My Name is Megan Brown. Last year I received the “North Central SARE Youth Grant” sponsored by Brad Kik, co-director of ISLAND, (Institute for Sustainable Living, Art and Natural Design; a nonprofit organization). The purpose of the grant was to increase participation among area students in attending the 2010 Northern Michigan Small Farms Conference. This grant not only sent me as a speaker at the conference, but gave 12 scholarships for students to attend. This included 12 other students from a variety of schools, including Kalkaska, Central Lake, Mancelona, Concord Academy, and home schooled students who were interested in farming. And while I was giving my presentation all the other 12 kids that received scholarships went to different presentations. In order to be eligible to receive the scholarship the students had to commit to preparing a summary, in the form of a written essay, or a poster, of something that they learned at the conference.
My speech was to convey to young farmers the importance on how community gardens can foster the adoption of sustainable gardening practices. They do this by learning from area farmers and master gardeners. In addition to talking about community gardens, I also discussed the “Grow an Extra Row” program. This program is about growing an “extra row” in your garden to donate to food pantries to the people who can’t normally afford healthy organic fruit and vegetables. The conference took place at the Grayling High School. My presentation was during the “youth track” of the conference, in front of about 50 people, most of them young farmers.
I listened and learned from the other presenters because when my presentation was finished, I was able to go and look at some of the other presentations as well. I was surprised at the number of interesting things I learned about farming. I attended the “magic bullet” presentation which I thoroughly enjoyed; it was about a girl with cancer who was almost completely cured by eating all natural food and raw milk. Another presentation I attended was one that talked about raising meat rabbits. It also discussed symbiotic relationship, between rabbits and chickens working together to fertilize the soil and prevent smell. I watched another on making cheese, the way they used to do it with cheese cloth. I watched a presentation on planting mushrooms. This is done by drilling holes in a log and planting spores in the holes. Also I watched a presentation on taping trees, where you have to drill holes deep enough to get to the sap and then put in a tap that is connected to a hose that then collects the sap . Half way through the day, we ate a lunch of entirely locally grown food.
A few weeks after the conference took place, all of the kids that the grant sponsored met together at a church in Mancelona, Michigan. We spent time discussing the presentations that each of us went to see. Then we made posters showing the information discussed in the presentations. After we made the posters we proceeded to put up the posters in our schools, to better educate other students about eating locally and sustainable living. An additional benefit spurred by this grant was that I was asked to speak at the Concord Academy to the middle and high school students about community gardens and eating locally.
In conclusion I think that this was a great educational experience and I had a fun time educating young, soon to be farmers. There were many different presenters from which I learned a lot about farming, and I’m sure I will use some of the techniques that I learned later on in my life.