PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND RESULTS
Seventeen youth attended two day camps with a total of 12 hours of hands-on education in the field. The day camps were comprised of a collaborative teaching effort from local NRCS, SCD and Extension staff as well as a Holistic Resource Management instructor. The camp was designed to engage youth in discussion on grazing systems, weed control, water quality, soil health, cover crops, wildlife, and careers in agriculture. Youth also received a plant identification book and binder of information to continue their learning journey.
As an Extension Agent I work with youth through the 4-H program and other education activities. Sustainable agriculture is often a component of these lessons, but usually not the only thing discussed. The day camps were a new approach to educating youth on sustainable agriculture and a whole systems approach to production agriculture.
The goal of the day camps was to allow youth to experience how sustainable agriculture can be profitable and environmentally sound in the growing conditions of southwest North Dakota.
Youth learned that there is more than one way to manage agriculture systems. Youth left the day camp with a better understanding of holistic resource management and a trained eye to notice things they might have once taken for granted such as the plants in a pasture or where cows spend more time eating. Youth will have a better understanding of the importance of diversity in plant species and how soil health can impact that diversity. Youth will be educated on the interconnectedness of nature and learn that land management decisions can have both a short and long-term effect on the entire environment. Youth will leave with increased knowledge and awareness of how lands are being managed in their region.
The concept of a two-day camp provided youth with an engaging experience that kept them wanting to learn more. The idea was to get away from the traditional classroom setting and implement multiple teaching methods.
Growing Sustainable Agriculture in Southwest North Dakota educated youth through day camps designed to provide hands-on training. The day camps gave youth, ages 10 to 18 first-hand experiences with producers utilizing sustainable agriculture in the growing conditions of southwest North Dakota to be profitable and environmentally sound.
Instructors for the day camps included Josh Dukart, Holistic Resource Management Educator; Ben Geaumont, Wildlife and Range Scientist at the Hettinger Research Extension Center; Jonathan Fettig, Bowman NRCS Rangeland Management Specialist; Fed Nass, NRCS; Camie Janikowski, Bowman Slope SCD; Randy Gabe, Bowman County Weed Board; Andrea Bowman, NDSU Bowman County Extension Agent; and area producers.
The first of two day camps was held in early June and the second in August. Separation between camps allowed for more species of range plants to be identified. The day camps were held in the field and focused on plant identification, bale grazing, rotational grazing, biological weed control, cover crops, soil health, wildlife habitat, and water quality.
The day kicked off with a pasture walk led by Josh Dukart, Holistic Resource Management Educator. The purpose of the walk was to give the participants a new perspective on the relationships between our farming and ranching operations and the environment. Stops along the walk looked at plant identification, grazing systems, bale grazing, and cover crops. Sack lunches were provided by the Bowman Slope SCD. The afternoon featured a stop at a biological control site for Canada thistle hosted by the Bowman County Weed Board. Ben Geaumont, Range Scientist at the Hettinger Research Extension Center discussed sustainable agriculture and wildlife as well as the research he has been doing with wildlife, grazing and cover crops.
Students were given opportunities to learn common bird species and how different management practices may influence the habitats of the local species. The potential for holistic management to benefit wildlife was discussed. Jonathan Fettig, NRCS Rangeland Specialist assisted with plant identification and discussed the role he plays in helping producers make sustainable management decisions.
Andrea Bowman, NDSU Bowman County Extension Agent was the coordinator of the project, but worked closely with several individuals and organizations to make the day camps as successful as possible. Josh Dukart, Holistic Resource Management Educator; Ben Geaumont, Range Scientist; and Jonathan Fettig were all presenters at the day camps. Organizations that collaborated and helped sponsor the day camp included: NDSU Bowman County Extension Service, Bowman Slope Soil Conservation District, Bowman County Weed Board, Bowman NRCS Field Office, NDSU Hettinger Research Extension Center, Bowman County 4-H Council, and the Grazing Ranchers About Sustainable Stewardship (GRASS) group of producers.
As a result of their participation in the Sustainable Agriculture Day Camp, 17 youth received 12 hours of hands-on education in the field learning about sustainable agriculture. Post tests showed an increase in knowledge in all 10 areas evaluated from the pretest. Participants successfully completed a plant identification quiz in the pasture at the second camp.
*Gained knowledge on different plants, insects & grazing systems.
*Learned how producers have different management strategies to fit their needs.
*Were able to learn how to identify native plant species.
*Learned to look for indicators of soil health.
*Developed an understanding of how land management decisions impact the environment both short and long term.
Ninety two percent of the participants marked that they would like to attend a camp again next year on their evaluation form.
Quotes from camp evaluations:
“I hope some of the kids came away with a better understanding of the interconnectedness of agriculture and ND’s fabulous natural resource base that they should all be proud of and work to maintain as they become stewards of the land. . –Ben Geaumont, Hettinger Research Extension Center
“Learning about the dung beetle was my favorite part of camp.” -Camp participant
“I liked coming to the ranch best.” -Camp participant
“My favorite part was learning about all the plants and names of the plants.” –Camp participant
I learned that there is truly a need to educate youth on the impacts of management decisions on the environment. I learned that we need to focus more education on a whole systems approach to educate youth on the impacts that decisions will have on the entire environment. I learned that youth love the hands-on learning. They were interested and asked questions all day long. The second camp got pretty hot and we did a lot of walking. In future camps we’ll have to adapt to the weather.
The results of the educational camp were shared with other youth educators and stakeholders. A poster was displayed at the Fall NDSU Extension Conference for over 200 participants to view. Results have been shared with the county advisory board and county commissioners.
I think the program seems to run smoothly. I really think youth education is important and your continued support is wonderful.