During a summer camp field trip in August, a lightbulb seemed to go off in one young visitors head. He had sat seriously thinking something over as Youth Educator Kaitie Adams and Volunteer Coordinator Nick Speed wrapped up their visit. When Kaitie asked if anyone had final questions, the young man raised his hand and said “ I think farmers might have the most important job in the world. There wouldn’t be any food without farmers.”
This statement, which seems so simple to us adults, is mind-blowing for kids whose food come from grocery store shelves, gas stations, or corner stores. Food is grown on land (sometimes in their neighborhood!) by people, who have the career of feeding others.
2016 was the best year yet for YEAH! (Youth Exploring Agriculture and Health), which includes field trips, work with McCluer North High School Work Experience Program students, the EarthDance Junior Farm Crew, and OASIS Catch Healthy Habits participants. YEAH! connects youth of all ages to the magic of organic farming, the joy of sharing new experiences, and the importance of a healthy lifestyle. This year we offered transformative, hands-on education to 800 folks under the age of 18, doubling our previous year’s numbers. Even more exciting, over half of the youth who joined us were from the Ferguson-Florissant School District!
2016 Highlights include:
- Our Junior Farm Crew connecting with other youth working outdoors and on urban farms in the City of St. Louis through the Youth Conservation Corps.
- JFC’s capstone visit to Dancing Rabbit, an eco-village in rural Missouri where our crew milked goats, made their own toothpaste & healing salves, and learned about food preservation and the power of co-ops.
- The expansion of the OASIS Catch Healthy Habits on the farm which included 15 Senior RSVP volunteers, as well as, 65 young folks reading, playing, and making healthy snacks.
- Greater connection to Ferguson-Florissant students through the state Farm To School grant, which allowed the school district to buy EarthDance produce and send even more students to experience organic farming.
- Dozens of career exploration sessions with WEP students including: baking pies for Farmers Formal, taking care of the EarthDance chickens, harvesting produce for market, and participating in culinary workshops.
- Greater variety of field trip activities for younger and older learners, such as: the history of farming in the Midwest, a deeper look into soil science, why we grow a permaculture orchard, and more work in the dirt through youth volunteer opportunities.
With 2017 just around the corner, I can’t help to wonder what types of world-changing questions and ideas will grow on the farm next year…