Leelanau Farm Connection

Project Overview

YENC08-009
Project Type: Youth Educator
Funds awarded in 2008: $1,978.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Manager:
Pam Schmidt
Michigan State University Extension - Leelanau Cou

Commodities

Not commodity specific

Practices

  • Crop Production: season extension types and construction
  • Education and Training: youth education
  • Farm Business Management: community-supported agriculture, farmers' markets/farm stands
  • Pest Management: integrated pest management
  • Soil Management: soil quality/health

    Abstract:

    BACKGROUND

    Prior to receiving this grant, MSUE – Leelanau had an ongoing initiative (started in 2007) with local schools to increase awareness of local agriculture, local food, and the region’s quickly disappearing farmland. With support from that initiative, in 2008, three of the four participating schools started small vegetable gardens, which were developed with the goal of promoting healthy lifestyles, and an understanding of where food comes from and local agriculture. The new field trip program, made possible by the SARE grant funding, complimented this larger initiative by making it possible to enhance connections between the school-based gardens, the university-based MSU research station, and small scale examples of sustainable agriculture. Pam Schmidt, who coordinated the project, has also been involved with a current statewide project related to developing curricula related to teaching nutrition through school gardens. Locally, she is a member of a northwestern Michigan-based “Youth and Community Garden” networking group, and also serves on the planning committee of a regional Farm-to-School Conference, scheduled to take place in Traverse City on March 15, 2010.
    GOALS
    1. Develop a “Leelanau Farm Connection” field trip program for youth to visit nearby farms to learn more about “where food comes from,” sustainable growing practices, and related career opportunities.
    2. Directly involve 25-30 students from each of four schools, and their educators in the field trip program. [Students and their teachers will learn about different approaches to season extension, soil management, crop selection, and pest control (organic and integrated pest management) marketing approaches (CSA, farmers markets, value added, wholesale)].
    3. Help stimulate interest by area educators to incorporate issues related to local foods and sustainable agriculture into their classroom studies.

    PROCESS

    In March of 2009, we were very pleased to hear that our grant request was funded. After surveying local educators and examining our own busy spring calendar, we decided to schedule the field trips in the fall for two reasons: 1) allow more time for planning and communication with teachers and area farms; and 2) consideration that visiting farms in September and October would provide for richer experiences than the month of May in terms of harvest and tasting opportunities.
    Over the summer we contacted area farms and worked with the NW Michigan Horticultural Research Station to identify best dates for scheduling field trips. As the school year began, we contacted area schools, inviting interested teacher to apply for the opportunity to participate in the field trip program. After the deadline passed, we worked with teachers to set up dates and tailor the field trip visits to the interest of the teachers. For example, fifth and sixth graders from Leland School were studying soil, so we tailored activities to fit the curriculum required in that grade level. In the case of Glen Lake School, which was not able to take a field trip until mid-December, we worked with a business called Food for Thought that worked with the students from a culinary arts class to make a tour the facility and make a holiday cherry sauce using organic ingredients.
    We ended up organizing and facilitating a total of five field trips (see provided trip itineraries for each). All of the field trips with the exception of the last one (December 18th), included a visit to the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Station. At the Research Station, students had the opportunity to take a tour of the farm on a wagon towed by a tractor. They learned about the research going on at the station, the role of agriculture in Leelanau County, career opportunities, and had the opportunity to taste whatever was in season at the time. Students also participated in a scientific variety trial taste test of apples (students rated four or five different types of apples on six different characteristics.) Depending on the date, each group of students visited one or more other farms or agriculturally-based businesses in the area (with the exception of the December 18th trip which only visited Food for Thought business).
    In general, our approach was to make it as easy as possible for the teachers and the locations we visited. We took care of all of the logistic of contacting the different locations, and setting up itineraries. We chose this method because we feel a barrier to teachers setting up this type of experience in the first place is because educators often don’t have contacts with local farms (we did), nor the time to invest in making all the contacts (setting up dates and times). We were also interested in working with the Research Station, area farmers, and agricultural businesses to develop an ongoing field trip program, and were interested in learning more about what each had to offer. Part of that, for us, was to invite local farmers to let us know if they would be interested in having students visit their farms, and also to see which places really managed to engage the students through hands-on experiences (as opposed to just talking!) related to sustainable agriculture. This was the first time many of the locations had had groups of students visit their farms and/or businesses.

    PEOPLE

    We were extremely thankful to the 30 + people (not counting participants) that contributed to the success of this program! Nearly everyone approached about the possibility of assisting responded enthusiastically with a “Yes. I’d love to help!.” We did have occasional scheduling conflicts with dates and times, but were always able to find many willing people to enrich the learning experiences for each field trip. Below is a list of people who did participate in at least one field trip (many participated multiple times).

    5 Staff from the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Station (Michigan State University Agricultural Experiment Station). They assisted with providing tour of Research Station farm, as well as discussions of research projects carried out at the station, and background on their jobs (how they got interested in horticulture, what they studied in college, and what they enjoy most about their work).
    • Nikki Rothwell, Ph.D, Station Coordinator & District Horticultural Educator
    • Eriz Lizotte, Integrated Pest Management Educator
    • Bill Klein, Farm Manager, Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Center
    • Myron Anderson, Horticultural Aid
    • Karen Powers, Research Aid
    13 People from Area Farms/Sustainable Ag Businesses (hosted student groups to their facilities, and shared experiences related to sustainable agriculture):
    • Don Coe, Black Star Farms, Suttons Bay
    • John and Ann Hoyt, Leelanau Cheese (located at Black Star Farms), Suttons Bay
    • Nic Welty, 9 Bean Rows CSA Farm, Omena
    • Dan Young, Tandem Ciders, Suttons Bay
    • Al and Lynn (and son Ben) Bakker, Bakker’s Acres Farm, Suttons Bay
    • Michelle Ferrarese and Marty Heller, Birch Point Farms CSA, Traverse City
    • Nancy Curley, Leelanau Cultured Veggies, Traverse City
    • Timothy Young, Food for Thought, Honor
    • Delorus Burton, Leelanau Community Garden
    8 Teachers:
    • Shawn Kreider, Leelanau Montessori (part of Suttons Bay Public Schools) – This teacher started a vegetable garden in 2008 and was very enthusiastic about having his students learn more about local agriculture.
    • Kathy Herman, Suttons Bay High School. Kathy teaches among other things, the high school Health and Foods Class. As a result of participating in the field trip program, she has started a new unit focusing on cooking with local foods.
    • Laurie Lisuk, Marguerite Kenney, Karen Kirt, Leland Public School. Fifth and Sixth grade teachers, interested in making connections to their ecology and soils studies.
    • Amy White, Glen Lake Community Schools – Teacher of high school Health and Foods classes. She has a strong interest in utilizing local produce, and for several years has been teaching an advanced culinary class where students use local produce to prepare healthy snack foods that are sold afterschool. She has also been involved with the school garden.
    • Julie Hay & Scott Martin, and Northport Public School, Julie is a new teacher to this school, teaching 5th grade, and very interested in having her students start a vegetable garden this next spring. Scott is the high school environmental science teacher.
    4 + Other Adults:
    • Marco Dedenbock, SEEDS (Afterschool program) Coordinator at Suttons Bay (chaperone and interested in local foods, and developing after school programs)
    • Sue Chapman, Social Worker, Suttons Bay (chaperone, but also very active in school health committee)
    • Heather Noteboom, Americorps Volunteer, MSU Extension – Grand Traverse (taught students about maturity testing grapes).
    • Pam Schmidt, MSU Extension-Leelanau County (provided overall program coordination)
    • Several (4-5) parents participated as chaperones.
    132 Participating Students from 5 area schools
    162 People in Total

    RESULTS

    To some degree, we feel like we will be seeing the real result of the project unfold over the course of the next year, as we build on developing a field trip program that becomes a regular ongoing effort in our region. We like to think of this as just the beginning.
    In terms of participation (see numbers below), we were very pleased with our outcomes. In total, we had eight teachers, and 132 students participate in learning about local sustainable agriculture through the field trip program. Another important impact of the program was that twenty different adults (local farmers, business owners, and MSU Extension staff) participated in teaching students about local agriculture. We found much willingness (and enthusiasm!) among local farmers and businesses to play a role in teaching students about sustainable agriculture.

    Number of Participating Students & Teachers
    • Leelanau Montessori (Grades 4-6), 17 students
    • Suttons Bay Public Schools (high school), 25 students, 1 teacher, 3 school staff
    • Leland Public School, (5th and 6th grades), 58 students, 2 parent chaperones
    • Northport School (5th grade and high school), 21 students, 2 teachers, 1 parent chaperone
    • Glen Lake Community Schools, (high school), 11 students, 1 teacher, 1 chaperone
    Total: 8 teachers, 132 students, 7 other school staff and parents

    We feel that each of the 162 people that directly participated in this program benefitted in some way. We know that students and teachers also shared experiences with their schools, peers, and parents. (One student reportedly repeated the entire field trip with his parents!) We found many of the area farms and businesses that we visited enthusiastic about the opportunity to share their work with youth, but had never before been approached by schools. Except for one of the locations, every one of them enjoyed having students visit their farms, and would welcome students back next year (some had multiple visits this fall as a part of this program). In one case, a classroom is looking at the possibility of purchasing a CSA membership next year for their classroom. In another case, a farmer with a passive solar hoophouse offered to mentor the students in building their own hoophouse at their school.
    In terms of the youth we set out to reach, we had initially hoped to target high school classrooms. In the end, we opened it up to several 5th and 6th grade classes, because the topics fit well with the curricula (ecology) taught at these grade levels. We were pleased to have one high school science class and two high school foods classes participate. Over the winter and spring of 2010, we plan to work with interested area foods/health teachers to more fully develop a unit on local foods. We would also like to help local science teachers with ideas for making connections to local agriculture, and some of the research (e.g. native pollinators, variety trials, etc.) that occurs at the NW Michigan Horticultural Research Station. One surprise in the project was how unfamiliar many of the teachers who participated in the field trip were with many topics covered on the field trips. In most cases, we founds that the teachers were learning right along with the students about Community Supported Agriculture, the MSU Research Station (few had previously visited), organic practices, compost, crop rotation, seed saving, and hoop houses, etc!
    We were impressed by the students’ willingness to try new foods while participating on field trips. Students ate a wide variety of new foods including: carrots, diakon, and turnips freshly pulled from the ground; many types of different apples and grapes (in season), raclette cheese; fresh cider; an amazing variety of salad greens from a hoop house; and even locally fermented sauerkraut and kimchee. Kathy Herman teacher of the Suttons Bay Foods Class took produce back to school and hosted an “Iron Chef” competition among her students where students used the produce as the ‘secret ingredients.’ Other classrooms took apples back to their schools and students conducted apple variety trials with younger students. We are still in the process of collecting the news stories in school news bulletins (which we expect to appear in the winter editions).

    DISCUSSION

    We learned that everyone we met thought it was a great idea to build stronger connections between schools and area farms. There was a lot of support for the program, and we are confident that we can find a way to build on our first year of experience, and work toward developing a self sustaining field trip program for our region. We learned it would be helpful to develop and provide more tools and information to teachers, to help them make connections between their textbooks and surrounding community.
    We do hope to continue this program in the next year. We are hopeful that it will be less time consuming on our end to facilitate setting up field trips, now that we have many of the contacts made and many willing farmers to host students. We would definitely recommend making contact with teachers in the spring, to set up dates for early fall. We were disappointed that few teachers were able to schedule any dates in October because of statewide standardized test dates. We are hopeful next time around to schedule dates in September, when produce is more abundant locally.

    OUTREACH

    As the result of a press release about the program, we did have an article (see attached) published on the front page of the local county newspaper. We are still working to share more about our results of this project in the coming months. We will be happy to share copies of any additional publicity we obtain them.
    On March 15, 2010 Pam Schmidt will be participating as a panelist at the regional Farm to School Conference in Traverse City. She will share experiences with the field trip program there, with an expected crowd of 300+ attendees (as a panelist). In May of 2010, the National Farm to School Conference will be held in Detroit and Pam also plans to attend this and possibly share results of the field trip program there as well. In October of 2010, she will plan to share experiences at the statewide conference of the Michigan Alliance for Environmental and Outdoor Education.
    If SARE is interested in future related publications or presentations, we would be happy to share them with you in the future.

    PROGRAM EVALUATION

    We are very thankful for the support of this grant very much. We would not have been able to attempt this field trip program without the funding. One recommendation would be to make the grant period 12 months (in this case April to April). We know that we will be learning more about the impact of the grant more over these next few months.

    Leelanau Farm Connection:
    Sustainable Agriculture Field Trip Agenda
    Funded by SARE Youth Educator Grant Program
    School: Suttons Bay Montessori
    Grade Level/Subject: Upper Elementary
    Number of Students: 17
    Teacher: Shawn Kreider
    Date of Trip: Thursday, October 1, 2009
    9:15 Depart Suttons Bay School
    9:30 Leelanau Community Garden (on Horn Rd, ½ mile N of M-204)
    • Tour garden (Master Gardener Volunteers) and Harvesting
    10:15 Tandem Cider (2055 N Setterbo Rd., Suttons Bay) 271-0050
    • Starting a Business & Cider Tasting (Dan Young)
    11:30 Lunch in Cafe` (Students pack their own lunches)
    12:00 Tour of Black Star Farms Hoop Houses. Etc. (Nic Welty, 9 Bean Rows Farm)
    12:30 Leelanau Cheese (at Black Star Farms)
    • Cheese making at Leelanau Cheese (John & Ann Hoyt)
    1:00 NW Michigan Horticultural Research Station (946-1510)
    Welcome (Erin Lizotte) – 5 min
    Presentation, Agriculture in Leelanau County (Pam) – 15 min
    Meet the Scientist, and What happens at research station? (Erin)
    Tour of research station (Bill Klein) – 20 min
    Apple Variety Trial Testing 30 min
    2:30 Depart for Suttons Bay School
    2:45 Arrive back at Suttons Bay School

    School: Suttons Bay Public School
    Grade Level/Subject: High School/Foods Class
    Number of Students: 30
    Teacher: Kathy Herman
    Pre-Trip Program (Friday?): Presentation, Agriculture in Leelanau County (Pam)
    Date of Trip: Tuesday, October 20, 2009
    Time of Trip: Arrive at Research Station 9:00 AM-
    ITINERARY
    8:40 Depart Suttons Bay School
    9:00 NW Michigan Horticultural research Station (946-1510)
    Welcome & What happens at research station (Pam Schmidt, Bill Klein)
    Tour of research station (Bill Klein)
    Fruit/maturity Testing and/or apple Variety Trial Testing (Heather Noteboom)
    11:00 Birch Point Farms & Lunch, 7506 E. Birch Point Rd.
    (Michelle Ferrarese & Marty Heller, 933-7256 or cell, 734-474-7166
    www.csafarms.org/birchpointfarm)
    Leelanau Cultured Veggies, 7606 E. Birch Point Rd.
    (Pat & Nancy Curley, 929-7471, www.culturedveggies.com)
    12:30 Leelanau Community Garden (on Horn Rd, ½ mile N of M-204)
    • Tour Garden (Master Gardener Volunteers)
    • Preparing a Garden for Winter
    • Hands-On: Harvesting Herbs & Garlic Planting
    1:30 Bakker’s Acres
    • Tour of “Environmentally verified Farm,” apple picking
    2:15 Tandem Cider (2055 N Setterbo Rd., Suttons Bay) 271-0050
    • Starting a Business & Cider Tasting (Dan Young)
    2:30 Depart for Suttons Bay School
    2:45 Arrive back at Suttons Bay School

    School: Leland Public School
    Grade Level/Subject: Elementary Gr. 5/6
    Number of Students: 58
    Teacher: Kirt/Lisuk/Kenney
    MSUE Contact Person: Pam Schmidt, 256-8323
    Date of Trip: Thursday, October 29, 2009
    Time of Trip: Arrive at Research Station 12:00 noon
    RELATED GLCES:
    • E.SE.06.11 Explain how physical and chemical weathering lead to erosion and the formation of soils and sediments.
    • E.SE.06.12 Explain how waves, wind, water, and glacier movement, shape and reshape the land surface of the Earth by eroding rock in some areas and depositing sediments in other areas.
    • E.SE.06.13 Describe how soil is a mixture of weather eroded rock and decomposed organic material.
    • E.SE.06.14 Compare different soil samples based on particle size and texture.
    ITINERARY
    12:00 Arrive at NW Michigan Horticultural Research Station (946-1510)
    Welcome & What happens at research station (Pam Schmidt, Bill Klein)
    Break into 3 groups, and rotate through the following three activities:
    Station A: Tour of research station (Bill Klein)
    Station B: Cider Making
    Station C: Meet the farmer: Lynn Bakker & Apple picking?
    2:45 Depart for Leland School
    3:00 Arrive back at School

    School: Northport Public Schools
    Grade Level/Subject: 5th Grade & High School Environmental Science
    Number of Students: 21 (6 fifth graders and 15 tenth graders)
    Teachers: Julie Hay (5th Gr.) and Scott Martin (high school science)
    Date of Trip: Tuesday, November 17, 2009
    ITINERARY
    8:20 Depart School
    8:40 NW Michigan Horticultural Research Station (946-1510)
    Welcome & What happens at research station (Pam Schmidt, Bill Klein)
    Tour of research station (Bill Klein)
    Apple Variety Trial Testing
    10:00 Birch Point Farms CSA, 7506 e. Birch Point Rd.
    (Marty Heller, 933-7256 or cell, 734-474-7166, www.csafarms.org/birchpointfarm)
    • Farm Tour: What is Organic Agriculture? What is a CSA?
    • Late Season Crops, Potato Harvest, and Seed Saving
    11:30 Lunch (brown bag)
    12:00 Tandem Cider (2055 N Setterbo Rd.) 271-0050
    • Value Added-business & Cider Tasting (Dan Young, tandemciders@hotmail.com)
    12:30 9 Bean Farms (Nic & Jen Welty) 330-317-8368
    Season Extension
    Hands-On: Season Extension
    2:00 Depart for School

    School: Glen Lake Community Public School
    Grade Level/Subject: High School/Advanced Culinary Arts Class
    Number of Students: 11
    Teacher: Amy White
    Date of Trip: Friday, December 18, 2009
    Time of Trip: 12:30 PM
    12:30 Depart Glen Lake School
    1:00 Food for thought (10704 Oviatt Rd., Honor, MI 49640) – 231-326-5444
    (Timothy Young, www.foodforthought.net)
    • Welcome & Tour of Food for Thought Business (Farm and producer of value added products such as jams, sauces, salsas)
    • Presentation about Food for Thought as model of a business built on sustainable practices, and requirements for organic certification
    • Hands-On Activity: Prepare Cherry Holiday Sauce (and can it)
    • Question & Answers focusing on careers
    2:45 Depart for School
    3:00 Arrive back at Glen Lake Community School

    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.