Great Outdoors University: Bringing Kids Out to the Farm

by Mary Bures, NC Wildlife Federation

This summer, CFSA’s Lomax Farm partnered with the North Carolina Wildlife Federation to bring students in their Great Outdoors University Program to visit Lomax Farm and the Farmers-in-Training. An important part of agritourism allows children to experience farms and how farmers grow the food that they eat.

 

Photo submitted by Mary Bures, GoU

Photo submitted by Mary Bures, GoU

NC Wildlife Federation’s Great Outdoors University (GoU) has enjoyed an action-packed 2016 season of experiences, including those with our destination partner Lomax Farms.  GoU of greater Charlotte, NC launched its first programs in June of 2013 and has served over 30,000 participants to date. GoU is a conservation-based experiential education program designed to bring life-changing experiences to kids 6-18 years old who have limited opportunity to explore the natural world. The GoU curriculum empowers youth by connecting them with nature using fun hands-on/minds-on inquiry-based teaching methods in outdoor environments like farms, forests, streams and nature preserves.

 

For many of these children, GoU provides their first opportunity to get outside and explore the natural world and its many wonders and benefits.

Great Outdoors University takes a collaborative approach utilizing the strength of North Carolina Wildlife Federation affiliate resources and forming alliances with community partners, like the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association. For many of these children, GoU provides their first opportunity to get outside and explore the natural world and its many wonders and benefits.

 

Mary Bures (Manager of GoU) reached out to Aaron Newton (CFSA’s Lomax Farm Coordinator) and worked to create the “Farm to Table Program,” giving kids an introduction to a working organic and sustainable farm. What some of us take for granted became a first time experience for them.

 

Photo submitted by Mary Bures, GoU

Photo submitted by Mary Bures, GoU

The kids began their adventure at Lomax by participating in an activity to discovering an assigned fruit or vegetable. Then, with Matt Warden, Lomax Farmer-in-Training, half of the group explored the community garden. There they learned about the importance of pollinators as they explored a variety of pollinator plants including bee balm, asters and mint, which the kids excitedly discovered with their senses of smell and taste. The students then learned about the drip irrigation system and one group even assisted in laying a bit of pipe. Finally, they had the opportunity to pick (perhaps for the first time) their own vegetables. We enjoyed a variety of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, okra, and eggplant throughout the season.

 

The group would then gather in the common vegetable prep area. The kids learned about this part of the operation and how the participating farmers prepared their crops for market. They assisted in washing the veggies and prepping them to eat.  Of course this was one of their favorite parts of the program!  What a thrill to see kids really enjoying their freshly picked veggies! 

 

Photo submitted by Mary Bures, GoU

Photo submitted by Mary Bures, GoU

In addition to harvesting and preparing crops, the children also enjoyed a hands-on planting session with Aaron. He taught them the importance of soil preparation and they actually had the opportunity to mix it with their own hands. Just as the farmers would start their crops, the kids were able to plant their own seeds and take them home to nurture and grow.

 

In the end the kids had a wonderful time digging in the dirt, eating some freshly picked organic veggies and learning about sustainable farming.  Who knows…perhaps some will come back in a decade and join as a Farmer-in-Training at Lomax.

 

Thanks to Aaron and his team, this was one of GoU’s most successful programs this season and we look forward to continuing our partnership with Lomax.

For more information on NCWF’s Great Outdoors University, visit http://www.ncwf.org/GoU.

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