The timeline for the “Engaging Student Learning in Agriculture” project was shifted from the original proposal due to staff time and commitment on other projects. Therefore the recruitment for the program did not happen until students returned to school in early September, 2013. In September, the LCOOCC Extension Director, marketed the program at the schools, through the Extension monthly calendar, and social media. Twelve youth signed up for the course, with half being 8th graders and the other half in 10th or 11th grade. The same format as outlined in the proposal was followed as far as information and topics provided. The format for the course was after school until 7pm with transporation provided. The Extension Director and Sustainable Agriculture Research Station Manager have been the key instructors. Other instructors were hired through the Extension Department on an honorarium basis to provide education on a certain topic. The Nourish curriculum was utilized through www.nourish.org. This curriculum has worked well with a combination of discussion, video, and hands-on projects. The class also read the Michael Pollan young readers edition of the “Omnivore’s Dilemma.” Discussion took place regarding food sovereignty at the local, tribal level as well as globally.
In October students were introduced to local foods and watched the film “American Meat.” They also toured the college farm including the pasture poultry and hogs, aquaponics, and garden areas. They were able to assist with seed saving and organization to be used for the planting season in 2014. Another activity was harvesting sweet potatoes. Most of the students had never had a garden or been a part of harvesting prior to this course. They were a little hesitant getting their hands dirty but enjoyed the experience.
Another component of the class was to practice what we teach. As many meals as possible were sourced from local farmers or the WestWInds Community Cooperative to include grass fed bison. One meal was comprised of products directly from the college farm to include chicken, potatoes, and veggies. Now when it’s harder to source local products the students have made comments about why aren’t we eating local. They also used one meal as a demonstration to see how we could have localized our meal to within 150 miles, or what part of our meal we wouldn’t have been able to eat and what alternatives were available.
In November, students were able to learn the aspects of food preservation. Lac Courte Oreilles has its own certified organic cranberry marsh and the students were able to make a cranberry sauce with local berries. Students took 2 jars home a piece and had them for Thanksgiving. Other topics covered included agriculture careers and education.
In December students completed a food clues mapping project where they compared a whole food and processed food, along with transportation, ingredients, etc. Students also were able to do some holiday baking for Christmas with as many local ingredients as possible.
January topics included making soaps and lip balm from goat’s milk. Students continued to read the “Omnivore’s Dilemma.” Other topics covered included eating seasonally and traditional Ojibwe diets.
February topics included: continued readings in the “Omnivore’s Dilemma.” The Sustainable Agriculture Research Station Manager discussed the importance of heirloom seeds, seed importance and security. Students were also able to assist with starting seeds and putting them under grow lights at the main campus and at the farm in the aquaponics lab.
In March students analyzed different food ads. They looked at the specific product, who the target audience was, what marketing techniques the ad used, how it encouraged people to buy or eat more of the product, and how effective the ad was. Students created individual posters of their ads and answers to the above questions. In March, students also started working on a PowerPoint presentation in which they were invited to speak at the 2nd Annual Tribal Food Sovereignty Summit, hosted by the Oneida Nation in Green Bay. Three of the sophomores planned to present for the group.
In April the program culminated with all 11 students attending the 2nd Annual Tribal Food Sovereignty Summit in Green Bay, WI. Students attended breakout sessions learning about food sovereignty, value added products, food safety, and more. Three students presented during a “Youth Perspective” track and one student gave a brief overview during a plenary session. Anectdotally the students enjoyed the program, learned a lot about where their food comes from and how it’s prepared, and were interested in attending more workshops and hands-on activities. First Nations Development Institute partnered to provide travel funds for the youth to attend the summit.
The 11 students all received a certificate of completion for attending and participating in the LCOOCC Extension Youth in Agriculture program. The program is currently being implemented as a yearly program through the LCOOCC Extension’s Ag/Equity program portraying a pipeline from middle/high school to college level agriculture/natural resources study.