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 four meetings with grant participants including the videographer, Randy Orak, and the 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 city lot and Richie Janssen; an urban farmer on 5 city lots with a focus on market gardening. Our initial meetings included setting up a time line for filming sustainable production topics and planning farm visits that would work to showcase best farming practices from each farm. The goal was to collect as much video footage as possible for the coming production of the video clips that will augment a university class on Food, Farming and Sustainability with focus on consumer education.
Randy Orak, videographer, was hired in Spring 2017 to gather video throughout the growing season of 2017 from these four local farms including: Farmer interviews, farm tours spotlighting uniqueness of each farm, and sustainable farming practices in progress and in place. These four farms represent four different scales of farming and many diverse income streams. Randy visited each farm multiple times over the season and collected over 30 hours of film.
We feel very successful on the first half of the project. Randy has now begun the process of creating video clips to augment each class of the course. He will be using detailed information, power points and class outlines provided by Theri Niemier. Randy audited the Introduction to Ecological Horticulture class (Spring 2017) taught by farmer/educator Theri Niemier to familiarize himself with the course content.
Educational & Outreach Activities
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 viseos 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.
We are very thankful for this opportunity to create a valuable resource for the classroom.