Oklahoma Urban Youth Learn About Sustainable Agriculture
WOODWARD, Oklahoma – Nothing softens the heart like a baby animal. For a group of inner city youth, it was a black piglet, born while they toured a farm in northwest Oklahoma this summer as part of Oklahoma State University Extension’s Camp T.U.R.F. program.
“It got named Turfy,” laughs Shelley Mitchell, an OSU Extension associate and horticulture specialist in 4H/Youth Programs.
Camp T.U.R.F. (Tomorrow’s Undergraduates Realizing the Future) is a two-week residential academy at Oklahoma State University – Stillwater designed for at-risk youth to explore a variety of careers in horticulture and landscaping. Many of the students attending the program 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.
“The students experience life on a college campus while exploring careers in horticulture via hands-on projects with professors,” said Mitchell, the camp’s supervisor. “The goal is to make first-generation college students feel like they would be successful and comfortable at college.”
The program also introduces students to sustainable agriculture and careers in sustainability. A portion of the summer camp program brought the group to Anichini-Moore Ranch & Farm, a sustainable agriculture farm in Woodward, OK 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.
“The farm tour was designed to educate the kids about small farms, biodiversity, and sustainability,” said Kathy Moore, owner of Anichini-Moore Ranch & Farm and an Administrative Council member of the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SSARE) program. “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 agriculture 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.
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 more information on Camp T.U.R.F., contact Shelley Mitchell at 405-744-5755 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.