Thursday, October 27, 2011

Future Farming Families

SARE Farmer/Rancher Grant #FNC02-428– Ida Thurman, Pembroke Township, IL

Objective: To teach young people hands-on, socially responsible agricultural systems, including free-range poultry, pastured pork, rabbits, and worm production, and community gardening.

Results: My family – which includes husband John and nine children – runs L & R Farms in Pembroke Township in Illinois. Our 20-acre operation strives to grow nutritious foods to feed our family, and educate the public about sustainable agriculture. We have used sustainable organic methods of livestock and vegetable production for home consumption and as a way of life. We began retail marketing in 1999 on-farm and at the Kankakee County Farmers Market.

Our livestock production includes grass fed/rotationally grazed cattle and goats, pasture pork, and range-fed poultry, turkey, geese, duck, and rabbits. The pesticide/ herbicide-free vegetable production includes a rotation of melons, squash, peas, beans, corn, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, okra, greens, potatoes, and pumpkins. We also grow and cut grass hay.

We believe it’s key that older farmers share their knowledge with younger ones. We used our SARE funding to provide members of 4-H and Realistic Opportunities for Youth (ROY) a safe place to learn hands-on, socially responsible agriculture. They learned details of our livestock operations.

ROY is an initiative in which youngsters who participate in the Youth Garden are taught by older youth about gardening. Those who serve as youth leaders often become 4-H members. Youth leaders learn sustainable agricultural systems, whether at L & R Farms or while visiting neighboring farms. Several youth leaders created gardens for senior citizens and the disabled. They also had an option to participate in the community garden and then sell the produce they planted, weeded, and harvested at the local farmers markets. Within ROY they experienced seed saving, learned to prepare the foods they were growing in the Youth Garden, and exchanged recipes. They also took part in community service activities – delivering food, mowing lawns, and raking leaves for seniors and the disabled. Youth who participated not only were viewed as positive members of our community; they also learned to care about someone, or even something, other than themselves.

Long-term, this project seeks to make small-scale agriculture affordable again in a region once dominated by family farms, including a number owned by African-Americans. The project and a collaborative effort from Pembroke Farming Family, a Project Partner of Heifer International, continues to provide some participants marketing opportunities at the Hopkins Park/Pembroke Farmers Market, Kankakee County Farmers Market, and the City of Chicago Farmers Markets. These opportunities reward limited-resource farmers’ efforts.

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