- Crop Production: beekeeping, pollination, pollinator health
- Education and Training: youth education
- Farm Business Management: agritourism, farmers' markets/farm stands
- Soil Management: composting
- Sustainable Communities: community services, ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change, food hubs, urban agriculture
Youth Service Corps (YSC), a job and life-skills training program for youth ages 11-17, administers food access projects on the Eastside of Lansing, Michigan. Through established projects of Edible Park, Park Cart, Fruit Tree Project, and Garden-in-a-Box, youth will be given opportunities to experientially learn skills that make farms sustainable. The youth’s newest project of beekeeping and tending a hive will be used as a context for studying pollinators. Throughout the project, youth will investigate the roles pollinators play in our food systems, the effects of their habitat loss and how we can help them survive and flourish.
Detailed Project Plan and Timeline
Youth Service Corps (YSC), a job and life skills training program for youth ages 11-17, engages in service- learning projects focusing on food access in the northeast quadrant of Michigan’s capital city. Our current projects include: 1) Garden-in-a-Box, whereby youth construct and deliver 2’x2’ garden box kits to the homes of neighbors who have limited income and gardening skill; 2) Fruit Tree Project, in which youth map, harvest, and re-distribute fruit from neighborhood fruit trees in effort to minimize food waste; 3) Edible Park, where youth plan, plant, and maintain fruiting trees, bushes, and perennial herbs in a designated space in Hunter Park where edibles are available, free for the taking; 4) Park Cart, a concession cart selling healthy, affordable snacks to farmers market patrons; and our newest project 5) Beekeeping at the Hunter Park GardenHouse, through which youth have been led by Bee Wise Farms in installing, caring for, tending and harvesting from a beehive.
While continuing these projects, this year’s work and lessons will be structured to focus the youths’ learning on pollinators. Youth will explore the roles of pollinators, how pollinators and plants interact, what kinds of habitats encourage pollinator health, and how the youth themselves can apply what they’ve learned to create a pollinator- friendly garden.
This year’s focus on pollinators, combined with the existing work of their projects, creates a natural context to teach youth about sustainable agriculture and address the pillars of sustainability. The youths’ Edible Park garden has and will continue to utilize the sustainable agriculture practices of integrative pest management, composting, permaculture, hugelkultur garden beds and organic fertilizers. The current work YSC does is ecologically sound: the kids are utilizing the previously mentioned agricultural methods in their Edible Park garden. Because the youth are the caretakers and planners of this garden, a natural sense of stewardship has formed because of their ownership of the work and space. This stewardship will be further developed through the pollinator lessons, when they learn about pollinator habitats and how to support, protect, and grow them. The Park Cart project’s work of having the youth create value-added goods utilizing produce they grew and then selling those goods at the farmers market gives them experiences and situations to understand the economic viability of their work. As YSC members continue the Garden-in-a-Box and Edible Park garden projects, their work will increase food access in this low income and food insecure neighborhood, showing them socially responsible practices in action.
YSC program sessions are held in the AMP kitchen and Hunter Park GardenHouse each Monday & Wednesday afternoon during the school year, and Monday, Wednesday, and Friday during the summer months. The Youth Programs Coordinator will plan and facilitate age-appropriate sessions for YSC members, developing their skills and knowledge of pollinators, business, social responsibility, cooking and gardening. We will host special guests for sessions focusing on pollinators.
• Conduct a pre-survey to gauge YSC members’ knowledge in crop planning, integrated pest management, sustainable agriculture practices, food safety, and business planning, and marketing, and gauge their level of concern regarding issues around pollinators.
• Utilize “Nature's Partners: Pollinators, Plants, and You” curriculum.
• Guide youth in creating a crop plan & begin seed starting.
• Select recipes utilizing fruits, vegetables, and herbs from Edible Park to be sold at Park Cart.
• Create & distribute outreach materials to inform neighbors of their food-based projects.
• Host session with Adam and Lacey Ingrao of Bee Wise Farms, who will educate youths about pollinator role of honey bees, and will lead the setup of the hive for the season.
• Plant the Edible Park garden.
• Distribute Garden-in-a-Box kits for neighbors.
June, July, and August 2017
• YSC members learn identification of plants.
• Utilize the AMP kitchen to incorporate Edible Park crops into Park Cart food products.
• Sell food products at their Park Cart stand at the Allen Farmers Market.
• Distribute outreach materials.
• Host session with Bee Wise Farms for maintenance of hive and continued pollinator education. • Maintain & host Collection Day events at Edible Park garden.
September/ October 2017
• Conduct a post-survey to gauge YSC members’ skills in crop planning, integrated pest management, sustainable agriculture practices, food safety, and business planning, and marketing, and gauge their level of concern regarding issues around pollinators.
• Host session with Bee Wise Farms who will lead a final education session and extract honey from the hive.
The many endeavors of Youth Service Corps would not be possible without the support of these generous individuals and organizations:
• Adam and Lacey Ingrao, of Bee Wise Farms, will educate youth about pollinators in the context of the beehive they will guide youth in caring for and extracting from.
• Hunter Park GardenHouse Director, Rita O’Brien, and Gardening Educator AmeriCorps, Leah McKenney, will be additional on-site resources for horticultural, food safety, and entrepreneurial skill development.
• Allen Market Place licensed incubator kitchen will be utilized for Youth Service Corps to create value-added food products from the crops grown in Edible Park to be sold at Park Cart in the Allen Farmers Market.
The main curriculum that will be utilized to guide us through this project will be North American Pollinator Protection Campaign’s curriculum: Nature's Partners: Pollinators, Plants, and You. We will create additional lessons from the following books & publications: The Growing Classroom, Botany on the Plate, Principles of Horticulture by C.R. Adams, and The New Organic Grower by Eliot Coleman.
We will share information about Youth Service Corps’ food projects through Allen Neighborhood Center’s quarterly Eastside Neighbor newsletter (distributed to 3,500 Eastside homes) and Active Neighboring weekly e- newsletter (distribution of 2,400 and growing). Our Facebook page, “Hunter Park GardenHouse Youth Service Corps”, and Allen Neighborhood Center website will reach a wider audience on the web through postings and photo updates. During the summer months, the Park Cart will create a venue to discuss the expansion of these projects with neighbors who purchase the value-added food products made with fruits, vegetables, and herbs from Edible Park. Another in person opportunity for outreach will be during our monthly Edible Park Collection Days, where the youth of YSC will lead neighbors through the garden, sharing what is available to be harvested and what to do with it. The Collection Days are promoted through community calendars, Facebook and in person at the Park Cart.
As members of the Youth Gardening Coalition, we meet quarterly with other local youth educators, and will share learnings about the projects in our meetings. In addition to these outreach methods, we will contact Lansing City Pulse and Lansing State Journal newspapers to request an article on YSC food projects and their impact on the community. In addition to print media, we will participate in radio programs on these topics.
Student and Community Impact
Youth Service Corps’ projects have a wide impact: 1) Edible Park garden allows us to grow food for our community and increase awareness of the health benefits of fruit, vegetables and herbs; 2) The food security of our neighbors can be increased both through the presence of Edible Park, the Fruit Tree Project, and the installation of the Garden-in-a-Box kits; 3) Youth Service Corps members will gain valuable skills in horticulture, entrepreneurism, leadership and teamwork and 4) youth will gain a strong understanding of pollinators and their role and relation to food systems and agriculture.
We will track and measure everything, including 1) number of sessions, 2) duplicated and unduplicated numbers of youth involved, 3) numbers of interns and volunteers helping to facilitate the projects, 4) numbers of farmers and other experts the youth learn from, 5) number of neighbors we interact with during Edible Park Collection Days, 6) how much produce is grown in Edible Park, 7) number of Garden-in-a-Box kits distributed, 8) how much fruit is harvested & redistributed through our Fruit Tree Project, and 9) descriptions of daily session activities. To measure changes in knowledge we will utilize pre and post surveys and journals.
Success will be measured by the following:
• 60% of our Youth Service Corps participants will report increased knowledge in all of the following categories: crop planning, integrated pest management, sustainable agriculture practices, food safety, and business planning, and marketing, and gauge their level of concern regarding issues around pollinators.
• We will engage 30 neighbors through our Garden-in-a-Box project and Edible Park Collection Days.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Engage students with the relationship between pollinators and agriculture through beekeeping and work in the garden.
- Grow food for our community and increase awareness of the health benefits of fruit, vegetables and herbs using the Edible Park, the Fruit Tree Project, and the installation of the Garden-in-a-Box kits.
- Empower Youth Service Corps members in gaining valuable skills in horticulture, entrepreneurism, leadership and teamwork.
- Share project outcomes through a newsletter, social media posts, in local newspapers, on radio stations, and at quarterly meetings with local youth educators.