On Friday, May 10, a group of graduate students and a professor from the University of Minnesota set off for the Minnesota-South Dakota border excited and anxious. The plan: go from farm to farm and school to school by bike and on foot, collecting media artifacts on innovative agricultural practices for 7th-12th grade teachers and students following along.
Toward the end of the first day the "Grown to Run" adventure learning team saw plumes of white and gray smoke drifted across the road. Traffic slowed as flames flickered from a prairie reserve being burned by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Armed with cameras, the G2R team videotaped a segment of the daily adventure update that would illustrate the role fire plays in prairie ecosystems.
The team took more video footage that evening of farmer Carmen Fernholz incorporating a cover crop as a green manure into one of his fields. With camp set up on the front lawn, the team gathered with the Fernholz family for dinner.
Over the next five days en route to Stillwater, Minn., the G2R team traveled with stiff winds, rain, shine and temperatures ranging from 29 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Along the way, team members visited four more farms and a handful of schools.
Moonstone Farms, Betsy's B & B, Burns' Farm and Garden Fresh Farms each illustrated different aspects of innovative farming for those following along. Students saw diverse agricultural systems ranging from perennial pasture to the incorporation of grass buffer strips and catchment ponds to high technology.
At schools, the team members worked through complex questions with students. They visited the classroom of Ben Johnson in Clara City. His seventh graders gasped when they saw maps of the decrease in landscape diversity between 1937 and 2002 in the Expert Video by Iowa State University professor Lisa Schulte-Moore.
By the time of arrival in Stillwater, the team had traveled more 200 miles, visited five farms, delivered four lesson plans online to around 300 students, recorded more than 50 gigabytes of multimedia, tweeted more than 100 tweets, and seen a wide variety of innovative ways Minnesota farmers deliver food, fiber and fuel.
To learn more about the project, visit the project website, where you can find farm videos, lesson plans and other resources on innovative Minnesota agriculture.
This work was funded by the Institute on the Environment and sponsored by the Farm to School Program and Coca-Cola.
Bryan Runck is a graduate assistant at the University of Minnesota working on the dissemination of agroecological information and head of the G2R project. Photo courtesy of Bryan Runck.