Oklahoma Summer Camp Program Teaches High Schoolers About Sustainability
STILLWATER, Oklahoma – From rainwater harvesting to composting to soil building, a group of inner-city high school students learned what it means to farm sustainably during a two-week Oklahoma State University summer camp program where they explored college careers in horticulture and landscape architecture.
“Most of these kids don’t know where their food comes from, think horticulture is a career in mowing, and don’t give plants a second thought,” said camp supervisor Shelley Mitchell, an OSU Extension associate and horticulture specialist in 4H/Youth Programs. “This was a way for them to learn about all that is involved and how it touches their lives everyday, as well as how landscape design can be used to conserve and filter water, how using native plants is a lot less work and better for everyone, and how resource-expensive it is to use non-natives to bring in food from far away.”
The program, Camp T.U.R.F. (Tomorrow’s Undergraduates Realizing the Future), is for Oklahoma high school students who will be the first in their families to attend college. The annual program is sponsored by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education and the OSU Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture.
This year, a portion of the summer camp program brought the students to Anichini-Moore Ranch & Farm, a sustainable ag farm in northwest Oklahoma that prides itself on raising heritage animals and plants, producing heirloom fruits and vegetables, supporting local communities, and educating on ecosystem management and land restoration.
“We were thrilled to host the Camp T.U.R.F. students this year,” said Kathy Moore, owner of Anichini-Moore Ranch & Farm and an Administrative Council member of the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) program. “The farm tour was designed to educate the kids about small farms, biodiversity, and sustainability. We wanted to inspire them and get them excited about real food, farms, conservation, soil, water, rainwater harvesting, composting and soil building.”
During the farm tour, the students were introduced to organic farming methods, recycling, composting, and bioenergy – and how the sustainable ag practices play a part in soil building, erosion control, improved water quality, plant health, and a balanced ecosystem. In addition, the students learned how the practices on the farm help support area communities by producing local foods and value-added products.
“The kids seemed enthralled by the entire experience. They asked a lot of terrific questions related to small farms,” said Moore. “I hope that we can make this part of the Camp T.U.R.F. tour an annual event.”
In addition to the tour to Anichini-Moore Ranch & Farm, the students also visited agricultural experiment stations and participated in hands-on activities related to water filtration and conservation.
Anichini-Moore Ranch & Farm was purchased in 1995. At the time it was highly erodible land with one water well and no windmill or electricity. The only observed wildlife was grasshoppers and rattlesnakes, recounts Moore. Today, the farm is an example of a balanced ecosystem of soil and water quality, wildlife habitats, heritage livestock and heirloom fruits and vegetables – all supported by organic methodologies and products.
For updates on next year’s Camp T.U.R.F. program, visit the OSU Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture Facebook page.
Photo credit: Kathy Moore and Shelley Mitchell.
Published by the Southern Region of the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. Funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Southern SARE operates under cooperative agreements with the University of Georgia, Fort Valley State University, and the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture to offer competitive grants to advance sustainable agriculture in America's Southern region.