Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Students learn about agriculture with the Urban Food Production Youth Program

by Arielle Gerstein

The Urban Food Production Program is a half-day workshop where students from D.C. public, charter and private schools visit Muirkirk Research Farm to participate in experiential learning demonstrations and activities about urban farming and its benefits. The program is a CAUSES interdisciplinary collaboration between the Center for Sustainable Development, the Center for 4-H and Youth Development and the Center for Urban Agriculture. Thus far, the program was offered on May 12, with students from Calvary Christian Academy Middle School and May 19, with students from Friendship Blow Pierce Middle Public Charter School attended. 

The students learn about different farming concepts through three activity stations:  

* Station 1: Aquaponics  
At Station 1, the students learn about the importance of growing food in urban environment with a focus on the bio-intensive method of growing vegetables and fish together in a closed-loop system, aquaponics. The students get to see a small aquaponics display that they could keep inside their home to grow herbs and fish. Students are also shown large-scale aquaponics production with tilapia and tanks at the farm.

* Station 2: Soil Types
In this station, the students learn about the best type of soil for growing nutrient-rich food, the different types of soil and how to recognize them. The students are also taught what to do to create good soil if their soil at home is less than ideal. At this station, students identified the quality of a soil sample.

* Station 3: Compost and Planting Crops
At Station 3, the students learn how to make compost and the length of time it takes to make good compost. Students then visit one of the greenhouses to learn how various plants, like tomatoes, onions and carrots look like in the seedling stage. They also learn how to transplant seedlings by digging a small hole and placing the seedling in and covering it with soil.

Asking the students what they liked best about the workshop, one student said, “I enjoyed when we worked with the soil.” Another students said “I enjoyed experiencing how to use plants and what they need to be a great plant to eat [nutritionally].” 

The program will consist of four more workshops in June and July. This is an important first step in teaching local DC students about where their food comes from and creating a local food system in the District.

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