Expanding the Sustainable Agriculture Components of Real Soil, Real Food, A Real Difference

Final Report for YENC12-043

Project Type: Youth Educator
Funds awarded in 2012: $2,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Project Manager:
Diane Weiland
The Wallace Centers of Iowa
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Project Information


In order to attract more teens to the Real Soil, Real Food, A Real Difference food camp in 2013, a sample dinner and program were held in January, 2013.  This evening introduced likely participants to the following components of the week-long summer camp.  Eight young people and either their parent or teacher accompanied them for the event.  The evening consisted of:
1)  Dinner prepared by The Wallace Centers of Iowa's chef using preserved and locally sourced ingredients for the meal.
2)  WCI farm manager Mosa Shayan presented a program on vermacomposting.  Students could feel, smell and see the composted material as well as the worms doing their work to make rich nutrients for the soil.
3)  An overview of the Real Soil summer camp including videos from previous camps and a past participant sharing her experience.

This event resulted in three students subsequently applying for the 2013 summer camp.  A total of five teens took part in the camp which was an increase from the previous year.  During their week (June 16 through June 21) the campers took part in the following relating to sustainable farming practices:
1)  Sustainable Agriculture - Students spent part of three of the six days in the garden at the WCI produce farm working alongside the farm manager.  Mosa Shayan talked to the students about weed control and pest management using organic farming practices.  Students assisted with weeding and harvesting vegetables that they later cleaned and cooked with Chef Katie Routh guiding them. 
2)  Local Food Systems - Campers assisted in the haresting and packing of produce to take to the Farmers Market in Creston, Iowa.  They prepared a food sample for Market consumers and they sold fresh garden produce.  Brian Zachary the Market's manager spent over one hour with the campers explaining what a local food system was and what that means in terms of the environment, the freshness of cooking ingredients and the economy.  They had a great session with Brian who encouraged questions and was very informative.  They also completed a survey that they prepared to ask Farmers Market vendors about their farming practices.
3)  Organic Farming Practices - In addition to experiencing the organic practices on WCI's farm the campers spent a morning at the Neely-Kinyon Research Farm near Greenfield.  Dr. Kathleen Delate, Iowa State University's Organic Specialist uses this farm to do much of her research.  She and her interns spent time with the students showing them their soil research and the cover crop research they were doing for tomatoes, sweet peppers and muskmelons.  The group shared a meal together which allowed more time for questions, introduced the students to various career opportunities and the interns were able to talk about why they were working with Dr. Delate. 
4)  Soil and Water Conservation - An afternoon was spent at Springbrook State Park near Guthrie Center, Iowa.  An Americorps guide did a walking tour which included examples of various projects at the State Park that are in place to monitor water quality and prevent soil erosion.  Students learned the role that ponds, grasses, buffer strips, forests and farming practices upstream play in controlling water quality and soil erosion.
5)  World Food Prize - A morning tour of this facility introduced students to food security issues around the world.  A guide also spoke to them about Borlaugh internships at the WFP.  Following that session the students did research in teams to determine food security issues within the United States and then within their particular counties.
6) Early Morning Harvest - A tour and visit with the owner of this multifaceted farming operation was a hit with the campers.  They learned about using resources to grow tilapia and how the waste water from the fish is then used to grow greens and water/fertilize vegetables grown within a hoop house.  They also learned what it means to have an organic milling operation.  Various grains are milled and packaged on-site.  The owner also talked to them about their chickens and turkeys.
7)  Meals - At each meal the group talked about where the food came from and how that impacted the local economy, the environment and the ingredients.  Following the visit to Early Morning Harvest, the group ate dinner at a restaurant nearby that purchased ingredients from Early Morning Harvest.  All of the ingredients for meals eaten at the WCI were either grown on the farm or resourced locally (meats, cheeses and grains). 

The campers chose to do a project involving a local daycare.  They prepared vegetable samples, games, and other activities to engage the young people in discussion and movement based upon the importance of eating vegetables and exercising.  This project took place on the morning of the final camp day.  The day care providers and their charges enjoyed everything that the campers had prepared.  Upon reflection about the project the campers felt that the kids would associate the fun they had with the vegetables.  19 day care children benefitted from the project.

Subsequent projects or activities based upon food and where and how it is grown have developed since the camp.  Two camp participants have talked to several of their high school classes about gardening and the benefits of learning so much within the camp experience.  Another participant is now part of the Des Moines school system's garden classroom.  She also has talked to other classmates encouraging them to take part in the 2014 Real Soil camp.

In summary, the campers in both 2012 and 2013 learned new information about food, how it is grown, food insecurity, food safety and what it means to live and eat sustainably.  They have reported to us that they have more confidence, are taking part in more extra-curricula activities and are not afraid to take leadership roles.  Being able to expand the Real Soil program has had a positive impact on the students and the program.  It is not often that young people have an opportunity to broaden their experiences, especially in the area of food.  The program and the students, through local media, the website and the various schools have received attention for their work and their participation.  This in turn will keep sustainable agriculture, local food systems, organic farming practices, and soil and water conservation part of this program for future campers to learn and share. 

Goals Met: 
-  Increased the number of campers
-  Learned team work
-  Learned about soil and water conservation measures to insure better quality of water and keeping the soil from eroding
-  Working together to do a service learning project that resulted in 19 daycare children learning about the importance of eating vegetables and exercising
-  Conducted a farmers market vendor survey to determine how people grow their produce, what is important to them, and how their sales impact the local economy
-  Learned how sustainable agriculture helps the grower, the consumer, and the community


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  • Deb Hall
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.