- Author: Susana C. Bruzzone-Miller
It's time to reflect on another highly successful education season at the UC Hansen Agricultural Research and Extension Center (HAREC). The 4-H Youth Development Programs at HAREC consisting of Farm Field Trips, Classroom Outreach, Student Farm, and Sustainable You! Summer Camp served well over 5000 Ventura County youth in the past year. The triumph of these programs is due to dedicated UC volunteers, staff and the many educators throughout the county that support these efforts. As demand for agriculture literacy, nutrition, food systems, and sustainability education increases, the education team is busy forming partnerships in the community that will help further extend our reach.
One such collaboration is with Ventura Unified School District (VUSD). With the leadership of a Food Corps member assigned to the district and a near quarter acre of land at the HAREC, the 4H Student Farm was established and has now completed its second year. The afterschool program meets weekly during fall and spring quarters. This year both Balboa and De Anza Middle school students learned plant science and the nuts and bolts of farming. From seed to plate they participated in many aspects of the food system-planting, harvesting, cooking, tasting, and composting as well as transporting produce back to the school cafeteria and giving back to the community by donating to Food Share. The student farm produced over 900 pounds of food.
Additionally, VUSD Farm to School nutrition educators teamed with HAREC staff this spring to give fifth and sixth graders the opportunity to spend a full day of food systems education at the Center. The district facilitated transportation using California Department of Education funds for 475 students. The field trips enabled youth to see where food comes from, specifically some of the produce grown for their school salad bars. Students toured the 4-H Student Farm as well as Join the Farm, an operation that leases land at HAREC and supplies carrots and lettuce for the district's nutrition services. They participated in a variety of hands-on activities ranging from harvesting vegetables, Harvest of the Month cooking lesson, plant part scavenger hunt in the education gardens and a lesson on local and global food systems. For many, the highlight was observing food growing in various stages of development and tasting farm fresh fruits and vegetables. “Wait, what? That's not what broccoli looks like in the grocery store.” stated Justice, a sixth grader from Anacapa Middle School, in awe of how different and beautiful food looks before it hits the grocery store.
HAREC will again host Sustainable You! Summer Camp, a program that teaches youth, ages 9-12, what it means to be sustainable through fun hands-on activities. Each day of camp revolves around one of the five major sustainability themes: land, water, food, air, and energy. However, this year, the education team partners with the City of Ventura Sustainability Division. The city's environmental educators will share their expertise and educational resources to help extend camp activities at the Center. This teamwork will no doubt help strengthen an already enlightening program.
Preparation for fall programming has already begun and the education team looks forward to building more partnerships in the coming year.