Thru the presentation of information followed by discussion, the students learned about the history of agriculture in our country. We examined the timeline of events that shaped the industrial agriculture system we know today. Large industrial scale operations were discussed vs. small family farms, conventional vs. organic farming methods were evaluated and policy was touched upon. The concepts presented were designed to define sustainability and how it pertains to agriculture.
Included in the discussions were issues of biodiversity, its importance and the loss of it in the agricultural realm. Thru weekly tastings we addressed fruit and vegetable varietals, and the importance of native plants to our food system. We talked about what it means to eat in season and examined closely where food is grown. Thru this process we discussed nutrition and its importance.
The students planted four raised beds and direct sowed seeds for a late fall harvest. Many of the students had never been exposed to growing food. The students tended the beds each week, weeding and watering and monitoring the success and failure of plants within these beds.
We brought in an urban beekeeper as a speaker for one of our classes. A demonstration hive was part of the presentation and we discussed the roll of pollinators within agriculture.
During our final class we harvested vegetables that the student planted. The students washed and prepared salads. We also cooked applesauce as a hands-on process to gain insight into food preparation and preservation.
All sessions took place at Triton College with the exception of the final session which took place on the grounds of the Elmwood Park high school. At Triton, we worked in the classroom as well as in the greenhouse and gardens.
We planted seeds directly in prepared garden beds, watered these beds and harvested vegetables when ready. We cooked and prepped vegetables in the classroom as well at in the kitchen at the high school.
RESULTS SO FAR
Thru experiential experiences, the students gained valuable insights into growing successes and failure. Having the opportunity to taste various fresh foods on a weekly basis was invaluable when discussing nutrition and biodiversity. Talking with a beekeeper and seeing a hive up close de-mystified the honey collection process and taught the importance of tiny animals to the balance of our ecosystem. The exercise of preparing and processing food gave students first-hand experience with prep and preservation. This exercise facilitated in-depth conversations about sustainable eating and the roll it plays within sustainable agriculture. Initially, the project was scheduled to be delivered in the summer however, we had a turnover in faculty and were unable to start on time. The program was delivered as an after-school model, which worked quite well.
WORK PLAN FOR 2018
Although the program was successful, the college does not have sufficient financial resources or faculty to continue the program in 2018.
Recruitment outreach efforts consisted of marketing at Triton College’s Fall Fest, open house and active recruitment at Elmwood Park high school.
Educational & Outreach Activities
Triton College’s Sustainable Agriculture after school youth program met September 6, 2017 thru October 25, 2017. The class met weekly for two hours and had 10 students total. The materials used in the program included:
Material were sourced from UW Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems: https://www.cias.wisc.edu/sustainable-agriculture-curriculum-for-high-school-educators-announced/
Rodale Online resources as well as the following books: Rodale’s Basic Organic Gardening: A Beginners Guide, Rodales’s Ultimate Organic Gardening, Youth: Renewing the Countryside by SARE, Secrets to Great Soil by Storey Publishers, Saving Seeds by Storey Publishers, and Slow Food USA’s School Garden Guide
Materials were also sourced from Fearless Food Gardening published by Peterson Garden Project, Oregon Tilth, Marine Fish Conservation Network, Slow Food International, and the Xerces Society.
Michael Thompson, Farm Manager and Director of the Chicago Honey Coop was a guest speaker and brought an observation hive for the students to see.
The cooking and canning hands on session was done using the Master Food Preserver Manual from Cornell Cooperative Extension.
Triton will continue to teach the college level sustainable agriculture courses, however, the after-school sustainable agriculture program will not continue due to the lack of resources and faculty to teach the course.
Thru experiential experiences, the students gained valuable insights into growing successes and failure. Having the opportunity to taste various fresh foods on a weekly basis was invaluable when discussing nutrition and biodiversity. Talking with a beekeeper and seeing a hive up close de-mystified the honey collection process and taught the importance of tiny animals to the balance of our ecosystem. The exercise of preparing and processing food gave students first hand experience with prep and preservation. This exercise facilitated in-depth conversations about sustainable eating and students planned to share what they learned with their parents. Parents did not communicate the practices they adopted to Triton staff.
“It was the first day of Science Club when Mr. Lazz pitched Horticulture Club to us. With a quick introduction about who’s hosting it, and what was going to be taught, he passed the signup sheet around the room. I was conflicted; I was genuinely interested in going, as I thought learning how sustain myself agriculturally-wise was a great skill to have, but the commitment was intimidating. However, when the sheet came to me, I decided to fight against the doubt and sign the paper. And I’m glad I did.” – Student #1
“The first day, and the following meetings after, were extremely engaging and fun. Every meeting, we would discuss a different aspect of modern agriculture that were completely new to us, and very interesting. We learned about many topics, such as endangered plants and bee’s role in agriculture. The instructor, Ms. Calabrese, worked hard to connect us to these concepts, and she mainly did so with food. She introduced us to paw paws, persimmons, and uncommon types of pears, apples, and honey. Sometimes raw, or dried, or turned into desserts, these foods were exotic to us, and we took pride in trying these new snacks that others have not. Above all, these snacks were good, and I succeeded in sneaking out samples for my boyfriend every meeting.” – Student #2
“In addition to my new pallet of tastes, I gained the skill to successfully grow produce. In the Triton farm, we were given the privilege to grow our own plants in our own plots of land, to which we had to care for from the ground up. We plowed, planted, watered, thinned, and harvested, and with our labor, we proceeded to create a beautiful salad, all grown by us and the Triton staff.” – Student #3
“Horticulture Club was honestly an experience worth taking. It provided the opportunity to experience food like never before, and provided the resources to engage in future urban gardening. At the very least, it was a time to spend with like-minded, green-thumbed friends and learn the secrets to agriculture. Additionally, we were exposed to different plants and understand how they grew how they did. I am envious that I could only be in high school for the first year of the club, and I hope for the opportunity to help with the club in the future”. -Student #4
The project was very engaging and fun for both staff and students. The project budget was rather low and it was challenging to try to accommodate what we wanted to do for the students. Triton was able to find $4,000 more to support the project.