Posted: Tuesday, August 16, 2016 12:30 am
By Tessa Edick
For Columbia-Greene Media
Weeding out the “good ones” is essential for sustaining profitability in farming. And weeding just plain sucks. So, as seeds and weeds compete for terroir to optimize growth, management of them creates the unique opportunity for a fresh local food system that’s sustainable, but it takes time and so much labor to weed.
This year, Camp FarmOn! students are winning with an idea for equipment that expedites weeding and places GPS on seeding for operational efficiencies focused on a solution that saves time and money.
This “Seed don’t Weed” equipment is the concept 15-16 year olds developed (after a week at Camp FarmOn! visiting area farms and food businesses) and presented to a “Shark Tank” panel recently in front of an audience of family and friends. This helped them practice lifelong skills they will remember as they conceptualized a profitable solution to farming with an idea that could come to fruition if their weeding equipment solution works — and is funded.
With the field as classroom and curriculum that fosters the entrepreneurial spirit for youth in agriculture, the hope is to fill the succession gap in farming by inspiring the next generation to replace this one with 21st century thinking. Learning to eat good food is another upside of the summer camp — one where you work in the field to pick peas and deliver them to a client or package them for a CSA, learn to cook, meet your meat and know where your food comes from and how it gets to the table. This generates curiosity about health, wellness and sustainable ways of living just by experience.
At the sixth annual Empire Farm Camp FarmOn! this is happening daily — with children and young adults together sharing experiences and ideas that formulate change in the food system to create the future Farmers of America. These are the next generation that will work hard to feed us because they love it. Not everyone wants to farm, but every one of us should serve on a farm because the skill sets that develop last a lifetime and create jobs in rural communities.
When youth connect to farming they understand food differently. This realization changes the food economy with awareness of what you eat and a respect for farmers, as youth learn how to source and produce food, then talk about it from the education.
Big food is rich. We cannot fix the broken food system today but we can with the next generation of youth. We can teach them to opt out of processed food with a collective consciousness and we can teach children to learn about the culinary arts and agriculture as important as breathing, sleeping or digestion through impactful experiences. It’s a choice to be nutritious and happy and agriculture is a foundation in those decisions.
Farming is everything: rewarding, delicious, dirty, buggy, meaningful, motivating and connectively engaging, complete with physically challenging activity and elements. It also creates the most forceful impact that authentically changes the way you think about nature, food and nutrition just by doing it.
Try growing your food, any variety, any season, with command and authority as if it’s the only thing you have to eat. Report back how you feel about the experience and what you ate.
This is what we do at Empire Farm, which is on a mission to change the way you eat. We teach youth to FarmOn! in a pathway that shifts the paradigm in food and fosters entrepreneurial thinking. This results in livelihoods that are viable and healthy, vocational and academic.
All by simply coming up with a profitable solution in farming inside of a one-week summer day camp on an organic farm to create a concept and pitch it with confidence to a shark tank after visits into the community to: Hudson Valley Wool Mill, Greig Farm, Hudson Valley Fresh Stormfield Swiss Farm, Zoes Ice Cream Barn, TasteNY Todd Hill, Field Goods, The Berry Farm, McEnroe Organic Farm and Empire Farm.
It builds trust and confidence, ideas and communication, joy and laughter, teaches community and commerce, exercise, healthy eating and youth are mentored by the seven Ag-Academy leadership students, who learn to earn in coursework with SUNY and Cornell custom growing with New York City chefs as their mentors at the camp while living at Empire Farm. Special Thank you to Claire Burnett as their counselor!
It’s the next generation who will feed us so we have to activate their thinking now to come up in farming and change the system of food supply. These thoughts together with choices we make to eat that impact health and economic development is vital in rural regions of American — and on family farms. This thinking can change the world and it starts with a new invention — weeding equipment for this group of youth. We are inspired.
You should be too for the next generation to save farming. Sign your child up for Camp FarmOn! in 2017 and get your FarmOn! at Empire Farm. The doors are always open. FarmOn
To contact Tessa Edick, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Share on Facebook @FarmOn Foundation.