- Education and Training: youth education
- Sustainable Communities: community development
In 2015, EarthDance Organic Farm School will provide eight youth in-depth education about sustainable agriculture and the food system through a 10-week summer jobs program, the Junior Farm Crew. The program completed its pilot year in 2014, with more than twice the number of applicants as positions. The opportunity to earn a paycheck is powerfully motivating for youth; EarthDance’s JFC Program leverages this motivation to encourage crew members to immerse themselves in the experience of working on an organic farm, gaining knowledge of growing and eating healthy food, learning about the food system, and working in a team.
Detailed Project Plan and Timeline
JFC participants will learn about sustainable agriculture through direct instruction by EarthDance staff, daily farm work, discussions with professional farmers and food system activists, and by synthesizing their learning as they lead tours for farm visitors. Each week JFC will assist with basic farm work: weeding, mulching, caring for chickens, and harvesting a weekly focus crop. Dietetic interns will teach the JFC to prepare a healthy dish using the week’s vegetable, and crew members will take a portion of the harvest home to share with their families. They will practice public speaking skills, and deepen their understanding of sustainable agriculture as they lead farm tours.
Finally, there will be 3-4 community events at which JFC members will inform the public about EarthDance and the Junior Farm Crew program. This outreach will enhance the JFC members’ pride in their hard work, and increase public knowledge about sustainable farming opportunities in Ferguson.
March 2014: Recruit candidates for the JFC. Send information about the program to principals and teachers at public high schools in the Ferguson-Florissant School District, and staff an info table at each high school during lunch periods. April 2014-May 2014: Accept applications to the program. May 2014: Invite strong applicants to a “tryout” work day on the farm. Conduct a group interview with chosen applicants. Offer positions to 8 candidates. Finalize JFC members.
June 2014: Begin daily work with the JFC, including weekly educational focus classes/discussion Week 1: Introduction to the Farm and Organic Agriculture. Tour of farm, and direct instruction about differences between sustainable and conventional agriculture. Begin weeding and crop maintenance. Week 2: What is an Ecosystem? Discuss the farm as an ecosystem and how aspects of the farm benefit the environment: native plants that support birds and pollinators, rain garden and swale features that conserve and protect the water supply, providing habitat for predatory birds to control insect pests, etc. Gerardo Camilo, a biologist with St. Louis University will visit to discuss his work at EarthDance studying native pollinators on urban farms. Week 3: Healthy Soils. Gain understanding of the crucial role of healthy soil to organic farming. Explore composting methods, cover crops, crop rotation. Week 4: Food System Spotlight 1: Overview of some major concerns about the food system. View and discuss the film Food, Inc. Week 5: Writing workshop: JFC members will reflect on their experience of the farm at the program’s midpoint. Workshop will focus on storytelling, to help youth convey their experiences to members of the public. Week 6: Public speaking workshop. JFC members will receive feedback and coaching about their public speaking as they practice delivering portions of the farm tour. Week 7: Healthy Eating. Watch Anna Lappe’s short film, “Is Junk Food What We Really Crave?” on the role of advertising and lobbying in the food system. In discussion guided by dietetics interns from Fontbonne University, JFC will consider how marketing and food science affects kids’ eating habits, and brainstorm strategies for making healthier choices and sharing health info with peers. Week 8: Food System Spotlight 2: Hunger and Food Deserts. View the film “A Place at the Table.” Discuss local hunger issues with a representative of Operation Food Search. Week 9: Farming as a Business. Extension agent and professional farmer Karen Davis will visit EarthDance to speak to the group about her 25+ years as an agricultural professional and diverse opportunities in farming. Week 10: Growing Healthy Communities. The JFC will learn about other local endeavors to grow more healthy food and empower traditionally disenfranchised communities in St. Louis. Sylvester Brown, founder of The Sweet Potato Project will share how he engages young people in community building through farming and entrepreneurship. The JFC will discuss ways that they can contribute to the movement to build healthy, connected communities. Mid-August: Capstone Experience. JFC members will visit Lincoln University’s Busby Organic Research Farm outside of Jefferson City, MO. JFC members will meet farm-research faculty from around the world, view innovative organic farming methods, and learn about post-secondary educational opportunities in agriculture at LU, a HBCU (Historically Black College/University). JFC members will prepare and enjoy three meals together, and share reflections on their experience around a firepit. They will spend the night in Busby Farm’s Youth Development Bunks.
Molly Rockamann: EarthDance’s Founding Director. 10+ years working to promote organic farming in the US and internationally. Will facilitate several focus topic discussions and participate in outreach.
Monica Pless: EarthDance Farm Manager, 10 yrs experience commercial and educational farms; former instructor for Boston’s Food Project, a nonprofit youth development organization. Will assist in lessons and farm task instruction for JFC.
Matt Lebon: EarthDance Asst. Farm Manager, 5 years farming internationally, 2 years at EarthDance Farm. Will assist in lessons and farm task instruction for JFC.
JFC Crew Leader: 2015 leader as yet unknown. Likely a graduate of EarthDance’s Farm & Garden Apprenticeship, who will provide daily mentorship and supervision for JFC.
Fontbonne University Dietetic Interns: 2nd year graduate students in dietetics will lead demonstrations and discussions about healthy eating and preparing fresh food.
Sylvester Brown: Founder of Sweet Potato Project. Will visit EarthDance to discuss his work with City residents, promoting entrepreneurship and self-reliance through urban agriculture. African-American role model for youth.
Karen Davis: Extension agent and farmer with 20+ years urban and rural farming, knowledgeable about the business of farming. African-American role model for youth.
Dr. Gerardo Camilo: Biology professor, SLU University, studying pollinators at EarthDance.
Operation Food Search: Organization devoted to mitigating hunger in St. Louis. Representative will lead discussion about food deserts and hunger in St. Louis.
Lincoln University’s Busby Farm: Farm features certified organic research farm, innovative IPM, composting, and silva-pasture techniques, as well as international farm researchers and African-American students of agriculture. JFC members will tour Busby, and spend a supervised overnight in onsite youth development cabins.
Films: Food Inc, A Place at the Table, and Is Junk Food What We Really Crave? Books: Growing Together, publication of the Food Project of Boston. “A guide for building inspired, diverse, and productive youth communities.”
OutreachEarthDance will post several blog entries on www.earthdancefarms.org about the JFC while the program is in progress. In July, EarthDance will host its annual Pesto Festo, an event at the Ferguson Farmers Market, featuring live cooking demos, music, and outreach on behalf of EarthDance programs. In 2014, several hundred people attended the event. At this year’s Pesto Festo, JFC members will share information about the program with the market attendees. Frequent on-farm tours and events provide further opportunities for outreach. At the conclusion of the program, JFC members will present about their experience to family and community members. EarthDance staff can share information about the JFC at the Literacy for Social Justice Teacher Research Group’s annual curriculum fair in St. Louis, at SARE’s Farmers Forum, and to faculty in the Ferguson Florissant School District, inviting their continued and increased involvement in youth programming at EarthDance.
Student and Community Impact
We believe that students who participate in Junior Farm Crew will develop and retain positive attitudes about sustainable agriculture, and share them with friends and family. This past year, JFC exposed participants to their first experience of a farm. Based on surveys and testimonials from JFC members, we know that the experience greatly increased the students’ understanding of organic agriculture. Most students expressed greater willingness to try new foods, particularly fresh produce. Several youth also credited the program with helping them develop patience and a strong work ethic. Junior Farm Crew helped these students realize how they, through gardening, choices they make in their diet, and perhaps by pursuing a career in farming or food system work, can improve their own health, and the well-being of communities and the environment. We feel that job-readiness is one of the most powerful impacts of this program. Ferguson, a largely African-American, lower-income area, lacks a diversity of youth employment opportunities beyond fast-food establishments. JFC provides youth a challenging employment environment, one that also exposes the teens to St. Louisans from all walks of life, healthy habits, and an opportunity to assume leadership roles within the food movement. We will measure the impact of the program by counting the number of students, collaborators, educators and members of the public that participate in this project or learn about it through outreach. We will also take quantitative and qualitative assessment of the JFC members’ increasing understanding of sustainable agriculture through surveys and answers to short essay questions.
Project objectives from proposal:
JFC participants will learn about sustainable agriculture through direct instruction by EarthDance staff, daily farm work, discussions with professional farmers and food system activists, and by synthesizing their learning as they lead tours for farm visitors.
Each week JFC will assist with basic farm work: weeding, mulching, caring for chickens, and harvesting a weekly focus crop.
Dietetic interns will teach the JFC to prepare a healthy dish using the week’s vegetable, and crew members will take a portion of the harvest home to share with their families.
JFC participants will practice public speaking skills, and deepen their understanding of sustainable agriculture as they lead farm tours.