PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND RESULTS
Beginning in March of 2013 through to June of 2014, members in the Green Tops project were consistently engaged in sustainable agricultural programming. This included immersion in the gardening projects at the Baldwin Center, farmer’s market selling program, and the after school programming.
In partnership with the Oakland University Organic Student Farming Program, Green Tops students were participants in a series of informational workshops about sustainable agriculture. In addition, the Baldwin Center employed a farm manager who coordinated all growing programs in the seven gardens on the Baldwin Center grounds. This individual personally mentored participants of the program on a regular basis.
Prior to 2013 the Baldwin Center participated in a summer youth employment project with the State of Michigan Department of Natural Resources. This program prepared youth for jobs in agriculture by embedding high school age youth in community gardening programs and farm markets.
The primary goal of the project was to increase the knowledge about gardening and agriculture of program participants while increasing the yield and capacity of the Baldwin Center’s seven community gardens.
Specifically the following activities were envisioned.
FIELD TRIPS: Field trips will show many examples of the above techniques, as well as serving as a chance to meet and talk to “real urban farmers” in their own settings, illustrating the many ways that sustainable food production can be managed in an urban area.
GARDEN EXPERIENCES: The Green Tops will have opportunities to be involved in planning, planting, maintenance, and harvest activities at the Baldwin Center and, where feasible, by shadowing OUSOFP students at Oakland University
FARMSTAND: The Green Tops will be trained and mentored by the OUSOFP and MYFC in harvest, weighing, packing, and displaying their produce, having recipes, and describing their organic farming practices to customers.
The main component of the project was one of education. To that end several workshops were held on a weekly basis with participants. Workshops included:
• College research and tours
• Utilizing community resources
• Dress codes and interviewing skills
• College tour with Oakland University Garden program
• Marketing strategies for hoop house
• Business basics
• Community outreach
• How to handle produce
• Marketing for produce
• Fundraising skills
• Resume writing
In addition to these workshops, participants had regular “hands on” activities in the gardens with the Farm Manager and worked at the Saturday Farmer’s Market.
• Oakland University Garden project staff
• Farm Manager, Noel Deehr
• Youth Coordinator, Michael Nappierre
• Kitchen Manager, Michele Tocco
• Youth Director, Lauren Fuller
• Executive Director, Lisa Machesky
The participation was measured via weekly sign in sheets which indicated an average of 20 youth per session. No surveys or formal evaluation was conducted at the time of the project.
Youth participants were given opportunity to provide feedback on a regular basis to the Youth Coordinator and Farm Manager.
Youth audience consisted of middle and high school students in the City of Pontiac, Michigan. Pontiac is a distressed community with only 55% of Pontiac students completing high school with their GED, making it nearly impossible to qualify for jobs, go to college, or support a family in the future. Disparities in education have led the median income in the city to be nearly $15,000 less than the state average.
The youth in Pontiac need more depth of experience than the project attempted. Whereas youth participants enjoyed the Green Tops program, the Baldwin Center fell short on the evaluation of outcomes on a regular basis which could have assisted with corrections. If this program were to be repeated, a shorter more intense program of basic skills would be more appropriate with a greater emphasis on more basic gardening and math skills approach.
The one outcome not expected was a greater relationship was built with area families as a result of the youth participation. Families became more engaged in the overall gardening process. As a result, the Baldwin Center is working towards more access to the gardens by the community and is working on launching food co-ops and more open community gardening.
Outreach activities included a coordinated recruitment effort with area human service agencies and the Baldwin Center’s Youth Program for participants. Other project activities or events were promoted via internal methods. There is no documentation of promotion.