Building Sustainable Agriculture Connections for Ypsilanti Farm to School

Project Overview

Project Type: Youth Educator
Funds awarded in 2012: $2,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Manager:
Deborah Weiker
Food System Economic Partnership


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: youth education, technical assistance
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: earthworms, organic matter
  • Sustainable Communities: partnerships, urban agriculture

    Proposal abstract:

    Project AbstractFood System Economic Partnership (FSEP) will build upon the success of the FoodCorps and Farm to School programs to create sustainable agricultural connections with students at partner schools – Ypsilanti High School and Pierce Middle School in Redford. Michaelle Rehmann, Farm to Table Director and Jennifer Rusciano, FSEP FoodCorps member will lead this initiative. FoodCorps is a nonprofit national service organization that recruits young leaders for a year of service in high-obesity, limited-resource communities of need. Members build and tend school gardens, conduct hands-on nutrition education, and facilitate Farm to School programming that brings high quality local food into public schools. A successful Farm to School program encompasses the three “C’s” of Farm to School – Community, Cafeteria, and Classroom. Our efforts have primarily focused on local food sourcing for the cafeteria and have only recently begun tackling the “Community” and “Classroom” aspects to develop a comprehensive program. Our partner schools recently received grants to develop school gardens and Rusciano has been working closely with these schools to establish the gardens. FSEP will leverage SARE funding to make the connection with students about sustainable agriculture through educational activities including farmer’s market and garden tours, farm visits, and a harvest dinner.Project DetailTasks 1.  Plan tour of Ypsilanti Farmers’ Market and Ypsilanti Food Cooperative for students at partner schools for late spring 2012 and fall 2012. Tours will focus on value-added production and direct marketing, crop diversity, and organic production. Farmers utilizing these practices will be visited during the tours at the farmers’ market including (CSA farms, organic farms, and value-added producers). Plan tour of the Market at the Marquee in Redford for Pierce Middle School students with additional tours to larger markets in Detroit. Hand-outs describing organic production, direct marketing, and value-added production along with a list of farms at the market who utilize these practices will be created and distributed. Tour of Ypsilanti Food Cooperative will focus on discussing the cooperative philosophy and why purchasing from farms that utilize sustainable practices make environmental sense.  2.  Plan and host Harvest Community Dinner at partner schools during fall 2012. Produce from the school gardens will be used for the meal along with produce from the Ypsilanti Farmers’ Market and Market at the Marquee. Plans include possibly having students help select and prepare the food from some of the farms and gardens they have connected with including the school gardens. These events will tie in with the national Food Day scheduled for October 24, 2012. The dinners will include a sustainability discussion including a presentation by Jane Bush, AppleSchram Farm owner. Bush was the first certified organic apple producer in Michigan, founder of Grazing Fields Egg Cooperative, operates a diverse farm including pasture raised pork and lamb and vegetable CSA. During this discussion, Bush will share information about organic production, rotational grazing, crop diversity, and value-added production to increase student knowledge about sustainable agriculture. 3.  Plan and host tour of urban gardens and farms for partners schools including visits to urban gardens created by Greening of Detroit, Growing Hope and farm visits to the Tilian Farm Development Center. Students will learn firsthand about crop, landscape diversity and organic production through these visits. Tilian Farm Development Center, a farm incubator located in Ann Arbor Township (15 miles from Ypsilanti) is an FSEP program. Three farm businesses producing organic produce and meat have launched on the Ann Arbor Township-owned site. Tilian farmers will discuss their productions methods and why they chose to produce food this way. Hand-outs will be created, distributed and reviewed with the students as part of the tours which will explain the production methods used and how the farms/gardens are selling their products (direct marketing and value-added). The Tilian tour will introduce students to the farm incubator as a potential career path where they could locate/start their own farm business.  These events will be integrated and discussed in the classroom with appropriate curricula (as discussed in section 5).Sustainable Agriculture Practices - Educational Goals for Students  Students will learn about crop and landscape diversity and organic production through visits to area farms that utilize these practices. Farm visits will include the Tilian Farm Development Center where organic production, soil quality improvement, hoop house production, and rotational grazing with be demonstrated. Tilian farmers are selling their products by direct marketing which will teach the students about these methods to demonstrate how successful these tools are for farmers practicing sustainable agriculture. Tours to urban farms in Detroit will include D-Town Farms and Greening of Detroit urban gardens where soil quality improvement, crop diversity, and organic production will be taught. Organic production, rotational grazing, direct marketing, soil quality improvement, and value-added production will be discussed by Jane Bush during the sustainability roundtable discussion at the Harvest Dinner. After these hands-on learning opportunities, these practices will be integrated into classroom discussion to further teaching efforts about sustainable agriculture methods and how these directly impact area farms and our regional economy. Project Impact on Students and CommunityThe Farm to School and FoodCorps programs are at the forefront of the sustainable agriculture movement in terms of its scale and scope of potential positive impact. Ypsilanti and Redford have both struggled with high unemployment and poverty. These urban neighborhoods are struggling to provide both viable work opportunities and healthy environments for their residents. SARE funding will allow for educational integration of our school garden efforts and Farm to School program by creating hands-on learning opportunities through connections with farmers and gardeners engaged in sustainable agriculture. These activities will raise student’s awareness about how food choices affect us on different levels and make the connection between fresh, local sustainable food, healthy eating patterns, and careers in sustainable agriculture. By teaching students about sustainable agriculture through experiential learning opportunities such as garden tours, farmers’ markets tours, and the Harvest Dinner we will demonstrate how sustainable agriculture can mitigate the current food system’s negative social, economic and environmental impacts and increase student knowledge of sustainable agriculture in the hopes that some may choose sustainable agriculture as a career. Project ResourcesFor students at Pierce Middle School, we will work with Wayne-Metro Community Action Agency, Master Gardeners of Wayne County, and Gleaners Food Bank/Cooking Matters for planning the urban garden tours and curricula development including sustainable agriculture classroom lessons. For Ypsilanti Community School students we will partner with Growing Hope to demonstrate their urban garden activities, along with partnering with the Ypsilanti Food Cooperative. If granted permission, we will utilize the Junior Master Gardener curriculum developed by Michigan State University Extension and curriculum developed by the Greening of Detroit’s Urban Roots program. We will utilize the materials developed by UC-Santa Cruz entitled “Exploring Sustainability in Agriculture”. We will explore partnerships such as classroom visits by representatives from Eastern Market Corporation, Earthworks Urban Farm, D-Town Farm and the Detroit Black Food Security Network to connect students more closely with local, sustainable, and urban agriculture efforts.  Publications such as edible WOW! and Michigan Gardeners will round out printed materials for classroom discussions.Project OutreachOutreach will be conducted by working closely with the teachers at the partner schools. We will also conduct outreach with urban gardening groups (mentioned previously), MSU Extension, and edible WOW!. Articles will be written by Rusciano highlighting the project and will be shared in the FSEP e-newsletter which is produced monthly and sent to over 1,700 email addresses. Articles will also be created for the partner schools for inclusion in school newsletters. Results will be shared through the FSEP listserve, FSEP website, FoodCorps publications as well as press releases issued to local news outlets. We will explore the possibility of conducting sessions at local/regional food system conferences. Handouts will be created that discuss the project impact and results and these will be distributed at the schools, local libraries, gardening groups, and other appropriate venues.

    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.