- Education and Training: display, farmer to farmer, mentoring, networking, youth education
- Sustainable Communities: leadership development, social networks
There are in nearly every state, organizations that support, foster and promote the varied practices of sustainable agriculture, but none really target the juvenile farmers. YOUth-KAN is a project by young farmers to support their peers in sustainable farming practices. The YOUth KAN initiative is designed to reach out and find kids age 10-20 who are currently engaged in, or interested in, sustainable agriculture. Once the info on these young entrepreneurs is gathered, a Networking Workshop will be held to bring many of these bright minds together. This event will allow kids to find others who are involved in similar enterprises and introduce a panel of experts who will counsel the youth in all aspects of sustainable farming. This team of experts will be available for personal mentoring throughout the year, fashioned after Kansas' successful Farmer Educator program. At the end of 2010, YOUth-Kan participants will gather again and plan their trip to the 2011 National Sustainable Youth Conference that may be held in Wisconsin. This four-pronged effort (Collect, Network, Mentor and Attend) will hopefully set the course for a permanent networking of Kansas' young sustainable farmers.
Collect: Representatives from various organizations in Kansas (KS Dept. of Ag, K-State University Extension, 4-H-FFA, Kansas Rural Center) will collaborate in creating a database of youth who may be engaged/ interested in sustainable agriculture. We hope to avoid printing costs by doing most of the data collection electronically.
Network: A central location will be chosen, based on the collection data to hold a young farmer networking and sustainable agriculture workshop. Currently, we plan on hosting this the third Saturday in April at the Topeka library (or some other cost-free location). Because of the age demographic, we hope to avoid a fee for this event. Our goal is to have fifty attendees, and project the costs at ten dollars per attendee.
Mentor: At the networking session the YOUth-KAN Farmers Educators will be introduced. This will be the most expensive part of the project, but will also have the most impact. Any youth will be able to confer with these educators without having to worry about imposing on their time, as it would be a paid activity for the Youth Educators. A mentorship program is the single most important aspect for helping young farmers get a start in sustainable agriculture.
Five mentors will be selected to teach the three aspects of Sustainable Farming. Youth interested in sustainable farming practices need to see that sustainability is multi-faceted.
Economic: The Small Business Development center will be a valuable source for young farmers with education and troubleshooting on their enterprise’s pricing, profits, and record keeping.
Social: The Educator selected from the Kansas Rural Center Farmers Market Project will assist with marketing and agritourism needs for YOUth-KAN enterprises.
Environmental: There are three categories for eco-conscious farming: Hay/Row cropping, Meat/Animal husbandry, and Vegetables/Greenhouse growing. These mentors may be fellow YOUth-KAN participants, or established sustainable farmers.
Twenty hours is allotted for each category, but there may be more than one mentor sharing the hours in each category.
Attend: The initiative and the final phase for YOUth-KAN 2010 is that young Kansas farmers have the opportunity to attend the National Sustainable Youth Conference in 2011. Without an alliance to organize them, the young participants in Kansas sustainable agriculture may not hear of this incredible opportunity for network and education. Participants of YOUth-KAN will gather in December to plan their trip to this conference.
What students will learn about Sustainable Agriculture from this project
Instead of targeting students at large, YOUth-KAN seeks to inform those who already have an interest in agriculture. This is a more effective method of producing tomorrow's sustainable farmers -- give them the tools to farm sustainably today!
The YOUth-KAN project will demonstrate to kids that sustainable farming is a “sustainable” option (economically, socially, and environmentally) for their future. Young entrepreneurs need to know that organic and sustainable farming isn’t just healthy and trendy, it’s also practical! Who better to teach them than other young farmers who have seen the merits of sustainable farming? YOUth-KAN participants will learn that sustainable agriculture is more suited for young farmers than conventional agriculture. Sustainable agriculture enterprises have low start-up costs, versus the expensive equipment required in conventional agriculture operations. The YOUth-KAN Educators will be young farmers as much as is applicable, because young people often give their peers more credibility than their elders.
Through the networking conference, YOUth-KAN participants will discover that they are not the “only ones” who are trying to start/operate a sustainable agricultural enterprise.
Peer support groups for young sustainable farmers will do much to foster the growth of young farmers in sustainable agriculture.
Impact of project on students and community
Since the YOUth-KAN project involves many organizations in Kansas, more people will be aware of this initiative, thus spreading the word to people with wider ranges of interests. Because of its statewide nature, we anticipate media interest, which will help raise awareness across Kansas for these young, hardworking entrepreneurs of agriculture. We hope that shoppers across the state will see that, quite often, “Buy Local” also means, “Support our young Farmers.”
Kansas is comprised largely of small towns that are worried about their young people leaving for bigger cities and jobs. Hearing that Kansas youth have created a program aimed at keeping their fellows in rural areas with good paying agricultural jobs, should make rural citizens look more favorably upon sustainable agriculture. If it keeps the young people in small communities, that means sustainable farming isn’t just big-city trendy; it’s small-town practical!
The YOUth-KAN project is not intended to be a one-year program. The Youth Educators were selected to provide young farmers with the proper footing to become a lifetime sustainable farmer. The multi-faceted Youth Educators will help these youth to develop skills in record keeping, marketing, entrepreneurship, stewardship, team work, and other skills and character traits too numerous to mention.
Project objectives from proposal: