Free Farming Course for High School Students & Professional Development for Teachers

June 23, 2015

This summer, thanks to funding from a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant, Greenfield Community College is offering a 3-credit hands-on Sustainable Farming Skills course free to rising and graduating high school seniors and a free 15-hour curriculum development workshop on Sustainable Food Production for high school teachers. The course and workshop are part of the ENGAGE (Educational Networks for Growing an AGricultural Economy) project geared toward helping area high school students develop sustainable agriculture and leadership skills and pursue further education and employment in agriculture. The free professional development workshop for high school teachers will help them bring enhanced sustainable agriculture skills and curriculum components to their classrooms.

Kyle Bostrom, owner of Bostrom Farm in Greenfield, will teach the new 3-credit “Introduction to Sustainable Farming Skills” course during GCC’s Summer Session II in July and August. The course will meet at GCC and Bostrom Farm. Also in July and August, Deb Habib, Executive Director of Seeds of Solidarity Education Center in Orange, will deliver the 15-hour professional development points (PDPs) “Developing Curriculum in Sustainable Food Production” workshop for high school teachers. The workshop will be held at GCC’s campus, utilizing the permaculture garden, organic vegetable garden, and near zero-net energy greenhouse. Teachers participating in the workshop will revise existing or develop new curricula or projects focused on sustainable organic agriculture and food system topics of their choice.

Up to ten students and recent graduates from any high school will study alongside ten GCC students in the Sustainable Farming Skills course. Up to sixteen Grade 9-12 teachers of any subject may attend the free professional development workshop and each will receive a $50 stipend. The funding for ENGAGE comes from a USDA Secondary Education, Two-Year Postsecondary Education, and Agriculture in the K-12 Classroom Challenge Grant (SPECA).

GCC’s Farm and Food Systems Program Coordinator Abrah Dresdale said, “One of the grant’s goals is to engage with high school students so they know studying sustainable agriculture is an option at GCC. We want parents and teachers to know about the Sustainable Farming Skills course open to high school students to take for free in Summer 2015 and 2016. And, we encourage high school teachers to pursue this free professional development opportunity to learn about organic gardening, permaculture, and sustainable agriculture. The training is designed to help teachers integrate sustainable food production practices and principles into their high school curriculum so that students will be exposed to and inspired about regenerative agriculture earlier in their academic careers.”

Deb Habib said, “There are numerous and creative ways for teachers of all subjects to integrate sustainable agriculture and food system topics into the  academic curriculum and school culture. High school educators can enrich their own work and teaching through this course, and are key to reaching students to inspire them to forge resilient, healthy lives and communities.”

Kyle Bostrom said, “Agriculture is a viable industry that is growing and becoming more important to our food security, supply, and the overall economy. Agriculture needs trained and educated people to grow and support the industry. The introductory skills course will be an on-the-ground, hands-on approach to small scale production agriculture. It also will include content on the ecological and economic aspects of farming.”

Peter Rosnick, Director of SAGE – Sustainable Agriculture and Green Energy Education Center at GCC, said, “The overall goal served by this grant is for students to matriculate in Farm and Food Systems program, complete a degree at GCC, and then go on to a four-year college in sustainable agriculture. GCC has articulation agreements with Green Mountain College in Vermont and University of Massachusetts Amherst and there are many other bachelor’s degree programs in food farming in the Northeast.”

For the Introduction to Sustainable Farming Skills course, interested high school students/graduates should send a personal recommendation from their Guidance Counselor to Corrin Meise-Munns at meisemunnsc@gcc.mass.edu, and fill out paperwork at: http://www.gcc.mass.edu/admissions/early-entrants/ or call GCC admissions at 413-775-1800.

For information about the Curriculum Workshop, contact: Deb Habib at deb@seedsofsolidarity.org. To apply for the workshop, contact: Karen Chastney at 413-775-1661 about Course # WFD 690-2 or visit: http://www.gcc.mass.edu/creditfree/