Teaching Young People About Caring for the Land, Community and Themselves through Sustainable Farming and Gardening Practices

Final report for YENC23-201

Project Type: Youth Educator
Funds awarded in 2023: $6,000.00
Projected End Date: 01/31/2025
Grant Recipient: WJP Farms
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Manager:
Project Co-Managers:
Anita Singh
Sarnath Gardens & National Wildlife Federation
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Project Information


WJP Urban Farm is an educational laboratory that engages young people in sustainable agriculture by restoring vacant lots from blight and creates fertile urban farms that are used to regenerate our neighborhood and feed the local community. We use urban agriculture as a platform to educate young people through a hands-on multi-disciplinary approach that combines classroom and on farm lessons. Young people are prepared to become good stewards of themselves, their community and the land. We build bridges across many demographics such as race, class, and geographical location which is paramount to making a positive impact on an ever-changing world.

Project Objectives:

1. Increase sustainable farming skills of 100 elementary and middle school students in Detroit, MI through hands-on work sessions with urban farmers practicing organic techniques.

2. Introduce youth to sustainable agriculture career opportunities through 5 trips to visit local farmers.

3. Increase farm planning skills in the classroom during the winter through crop planning and seed sowing.

4. Harvest vegetables, fruits, and herbs for students to take home or to community and soup kitchens in Detroit.

5. Utilize the art and science of farming to teach students about self discipline, emotional regulation, and community care through structured check ins and closings at all work days. 6. Improve the soil health and care for the community through beautifying lots, growing food and flowers during student work days.

Educational & Outreach Activities

3 On-farm demonstrations
3 Tours
3 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

2 Farmers/ranchers
153 Youth
12 Parents
4 Educators
Education/outreach description:

153 students from University Prep and University Liggett Prep school participated in three in class farm learning session, three in person farm visits including tours and hands on sustainable food growing workshops and farm maintenance. 

Learning Outcomes

53 Youth reporting change in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness
Key changes:
  • knowledge of sustainable farming

  • crop planning

  • seed sowing

Results and discussion:

February 2023: Agriculture Educator, Mr. Willie visited the University Prep classroom to teach students about crop and farm planning. Students  designed specified plots at WJP Urban Farms with their choice of crops.

March 2023: Agriculture Educators, Anita Singh and Mr. Willie met monthly with teachers from Detroit Prep and University Liggit School to set up farm workdays and workshops– each focusing on a different sustainable ag practice, coordinate transportation, plan planting schedule at WJP Urban Farm.

April – June 2023: Youth, teachers, ag educators, and parents visited WJP farms 3 times to have youth participate in hands-on activities.

  1. Soil Preparation & Caring for the Land: Students learn about compost and tilling or working the soil to prepare it for planting. Students applied compost, and clean and rake garden beds.
  2. Planning & Planting: Students learned how to design an intensive vegetable urban farm with crop rotations for disease control then work with farmers to plant spring crops.
  3. Crop Maintenance: Students learned about irrigation, water conservation and crop care and maintenance.

July – August 2023: Summer school students worked with farmers and teachers to plan, plant, and maintain a summer crops that showcased sustainable agriculture practices including crop rotation compost, mulch, plantings to attract beneficial insects. Students harvested produce to take home and donated at local food pantries in Detroit caring for each other and the community.

Sept – November 2023, Students continued to maintain and harvest crops. Students learned how to prepare the farm for winter including removing dead and diseased plants and covering the soil.

The cycle is repeated this February 2024.





Project Outcomes

1 Grant received that built upon this project
3 New working collaborations
Increased organizational support to explore and teach sustainable ag:
Explanation for change in organizational support to explore and teach sustainable ag:

The funding allowed us to plan for our in school and on farm workshops.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.