Creating Teen Ambassadors
By April 15, 2013, 12 Clinton County 4-H Teens submitted applications for the Clinton County Green Team with a commitment to be an advocate for sustainable agriculture for two years. During their first planning meeting in May, 2013, the teens chose their logo, ‘Feed the Soil, Feed the People’, for use on their team shirt, brochures and message in their presentations inspired by a local CSA, The Fair Share Farm, which was one of the summer field trips to better understand sustainable agriculture. The July field trip to a local area church-owned farm property, the Lifelong Learning Center, Lathrop, motivated the team to help establish a community garden. August 2-5, 12 members of the team and three adults traveled to Perryville, Arkansas, to Heifer Ranch. The team was immersed into a working, sustainable agriculture model as they learned about the work of Heifer International to end world hunger, poverty and care for the earth. The highly structured program developed team skills before the group experienced the twenty-four hours in the Global Village Challenge, an intense experience heightening awareness and reality of poverty and food insecurity throughout the world. Team members have enthusiastically shared their experiences and lessons learned from Heifer Ranch for several small and large presentations. My reaction continues to be amazed at the personal growth I have witnessed in the team members stepping into greater roles of responsibility, volunteering to speak about the lessons they have learned so far, and what an impact they are making with younger audiences as great mentors and teachers. I have also seen the majority of team members wearing their Green Team t-shirt at school, 4-H events, and proudly describing what the shirt represents.
The team spent monthly fall meetings determining ‘what is next’ for their group after the Heifer Ranch experience. They chose to focus on local food insecurity, lack of quality fresh food for low income families, and how they could share the lesson of sustainable agriculture with new audiences.
The team is currently developing the plans for the container gardens to distribute to food pantry families in late May, 2014, partnering with the Clinton County Master Gardeners and the Lathrop Food Pantry. One team member has committed at least a year of volunteer work at the food pantry as a result of the Green Team activities. The community garden is a long-range project with work beginning in spring and summer to establish the garden and build the soil. To fund these projects, the team worked two fund raisers in the fall of 2013, washing windows for tips at a local busy fuel station. A thank you card with information about the Green Team, 4-H and SARE was given to all donors. Additional resources are being generated through donations from nurseries.
My greatest take-away after nine months working with these committed teens: I am amazed at their continued enthusiasm and genuine dedication to the mission of the Green Team. I am excited to see what they will accomplish within the next year.
Building public knowledge about sustainable agriculture was a goal through publications. A brochure sharing the mission of the Green Team and SARE was developed in summer, 2014, and distributed to local churches, Rotary, and the Chamber. Several donations were received as a result of this presentation information and the brochure. News releases about the Green Team’s Heifer Ranch experience and their mission was published in county newspapers August, 2014. A news release about the Water Festival, including the Green Team’s presentation with a photo of the Green Team was published in county newspapers. All news releases about activities of the Green Team included the message of sustainable agriculture. Additionally, approximately 200 thank you cards were given to donors at the vehicle window washing at the major fuel station. The cards contained information about the Green Team and SARE.
The team followed up with monthly meetings through December, 2013, creating and practicing the sustainable agriculture lesson plans to be shared with groups during the winter months, and developing plans for spring, 2014. As of March 30, 2014, there have been two major presentations to 270 fifth grade students with a third presentation April 17 to 170 students at the NW MO Water Festivals, a full day of educational workshops targeting fifth grade Missouri educational standards. The nine 25 minute experiential water and soil stewardship lessons are taught by staff from University of Missouri Extension, Missouri Department of Conservation, county soil and water districts, and in 2014 the 4-H Green Team. The Green Team lesson focused on the diminishing resource of soil available for food production. The teens used an interactive game which illustrated the need for all citizens to share our limited resources, a PowerPoint discussion of sustainable agriculture, and the Earth Apple demonstration illustrating the small amount of the earth available for food production. The fifth grade students wrote key points in their festival workbook and responding to the question: How can we save the soil to feed the people? The groups were able to share some of their answers which reinforced that they had ‘got’ the lesson. In addition to the audiences of the Water Festival, several Green Team members have presented similar lessons to their home school large groups, reaching another 60 youth and families.
WORK PLAN FOR 2014
My role as facilitator of the team has given the group options for their service learning projects which have taken the direction of helping teach others to grow their own food and helping themselves. The container gardens will be a start for this effort and I anticipate it will be continued in the spring of 2015.
The community garden will be a major project beginning in the spring of 2014, potentially becoming a sustained community effort engaging other organizations such as FFA, First Christian Church, Rotaries, and Chamber of Commerce members.
The team will create a video and power point presentations illustrating their work and promoting their mission. I will submit a presentation proposal for the fall 2015 NAE4HA (National Association of Extension 4-H Agents) national conference in Portland, Oregon. If accepted, the Green Team mission will be shared on a national level with 4-H agents and staff.
Team members will be given the opportunity to invite new members to join the team with the same commitment and dedication to ‘Saving the Soil, Feed the People.’