“Healthy Farms, Healthy Kids” began with a full youth track of sessions at our annual conference. Sessions were led by experts in sustainable agriculture as well as by youth with sustainable agriculture projects. Sessions ranged from native pollinators, grassland management, hugelkultur, beekeeping, value-added opportunities, dealing with predators on your farm and more. We also showed the movies Fresh, American Meat, and Greenhorns at the conference. The next portion of the project included taking children to an organic dairy farm near Raymond, Nebraska. At the farm the children saw firsthand the inner workings of what makes a farms sustainable. They participated in a pasture walk, milked cows, made butter and cheese and assisted with basic farm chores. The final portion of the project took this same group of kids to an area farmer’s market where the children saw the same farm selling their products. This was done to show foods from farm to market to consumer. The children were also instructed to ask each farmer three questions. 1.)Where they farm 2.) How they farm 3.) How they farm (methods, etc.)
Participants gained a greater knowledge of how each part of a farm is interconnected and how it relates to the overall sustainability of the farm and the farm family. Participants learned the value of knowing where there food comes from and the work it takes to produce these foods.
The Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society has a history of working with youth and sustainable agriculture. For over 13 years we have had youth sessions at our annual conference designed to enhance and promote sustainable agriculture in our youth. We have also partnered with and collaborated on projects throughout Nebraska that included projects and outreach for youth and their parents related to opportunities for youth.
To increase the knowledge of sustainable family farming in Nebraska.
The first step in our project was to coordinate the youth sessions at the annual conference. We had several speakers and topics in mind, and these were based on discussions with youth currently involved on a sustainable farm in Nebraska. We also wanted to cater the sessions to the youth and make it on their level. Most of the participants in the conference portion of the project are very familiar with sustainable agriculture. Movies we showed at the conference included “Fresh, American Meat” and “Greenhorns.”
The second step in the project was planning the farm tour. We had outlined an area farm prior to the project, and one whom had expressed a desire to participate in this project. I believe this is key for a farm tour geared for youth. We also needed to make sure it was during the weekdays to insure ample participation by youth. We worked with an area summer camp program, and they coordinated getting the children to the farm and back.
The third step involved taking the same group that went to the farm tour to the market. The group attending the market was smaller than from the farm tour which made coordinating sub groups and interviews with the farmers easier.
A. Doug and Krista Dittman, Branched Oak Farm
Doug and Krista run an organic dairy near Raymond, Nebraska. They are a great model and great example of a working sustainable family farm.
B. Ali Clark, Urban Agriculture Intern for NSAS
C. Liz Sarno, University of Nebraska Extension/UNL Organic Program
Liz assisted in the coordination of the youth programming at the Healthy Farms Conference
D. Nate Woods of the Malone Community Center
Mr. Woods coordinated getting the children from the community center to the farm and to the market
The main focus of the grant was to reinvigorate our youth about sustainable farming. The first part of the project focused on children who were already involved in sustainable farming on some level. At this stage of the project our attempt was to increase their capacity to learn and be engaged on their farms with a myriad of different projects suited to their interests and backgrounds. We achieved this by having sessions that not only were from adult experts, but also their fellow youth experts. We also provided a diversity of subjects that included niche marketing, entrepreneurial, local foods, beekeeping, to name a few.
The second part of this project achieved this focus by exposing many children to farming who perhaps had no inkling of it. A rough survey of the youth told us only one had ever been to a farm. However the children were quite fascinated with the inner workings of the farm we visited. I believe this created in their minds the idea that it is possible to farm, even without that background. The farm tour showed two of the three tenets of sustainable farming, ecologically sound and socially responsible. The market tour also showed the benefits and profitability side of it.
I believe the greatest thing I learned was the need for youth involved with sustainable agriculture. One of the biggest issues facing agriculture is the lack of young farmers. Projects through the NCR-SARE Youth program provide a real opportunity to expand and motivate our youth and our future about farming and farming sustainably. A long-term goal we have at NSAS is to create a summer day camp for youth on sustainable agriculture, and I believe this project further motivated us as an organization to implement such a project.
The results exceeded our expectations. We began Healthy Farms Healthy Kids Nebraska in 2009 and each year it has expanded and hopefully improved. We have had very positive feedback from the children and families alike. Currently there are no changes to the project.
We utilized several different outreach tools for this project.
The NSAS Bi-monthly newsletter reaches over 1,000 supporters and advocates for sustainable agriculture and NSAS throughout the country.
The NSAS List-serv also provided instance access for outreach activities. We have found social media to be gaining more and more steam as farmers transition to using the internet and instance access. And finally the NSAS network activities such as farmer support groups and the annual Healthy Farms Conference have once again provided a framework for outreach and educational activities