George Washington Carver’s Garden: Farm Model and Mentoring Program for Seniors and Youth
The objective of this project is to create, implement, and teach a model of sustainable farming practices and marketing through the collaboration of senior citizens and youth. The goals of the project include 1) establishing a sustainable mentoring relationship between seniors associated with the Van Buren United Civic Organization (VBUCO) and youth using the 4-H model of hands-on learning and 2) producing healthy vegetables for the participants and members of a consumer-buying club.
We started an alternative to ground gardening, called container gardening. Using containers of various sizes and shapes, the main bed size is 4’ wide x 24’ long x 16” height (bed depth), built off the ground to any serviceable height. Such containers can be made weather proof; sustainability is made much easier, plastic cover converts the bed into a mini-greenhouse. With such containers backyard gardening is made much easier. We started with five acres of land to work with. We built a “tool house”, a workshop and “eight container beds”. We seeded three acres with alfalfa, one acre of clover. These crops are to be used for composting. Compost is the food of sustainable agriculture. We constructed six compost bins and eight compost containers. We are using the model from John Jeavons’ book: “How to grow more vegetables than you ever thought possible on less land than you can imagine.” We have begun efforts to recruit youth and families for forming CSA’s.
I have learned more than I care to write about. I have read many books containing the results of the author’s research. I have learned that compost is the key to sustainable agriculture. That said, we are building more compost bins and re-seeding compost material. The efforts to recruit youth and families in forming CSA’s is ongoing along with enlisting more community participation for this project and continuing on long after until this project has become a sustainable lifestyle.
WORK PLAN FOR 2007
We plan to build 12 more containers (main bed size) 32” above ground. Plant all containers with the continued enlisted participation of the community in the project, construct a greenhouse, build a stronger CSA and test crops.
We have daily on-site visits. Once the project starts producing we will have more free dinners as a way of sharing information with others. Vegetables will be used in the senior citizens’ nutrition meals. We will give on-site educational workshop to further promote sustainable agricultural practices to the masses. Pictures displayed at area stores, church and public bulletin boards. Get student involvement from the local 4-H clubs and students. Continued support from county extension staff.