Engaging Youth in Neighborhood-based Urban Agriculture
The purpose of this project is to engage neighborhood youth with the concepts of sustainable agriculture and urban ecology. These objectives are to complement the efforts of the local urban agriculture initiative, Lansing Urban Farm Project (LUFP). As LUFP expands its growing endeavors, it is hoped that the youth education and outreach will expand community knowledge and engagement with the local food system and offer an opportunity to further explore sustainable agriculture practices and principles. Actions taken in 2010 to meet the objectives of this project included a broad scope of ecological observations, landscape design principles, informal agriculture education, planting and harvesting of a crop, and field trips to a local market and farm.
• Announced the project by passing out flyers, posting at the neighborhood center and discussing with parents.
• Purchase materials for initial design meeting
• Hosted first youth meeting; 7 participants, ages 10-14. Focus of gathering was on design principles of new growing space – incorporating both food and community cultivation.
• Hosted second youth meeting to discuss principles at location of LUFP expansion
• Begin meeting on Saturday mornings with neighborhood youth; informal education about urban ecology and site-specific characteristics
• Seed sowing activity with youth
• Provided compost for LUFP expansion plot
• Soil preparation and sowing of flowers
• Soil preparation and sowing of pumpkins
• Straw mulch applied to pumpkins
• Field trip to Michigan State University’s student organic farm
• Weeding and irrigation of pumpkins
• Sow carrots and transplant kale
• Field trip to Allen Street Farmers Market; engagement with vendors, and sampling of products
• Harvest flowers
• Harvest pumpkins
• Pumpkin art at Halloween party
The 2010 season was successful in gathering the attention and input of neighborhood youth. 5 neighborhood youth were core participants at most events. The field trip to MSU included 10 participants (9 youth and 1 adult) and the field trip to the farmers market included 4 participants. Kids expressed genuine interest in the farming program at MSU and were particularly curious about the incorporation of animals into the cropping system. Chickens were observed and discussed throughout the growing season via the backyard flock in the educator’s garden.
The regularity of Saturday morning meetings proved to be challenging during the summer and education sessions evolved into short, frequent engagements that accommodated the timing of the kids. Although the irregularity was at first a challenging aspect, it proved to be very effective because the kids often initiated interest and activities. This flexibility was partly possible because I live next door to the LUFP garden and the core group of kids reside across the street – our paths cross often. Kids were particularly fond of growing the pumpkins and expressed a notable sense of ownership and responsibility for nurturing plants to harvest.
Community members who were aware of the youth education project also expressed broader support of the LUFP project. Many parents articulated their appreciation for the project and the education of their kids. A sense of trust and reciprocity developed during the course of this project and many kids are looking forward to future opportunities in the garden.
1619 E. Kalamazoo St
Lansing, MI 48012
Office Phone: 5179993916