Engaging Youth in Sustainable Farming and Benefits of Direct Marketing

Project Overview

YENC17-116
Project Type: Youth Educator
Funds awarded in 2017: $2,000.00
Projected End Date: 07/31/2019
Grant Recipient: Nebraska Cooperative Development Center, Buy Fresh Buy Local
Region: North Central
State: Nebraska
Project Manager:
Skylar Falter
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Information Products

Commodities

  • Vegetables: asparagus, beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbages, carrots, eggplant, garlic, greens (leafy), greens (lettuces), onions, parsnips, peppers, radishes (culinary), sweet potatoes, tomatoes, turnips
  • Animals: bovine, poultry, swine
  • Animal Products: dairy, eggs, meat

Practices

  • Crop Production: conservation tillage, crop rotation, high tunnels or hoop houses, irrigation, row covers (for season extension)
  • Education and Training: youth education

    Abstract:

    The goal of this grant was for students to learn where their food comes from and the viability of sustainable farming and direct marketing.  Throughout this project, students learned about different sustainable farming practices like cover cropping and organic agriculture through farm tours and even cooking with local ingredients in their culinary arts class.  It is far too easy these days to not think about the person who grew the food you purchase in the grocery store.  Through presentations, farm tours, and a farmers market tour, students interacted with farmers, learned about food production, and understood the value agriculture adds to rural communities.   

    Over the course of the project, we engaged 200 youth through 5 on-farm tours and 8 presentations.  Out of the 200 students, 140 completed surveys to evaluate learning outcomes.  Out of those 140 students, 139 reported changes in knowledge regarding sustainable agricultural principles.  Students learned about the impacts of monoculture farming and the importance of crop diversity, how cover crops help with water conservation and soil health, how to reduce soil erosion, and what it means to be a certified organic farm.  Over half of the classrooms that had a presentation were also able to understand these concepts during farm tours where students saw the true diversity of Nebraska farming and sustainable farms.  Students observed aquaponic systems, certified organic production, livestock, niche production of micro-greens, and even a farm-to-table restaurant.

    Overall, from spring 2018 through spring 2019, 54 high school students toured local farms and an additional 149 youth gained a deeper understanding of sustainable agriculture through presentations.  An unexpected aspect of this project was the interest from high school culinary teachers.  Five out of the eight classrooms that participated in this project were teaching culinary arts.  As a result, 49 students were able to learn about sustainable and local agriculture in a presentation one week and the next week prepare meals using local ingredients. 

    Project objectives:

    1. Provide Nebraskan students ages 15-22 first-hand experience with profitable, sustainable agriculture operations, value-added production and direct marketing at farmer’s markets.
    2. Engage students with the importance of ecologically sound practices such as crop diversity, cover crops, soil and water quality improvements, soil erosion control, rotational grazing, poultry and small-scale livestock production, organic agriculture, and other practices inspired by meetings with farmers.
    3. Develop students’ understanding of value-added products and direct marketing as components of sustainable agriculture systems, and the role of a farmer’s market in a sustainable and socially responsible local food system.
    4. Extend impact of program to a wider audience through the creation of a sustainable agriculture website with resources for teachers and educators.

     

    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.