PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND RESULTS
Prior to this grant, I was working as a classroom agriculture teacher. We would talk about sustainable agriculture in the classroom setting, but students were not able to engage in hands on sustainable agricultural production. We defined sustainability as being socially, financially, and environmentally sustainable. We also talked about food miles and investigated how far our food travels. We talked about integrated pest management too. Prior to the garden, we were only able to talk about these things from theoretical standpoints. With the garden, the students have experience to build knowledge on; they have practical applications/references to the theoretical concepts.
- Establish a student farm that would serve as a space where students will be educated about sustainable vegetable production as well as sustainable marketing options for small farm businesses.
- Provide urban students the opportunity to have an SAE (Supervised Agricultural Experience) which is critical to the success of an Illinois Agricultural Education program as part of the FFA program
- Students will learn to grow vegetable produce and they will learn to market their produce through CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) market. Potential CSA members will include employees of Freeport School District and community members. The profit of the farm will be put back into the high school agriculture department to help fund student leadership, educational, and agricultural experiences.
- Obtain administrator support (principals, superintendents).
- Recruit students to work and manage the garden by re-marketing and urbanizing the high school agriculture program as relevant, healthy, and cool rather than associating it with a type of farming that urban students may have a stereotype against. We did this by changing our course names to Urban Vegetable Production, Food and the Environment, and Food Sales and Marketing.
- Engage community members and school staff through sales of vegetables
- Engage community volunteers to assist with tilling, mulching
- Create a Facebook page to get the word out about what we are doing.
- Allow students to take garden produce home to families
- Host baking and preservation workshops with the students utilizing garden produce.
- Create a recipe book with lots of recipes utilizing garden produce.
- Engage community members through educational sessions at the garden
- We worked with Boys and Girls Club, the Freeport Park District, and the Highland Area Garden Club to host workshops and lessons at our garden.
- Patrick Kennedy- Community Volunteer, co-program manager
- Rex Prince- He disked the garden for us three years in a row.
- Grant McCarty, U of I Extension’s Local Foods Educator, mentored us on pest and disease problems in the garden.
- Jack Carey, Freeport Park District, donated mulch to our garden project and tilled our garden for the 2015 growing season.
- Cliff Luke and Cliff Lang, volunteers of Freeport Area Church Cooperative, take care of our seedlings at a greenhouse across town.
- Pearl Valley Organix donated organic fertilizer to our garden in exchange for us running a test of their products vs. other organic fertilizers.
- Archer Daniel’s Midland, Seeds of Change Grant, Pioneer Seed Co., Pearl City Coop, Stephenson Service Company, Country Financial, Windy Groves Inc., Karl McPeek Memorial, and other community donations have been pooled to purchase a greenhouse for our program.
- Joel Riesman of Growing Power advised us on crop nutrient deficiencies, water levels, and general crop health.
- The results we achieved were…
- Engaged an increasing number of students in our agriculture department at Freeport High School from the 2012-2013 school year to the 2014-2015 school year. Each year, the number of students enrolled in courses and the number of students engaged in the garden increased. The first year, 21 students were enrolled in agriculture courses, the second year, that number increased to 50, and the third year, that number increased to 65. The first year, 4 students were engaged in the garden during the summer, the second year 8 students were engaged in the garden, and for the 2015 growing season, we have 12 students engaged.
- Fundraised and increasing number of dollars through our vegetable sales from year 1 to year 2. The first year, we raised approximately $1,100. The 2nd year, we raised approximately $4,500.
- The program is socially sustainable as students enjoy the work that they are doing and they are building friendships across racial lines.
- The program is economically sustainable as students because produce sales cover the operating costs of the farm.
- The program is environmentally sustainable as we manage the farm with sustainable practices including crop rotation, organic fertilization, and composting.
- Students learn about all three pillars of sustainability (socially, financial, and environmental) in the courses that are taught.
- The youth that we are trying to reach are 9-12 high school students, and those are the students we are currently reaching.
- We share our project with the public as they visit our project throughout the summer weeks and we also post updates on our Facebook page. We also organized the following formal programs that educated people in the community about our project.
- Boys and Girls Garden Lesson: May 2014
- Highland Area Garden Club Tour: July 2014
- Community Appreciation Banquet: December 4, 2014
- Freeport Park District Special Education Garden Lesson: May 21, 2015
- U of I Extension Fruit Tree Pruning Workshop hosted at our orchard: March 19, 2015
- Future Outreach Plans: We hope to partner with the Sleezer Youth Home in Freeport as well as the department of corrections. The Sleezer Youth Home is a child welfare agency and a childcare institution providing residential housing to female youth in need of psychological treatment. We would like to provide programing for these girls at the student farm. We would also like to become recognized as a volunteer site with the department of corrections for teens who must participate in community service as a result of their correction plan.
- Links to newspaper clippings:
- Links to publications:
- You may see many photos on our Facebook page at facebook.com/FreeportStudentFarm.
- We are incredibly grateful to be a recipient of the SARE grant. Without this grant, I am not sure if we ever would have gotten started. Our program has grown, is quite successful, and we hope to continue to grow with the addition of a greenhouse to our program. Thank you so much for the opportunity that you have given us. Children and adults in our community are about to think about sustainable food production and use our student farm as an example.