Aug 31, 2019
By Christine Kuehn, Sonoma Resource Conservation District
“FARMS Leadership taught me the impact we have on our environment and why sustainable farming is important,” stated Fernando Isol of North Bay Met Academy upon his final day in FARMS Leadership. The Sonoma Resource Conservation District’s longest standing youth education program of over twenty years, FARMS (Farming, Agriculture, and Resource Management for Sustainability) Leadership provides innovative, hands-on experiences to urban, suburban and rural youth at working farms, agri- businesses and universities. A state-wide program facilitated by the Center for Land-Based Learning (CLBL), our graduates join approximately 300 other students in California that complete the program annually.
Over the course of the academic year, the students directly engage with Sonoma County’s local agricultural producers and stewards of the environment in a series of on-farm field day experiences. Participants develop leadership skills and learn about agricultural practices that contribute to a healthier ecosystem, while connecting them to where their food comes from. The impact on the students is long lasting, some alumni seeking jobs within agriculture and conservation while others gain knowledge of our local food systems, importance of our working landscape as a tool for natural resource conservation, and feel more confident to engage in community service.
Working with CLBL and groups like My Job Depends on Ag™, we are able to secure scholarships for our qualified seniors entering into environmental or agricultural higher education institutions. In 2018, Carpe Diem High School Senior, Makena Calegari Toleu received a $500 scholarship from My Job Depends on Ag™ to attend the Santa Rosa Junior College and study Agribusiness and continues down this path today.
“I love that we are exposing kids to a different world that’s literally in their back yard,” said Shiloh Winders, a teacher at Casa Grande High School in Petaluma. “I like that it shows the huge variety of jobs in agriculture that are truly viable options for these students. It is a very welcoming environment where students are more willing to come out of their shells and participate, ask questions, and take risks that they wouldn’t in the classroom.”
In honor of our program anniversary last fall, we launched a second-year FARMS Advanced that complements and builds upon our existing programming. A cohort of qualified alumni from year one were able to take a deeper dive into researching local agricultural challenges with a focus on career and college access planning. We built upon leadership skills learned in year one and worked one-on-one with our staff and local industry partners to research, develop and present their findings at a year-end event.
For more information on Sonoma County FARMS Leadership programming or the TEAM Conservation education field trip program for elementary students - in partnership with Gold Ridge RCD - please visit us at:sonomarcd.org or contact Christine Kuehn, Education and Communications Manager directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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