- Crop Production: crop rotation, cover crops, irrigation
- Education and Training: demonstration, youth education
- Farm Business Management: community-supported agriculture, marketing management
- Production Systems: organic agriculture
- Soil Management: soil microbiology
- Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, urban agriculture
This is a proposal for the establishment of a hands-on sustainable agriculture education program at Stone’s Throw Urban Farm. The program will be a partnership between the newly established farm, schools, libraries, and community centers in the Twin Cities neighborhoods of Philips and Frogtown. This program will take the shape of weekly classes for youth in the communities surrounding the farm plot locations. By using the farm as a learning tool, our educational programming will provide an involved curriculum to youth in the community that incorporates the many aspects of producing food sustainably in an urban environment. This curriculum will include but is not limited to: learning hands-on growing skills, basic knowledge of the science behind food production, discussion considering why the farm uses sustainable practices, as well as experiences in entrepreneurial endeavors. Students will learn about the intricacies of entrepreneurship side-by-side with the farmers who are actively discovering the best way to run a sustainable business. This educational programming will not only provide a valuable amenity to the community’s youth, but also will serve as a model for exploring how sustainable businesses, specifically urban farms, can integrate educational programming into the design of a viable business model.
This project will provide summer classes that expose youth in local communities (elementary through high school students) to a variety of experiences focused on sustainable urban farming practices. This programming will be open to youth within the neighborhoods surrounding the farm plots, as well as to local schools, community centers, and churches that offer summer programming. The budget will be divided between materials to be used during the classes, labor required for planning and executing of educational programming, and events for reflection and outreach surrounding the classes.
Some of the budget will be allocated to developing specific curriculum to meet the age appropriateness of the youth who enroll in the classes. A partnership and past experience working with The Big Garden Project (a network of community gardens in Omaha, NE) will allow us to work with gardeners and educators to exchange ideas and develop lessons that expose students to different of methods of producing food sustainably in community gardens and urban farms. Using the farm’s seven experienced partner owner/managers as resources for extensive knowledge about sustainable farming techniques, a curriculum will be developed that is loosely based off of the Big Garden Project’s youth curriculum, but includes lessons designed specifically to be taught at this recently developed urban farm within the Twin Cities’ local food system. With the combination of these resources, we will develop and teach a curriculum that aims to make sustainable agriculture accessible, understandable, and exciting to youth.
Stone's Throw offers several areas of inquiry that will be beneficial for teaching sustainable agriculture. Lessons will include both farm production techniques and academic/community based exploration of issues surrounding food systems. Students will be able to learn sustainable agriculture practices through a hands-on process in which they will actually be able to participate in farm activities, becoming involved in the processes of food-production and sales throughout the summer. Beyond learning tangible skills like the physical growing of food, students will be engaged in lessons prompting them to examine where the food they eat on a normal basis actually comes from. The classes will include units on nutrition and healthy food preparation, an exploration of food systems and the entrepreneurial aspects of sustainable agriculture, among other topics.
The labor involved in the program will involve the process of writing lesson plans, teaching classes, reviewing students’ journal entries throughout the summer, preparation for the youth CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and farmers market participation, and planning events designed for reflection, celebration, and outreach. Throughout the summer, students will keep farm journals in order to catalogue what they are learning, keep track of plants’ progress, and note any questions or ideas they have as they go through classes. Other materials include seeds for students to plant in order to cultivate some of their very own produce. Flip charts and markers will be used during lessons to help outline key concepts, provide a visual learning aid, and help the students brainstorm ideas. Costs for events include food, projector rental, and flier distribution.
Students will come away from the classes with a greatly improved understanding of how the food system operates and how an individual’s food production and consumption choices impact their surrounding environment. Students will obtain a set of directly applicable skills for sustainable food production. The specific practices that will be taught in the hands-on classes include composting, cover cropping, crop rotation, growing according to organic standards (no use of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or synthetic fertilizers and why), different watering systems (students will analyze efficiency of systems), diversified crop production, and direct, local marketing of farm produce. Discussions in lessons will prompt students to consider various means of cultivating produce, and contemplate how land use in urban spaces affects communities, and what meaning “community” holds for them. Students will learn basic guidelines about nutritious food preparation through educational demonstrations using fresh produce and will involve comparisons of foods that are farm-grown vs. grocery store bought. Students will also gain an understanding of how small business can operate sustainably. Students will be familiarized with the costs and benefits of starting a CSA program by helping to pick and pack produce for distribution of CSA shares, and will have opportunities to aid in preparation for and sales during local farmers markets.
This project will provide students with a non-traditional educational experience that is fun and rewarding. It will highlight the importance of being able to learn outside of a conventional classroom by providing an opportunity for youth to be outside discovering and playing in the dirt. Classes will expose youth to subject matter such as farming and sustainability that is often absent from school classrooms. The project will help to promote food production that is healthy for both the consumer and for the community where food is grown. The process of directly producing food can evoke a remarkable sense of accomplishment and satisfaction within an individual. By welcoming students directly into an exciting place in their neighborhood where food is being produced in a sustainable manner, the project will expose students to this unique feeling of achievement. This feeling paired with the knowledge about sustainable practices in agriculture will serve to promote the production and consumption of locally grown food within the community.
The project will involve a partnership between Stone’s Throw Urban Farm, local schools, community centers, and churches in Frogtown and Philips neighborhoods. The project will capitalize on the use of the farm’s existing networks in order to share ideas and resources with other youth educators at organizations such as Youth Farm, Cornercopia Student Organic Farm of the University of Minnesota, The Big Garden Project, and YEA Corps. The project will use a curriculum that is an adaptation of the Big Garden Project’s summer educational programming for community garden classes. This is an accumulation of lessons that involve a synthesis of hands-on garden lessons, discussions, and demonstrations as well as games and art projects. These lesson plans will be augmented by using books and other curricula items, as well as through the guidance of the farm partners at Stone’s Throw Urban Farm. Another resource that will be helpful to this project is the documentary film Growing Cities, a documentary film that examines the role of urban farming in America and asks how much power it has to revitalize our cities and change the way we eat. The educational programming will include a screening of this film for the students.
As a student at Macalester College, I will host an event where the results of the project will be shared with youth educators, other college students, and the public. This event will include a partnership with the educational studies and environmental studies departments of Macalester College and will provide a forum for question asking and for people to share their experiences with youth education and sustainability. There will be various opportunities for student reflection and outreach. Students will create their own piece of farm-inspired work to share at an outreach event at the end of the summer held at the farm. This could range anywhere from a cookbook full of farm food recipes to a report on the efficiency of various irrigation systems to a drawing or song dedicated to a student’s favorite new vegetable. Fliers, website postings, and emails through sustainable agriculture LISTSERVs will be used to notify the public of the end of summer presentation of student projects. Throughout the summer, updates and photos of the educational programming will be posted on the Stone’s Throw Urban Farm’s website and Facebook page. Information about the classes will be included in the CSA newsletter that is distributed to all members.