lots with a focus on market gardening. Meetings included setting up a time line for filming sustainable production practices and included determining when to showcase best farming practices from each farm. These meetings were an important component that helped with efficiency for video hours as this was the most expensive part of the grant work. Our year one goal was to collect as much relevant video footage as possible on these four farms for the coming production(year two) of a video series that would augment a university class on Food, Farming and Sustainability and provide a much needed farm feel experience for students.
This project sought to support consumer education that values small local farmers and resilient localized food systems; Empowering all eaters to contribute to environmental restoration through food choices.
Randy Orak, videographer, was hired in early Spring to gather video throughout the growing season of 2017. Video collection included farmer interviews, farm tours spotlighting uniqueness of each farm, and sustainable farming practices in progress and in place. These farms represent four different scales of farming and diverse income streams. Randy visited each farm multiple times over the season and collected over 30 hours of film in 2017.
Year two of the project focused on production. Using the course outline materials we create a series of 13 class themes and began putting together film. Each segment went through a series of review, editing, voice-overs, and final inspection before it’s final cut. Randy was instrumental in most of this work. It is worth noting Randy’s contribution went well beyond the budget allowed. It is important to note because a like project would not be completed on the videography salary noted in this budget. Randy had a special interest in agriculture and was willing to contribute well beyond the pay as part of his own education. He was a perfect match for the project.
Fourteen videos have been completed as the result of our project. They are available for widespread use through the Bertrand Farm You Tube Channel. They are currently being shared for educational purposes with farmer participants and friends in education.
Our You Tube Series Includes:
Our first year filming for the project was extensive and allowed for the second year focus to be on production of the video series. Power points, class outlines and course notes provided from Introduction to Ecological Horticulture , a college course curriculum written by Theri Niemier (project director), provided the foundation for the video sequencing of 13 themes. Randy audited the Introduction to Ecological Horticulture class, Spring 2017, to begin familiarizing himself with the course content.
Year two of the project production was accomplished through reviews and edits between Theri and Randy. Much of this was done through email communication. Each video was critiqued for visuals and education relevance to course content. Randy took on the majority of the responsibility for artistry, edits and completion of each segment. Theri trialed segments before final production cuts throughout 2018 to get class feedback.
Randy is a great example of the need and success this education provides. What started as a project became a passion for Randy. After his experience with year one filming he was inspired to attend a host of educational training seminars and workshops and during the project he completed two small farm internships. Recently Randy was offered a full-time small farm management position at one of the farms he interned for, which he has accepted.
Currently the video series is being formally trialed by Theri in her classes, both Jr High and College age students. The reception has been positive. Both students and teacher appreciate the ability to see in action what some will not otherwise understand. It brings a third dimension to introducing the agriculture content and raises the quality of understanding.
The series will continue to be shared with the greater public through the work of all four (5 including Randy) project farmers.
Each segment can be used independently or as a teaching series. The series offers a conceptual outline for a course curriculum for interested educators.
Educational & Outreach Activities
The results of this grant project will be included at many forums in the coming year:
The series is currently in use in two educational forums reaching 30 Jr High students and 25 College students weekly.
Bertrand Farm will engage five interns of college age that will be experiencing this video series throughout the 2019 school schedule.
Bertrand Farm will be presenting at least 2 teacher/ farmer training sessions to share course curriculum video series. This film series will be spotlighted at both in the pursuit of encouraging farmer/ teacher partnerships in education for youth of all ages. Both sessions will be held on the urban farm site Bertrand Farm at Good Shepherd Montessori School in South Bend, IN.
Bertrand Farm will be presenting to faculty and students from both Indiana University at South Bend(IUSB) and the University of Notre Dame as an ongoing opportunity for field presentations to Education, Sustainability and Environmental Science majors.
Bertrand Farm is in partnership with Indiana Sustainability Development Program, Indiana University to bring this series to farm interns in summer 2019.
All farmer project partners will use this series or segments of for market promotion of their sustainable farming practices and local business.
At this point the project is running smoothly. I think the main thing to note is that when planning farm visits to have make-up dates for bad weather on the schedule from the beginning. Everyone is so busy and calendars fill in fast.
The filming and interviewing of farmers has created a lot of discussion between the videoographer and myself. Judging from the education the videoographer is getting I think these videos will go a long way to bringing food and farming issues alive and into the classroom. Our greatest value will come next year when these clips are completed and used in the classroom.
Our video specialist, Randy, is a great example of the need and success this education provides. What started as a project became a passion for Randy. After his experience with year one filming he was inspired to attend a host of educational training seminars and workshops and during the project he completed two small farm internships. Recently Randy was offered a full-time small farm management position at one of the farms he interned for, which he has accepted for 2019.
Many of my college students find our class transforming – the video has inspired greater volunteer participation on the farm.
We are very thankful for this opportunity to create a valuable resource for the classroom.
When taking on a project of this magnitude set aside time through the life of the grant period and keep to the schedule.
Make sure you are confident in your project partners and be willing to take up the slack for those that don’t produce. Keeping a well thought out time table and sticking to it helps all and sets out the expectations from the start. Some things you have no control over especially if there are expertise in the budget that you don’t have- like video. We had an exceptional videographer which made this project possible but even he didn’t expect the input that was required for the finished product.