Last summer was an exciting one for fans of gardening in Iron County, despite the late snow melt. As part of collaboration between several Iron County UW Extension program areas (4H, Family Living, Horticulture, and Community Resource Development) as well as partnerships with public health and human services, the first Iron County Youth Farmers Market was born. Growing food in the new school community garden, selling food at the market, and touring regional farms were all components of this initiative. Educational programming discussing topics such as nutrition and leadership was provided to youth at each phase of the project and continued beyond the market season. This initiative has been recognized as an outstanding example of multi-disciplinary programming within UW Extension and an innovative response to a community need. This past year the school garden was included into the health plan of the Hurley School District, demonstrating the importance of the garden to the community and to the school.
Throughout the summer 12 youth participated in the Garden to Market Program. Young people were involved in the planting, production and sale of produce in the Hurley School Garden and the Iron County Farmers Market. Youth worked at the farmers market and manned the booth as they learned about food production and marketing. They were also responsible for making change and tracking sales. Some of the more experienced vendors at the market shared their knowledge of keeping produce looking fresh and pricing.
Field trips were planned to allow youth to explore possible career paths associated with farming and food production, as well as learn about alternative means of production. Participants helped to design a logo for the group, with the group’s slogan of “Growing Healthy Futures in Iron County”. The logo was created by combining each participant’s drawings into one unified logo. After the market ended for the season, youth continued to harvest produce that was worked into the school lunch program. Participants demonstrated an understanding of permaculture through worksheets completed during one of the field trips. It was a great way for us to keep their attention during the day and a great way for them to demonstrate that they had gained an understanding in a subject that was new to them.
Participants also reported enjoying eating vegetables, and one parent of participants reported that their children liked to help pick out produce in the grocery store since their involvement. Another stated that before his involvement in this program he would not eat veggies, but after working in the garden and seeing other kids enjoying them, he not only tried them but he liked them and now eats them at home too.
This was truly a team effort. Neil Klemme, Youth Development Educator, incorporated aspects of the 4 Essential Elements into the plan by creating a space where young people felt that they belonged to the group, were mastering a new skill, learning to be independence through working the cash box by themselves, youth developing a sense of generosity through donations of extra produce to food pantry and families who needed it. Joy Schelble, Wisconsin Nutrition Education Program Coordinator/Horticulturist added her expertise and knowledge of gardening and plant care. Andrea Newby, the county’s Family Living Educator was the piece that connected us through her work with the Communities Preventing Childhood Obesity Coalition helping to educate families about the benefit of eating fresh vegetables. All of this work has been developed as a result to the work of Will Andresen, Iron County’s Community Resource Development Educators work with creating an attractive community to retain and attract young people here in Iron County.
As we begin to plan for this year we will be creating leadership opportunities for some of the participants from last year, building on their experience and giving them opportunities to develop new skills. We had a great summer and look forward to getting out in the garden and getting our hands dirty again.
Neil Klemme – Iron County 4-H Youth Development Educator