KAYTE YOUNG: From WFIU in Bloomington Indiana, I'm Kayte Young and this is our Earth Eats.
SHAROONA MOORE: Everything here is about getting the food from the farm to the table. How do we do it? From the seeds to the harvest, right?
KAYTE YOUNG: This week on the show we revisit a trip to the Lawrence community garden to learn about their Next Generation youth farming summer camp, we have a story about a peer support program for farmers addressing mental health issues. We make a savory soup with fresh sorrel from the garden plus stories from Harvest Public Media about farm simulation games and farming while renting. That's all just ahead, so stay with us.
This is Earth Eats, I'm Kayte Young. For farmer health and safety programs this past year was an especially busy one, and one area of wellness has become particularly important. Josephine McRobbie checks in with one such program in North Carolina.
FARMER ONE: Farming solo can be isolating. I just had a lot of learning to do, and I didn't know this land yet.
FARMER TWO: It's getting the infrastructure to produce food, that's the hang-up of farming.
FARMER THREE: The fact that you generally only get one crop per year has just made the learning curve just very steep.
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE: For two years I've interviewed North Carolina farmers for Earth Eats, and even at successful thriving farms there is still huge challenges.
ROBIN MARCOM: I call that compounded stress because there are many many stressors.
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE: Dr. Robin Tutor-Marcom is director of the North Carolina Agromedicine Institute an organization working towards farmer safety and health.
ROBIN MARCOM: And just when I think that I've heard them all, I hear another one. Farm finance, the volatility in markets, family pressures, intergenerational farm transfer, regulatory pressures, developmental encroachment, where a state that has a lot of hurricanes, a lot of tornadoes. So the stressors are endless.
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE: Institute staff do everything from helping farmers find health insurance to developing grain silo safety programs. But a decade ago Dr. Marcom realized that they had a gap in their services.
ROBIN MARCOM: I had lunch with a farm woman who had suffered a fatality of a worker on her farm, and her husband had suffered two serious injuries. And she looked across the table during lunch at me and she said, "You know that I believe in the work you do, that I understand the importance of farm safety and health. But if you don't do something about the stress that farmers and their families are under, then the other work that you do is not going to mean anything."
And so I made her promise that day that we would work on farm stress and try to do something about it. So it's been a very slow uphill process because farmers are very private people and we don't believe in talking about stress, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, alcoholism. We keep all those things inside.
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE: The Institute now runs a peer help program called Farmer-to-Farmer. Interested farmers sign up to be trained as a sort of peer counselor and are matched with those who might need mental health or emotional support.
ROBIN MARCOM: I'm from a farm family, both of my sons are farmers. But it's one thing for me in a professional role to talk about those things, and for a farmer to have someone who looks like him, who lives the day-to-day like him, who experiences the same internal thoughts about, "I'm barely holding on, what am I going to do?" It's very different to have another farmer to talk to.
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE: To get involved farmers take Mental Health First Aid, and suicide prevention courses and they participate in discussion groups about the subtleties of what struggle can look like out in the world.
ROBIN MARCOM: What are the causes of farm stress? What does it look like when someone is depressed or anxious? What are the signs that someone might be contemplating suicide? We talk about listening skills, and communication skills. We talk about what to do if someone is in crisis.
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE: Meanwhile nurses working at the Agromedicine Institute do in take to determine if the peer program is a good fit for farmers who request help.
ROBIN MARCOM: They found out a little bit more about their background, about commodities they're farming, about their family, if they have a faith community. And also they screen them for anxiety and depression.
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE: They screen them for mental health issues before and throughout the program to determine if a farmer might actually need crisis intervention or professional counseling. They also monitor to see if the peer match is continuing to be a good fit.
ROBIN MARCOM: We've have both men and women who are peer farmers, along the age continuum. So we have someone who just graduated with their masters in crop science, and then we have someone I call our seasoned farmers, someone over the age of 60 who’s a farmer. With different commodities, so a Cattleman, Christmas tree grower, a row crop farmer.
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE: This kind of service were commonality or camaraderie is leveraged it to improve public health isn't exactly new. To develop her program Dr. Marcom consulted with a diabetes prevention peer support service. But the stigma around emotional struggles especially in a field like agriculture makes it tricky to get the word out, so people often come to her in a roundabout way.
ROBIN MARCOM: Because we have established those relationships over the years working on other issues, then people are more likely to reach out to us and say, "You've helped me before, can you help me with this?"
The most important thing they want is to make sure that when we're matching farmers, that we generally have people who can listen, that they can interact with, but they don't want to be matched with another farmer who’s in their own county or maybe the county over. That was the most important thing because the privacy issue that I talked about, the privacy and the pride. And so we have taken that quite seriously so that our matches so far have been on opposite ends of the state.
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE: One of Dr. Marcom's research interest is women in agriculture and so she's been especially excited to make those connections.
ROBIN MARCOM: The farmwoman who challenged me to do stress work, she said, "I can be dressed in professional dress."
She said, "And I can go into a meeting and people say, "Well what do you do?""
And she said, "I'm a farmer" and she said people look at here like she's a white elephant. That they just could not relate to her. Farm women can talk to farm women, and they understand one another.
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE: There's something about the mirror like quality of farmer-to-farmer that has made it stick.
ROBIN MARCOM: We have one pairing and they have been able to meet even though it's a very busy time of the year and them, they meet virtually and have established consistent conversations. And our peer farmer is just excellent in that she's able to offer very simple small things that the farmer that she's working with can do, that are really making a difference for that farmer. So I think that knowing that we have some matches that have established comfortable relationships, that's very important.
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE: For WFIU's Earth Eats, I'm Josephine McRobbie.
KAYTE YOUNG: Find links to the farmer to farmer program at EarthEats.org. Even though only 3% of Americans are currently farmers, a lot of people still identify with the agriculture lifestyle. That community has found a home in a video game. Harvest Public Media's Jonathan Ahl reports.
JONATHAN AHL: Harley Hand is getting ready for a day on the farm.
HARLEY HAND: Well first let me jump in a combine, and we've got a soybean harvest guys. We've got a big harvest, a bunch of fields that are ready to go.
JONATHAN AHL: He makes an adjustment equipment and he's on his way.
HARLEY HAND: Need to unfold the header I guess it's okay. Let's fold it up! There we go, alright let's roll.
JONATHAN AHL: But that sound? Not a real combine. The Georgia native isn't really behind the controls of a big machine at all. He isn't even on a farm. He's in front of his computer in his house playing the game Farming Simulator and streaming the session online where he regularly gets hundreds of people watching him play. Hand says a lot of his interactions with his audience are about learning the ins-and-outs of farming.
HARLEY HAND: It's a huge learning experience for a lot of people that come into my streams. I've got a lot of people that know nothing about farming, and they come into the stream, and they're like, "Oh really? That's how that works." And it's pretty cool.
JONATHAN AHL: Farming Simulator covers a lot of ground, from buying equipment, to choosing crops, to plowing, planting, fertilizing, and harvesting. AKA Rahmig is a gamer and writer who reviewed Farming Simulator for the website PC Invasion. He says the game is a lot like real farming.
AKA RAHMIG: The monotony, the tediousness, the length of time that it takes to plow a field in Farming Sim. It does give you an appreciation for what real farmers have to do it I would say from my experience.
JONATHAN AHL: Monotony, tediousness not the words you want to associate with something that people would do for fun. But Rahmig who lives in the Bahamas says the game still has a lot of appeal.
AKA RAHMIG: And we don't have major scale farm in here, you will never see a John Deere tractor here. Right? But it's still cool to me. It's still cool to see machines.
JONATHAN AHL: The game is so popular playing it can actually be a full-time job. Harley Hand and several other streamers play the game online almost daily with hundreds of people watching. There's also a farming simulator E-sports competition that has sponsored teams competing for cash prizes up to a quarter of a million dollars. A lot more than what most farmers make in a year. And some of the game's most avid fans are farmers. Shelby Walker is a Southern Illinois native in a PhD candidate in agriculture communications at the end of Hawaii Manoa. Her research shows some people who drive a real tractor all day will unwind by driving a virtual one.
SHELBY WALKER: The conditions aren't always perfect, but within the game the conditions are always perfect. So it's almost like the fantasy is, "I get to do things in the digital realm that I don't get to do in real life."
JONATHAN AHL: She says it's a form of escapism to do it in a more predictable environment. Walker says the game also attracts people who may not be farmers but feel connected to agriculture. That idea checks with streamer Harley Hand. He says all that tedious and monotonous time driving a combine, it allows him to connect with his audience.
HARLEY HAND: A game like Farming Simulator allows you to interact with the people who are watching you a lot better than you can playing a game like Call of Duty. It becomes you're building a bunch of friendships and you begin to know of everybody that's there.
JONATHAN AHL: Like here when Hand reads a comment in his chat about a viewer were recently lost his home due to financial problems.
HARLEY HAND: I hate to hear that brother. Hopefully there's a turnaround somewhere, man. I'm sorry to hear that brother. Hopefully things get better for you dude.
JONATHAN AHL: Farming Simulator is scheduled to release a new version late this year. There's much speculation whether it will add new features to make it even more realistic or keep it simple to attract a wider audience. Jonathan Ahl, Harvest Public Media.
KAYTE YOUNG: Harvest Public Media is a reporting collective covering food and farming in the Heartland find more at HarvestPublicMedia.org. Coming up later in the show a story from Harvest Public Media about farmers working on rented land.
This is Earth Eats, I'm your host Kayte Young. As we entered the summer growing season we bring you a story from the summer of 2020 from the Lawrence Community Garden in Indianapolis.
(Calm guitar music)
KAYTE YOUNG: Lake swimming, bonfires, and late-night ghost stories in cabin bunk beds, long hikes and camp songs, tug-of-war, and acorn arts and crafts - those are some of my summer camp memories. This year, most summer camps and youth programs have been cancelled due to restrictions in place to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. This has left many families scrambling for childcare, and many kids with too much time on their hands. Sharrona Moore decided to go ahead with the Next Generation Farmers Youth Program at Lawrence Community Gardens.
SHARRONA MOORE: Sharrona Moore. I am the founder of Lawrence Community Gardens, right off the corner of 46th and Post Road in the far east side of Indianapolis.
So Next Generation Farmers Summer Youth Program is all about teaching the kids the Junior Master Gardener curriculum and also strategic organic agriculture practices along with some small farm business enterprise skills. We have a youth program that's running right now, the Next Generation Farmers Summer Youth Program.
KAYTE YOUNG: [Narrating] The program takes place entirely outdoors so social distancing is a real option, but they had to make many changes for the day camp to be as safe as possible for participants.
SHARRONA MOORE: The first thing we did was we cut out all volunteerism. So we don't accept any volunteers right now. We offer all the children masks, we supply clean garden gloves every day, sanitize or disinfect them by washing them with bleach water every day. And then also they have latex gloves as well. If they're handling produce, they have plastic gloves that they can use to handle those. They all got hand sanitizer, and they got the disposable masks, but I also gave them bandannas. Each child was required this year to have their own water bottle - their own reusable water bottles. One person is distributing the lunch, you know what I mean with gloves on, masks,
KAYTE YOUNG: [Interviewing] Not having everybody come and...
SHARRONA MOORE: Yeah, no, no, no, so here everything is grab-and-go, or we're distributing it. So those are the changes that we made this year also with social distancing, they usually are spread out a lot more. And truthfully being outside, is increasing their immune system. It's building their immune system, the amount of vitamin D and eating from this farm is increasing their immune systems already. So when they go back to school their immune system will be stronger because we didn't have our big volunteer days with the Chamber of Commerce and our community partners.
We grow for funding to grow our youth in ten weeks ahead of time to help us get our hoop house developed and planted and cultivated so that we would have produce now for our youth to sell for this program. We needed their help regularly, so they came out and helped with getting the farm going. They came out Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and those three days we really got a lot done.
(Calm guitar music)
KAYTE YOUNG: [Narrating] I've had Sharrona on the show before. She's also the founder of the Black Farmer's Coop in Indianapolis. We talked with her about food desserts and farmer's markets and whiteness. I dropped by the farm last week for a chance to see their youth program in action. The farm is flat and open with a few outbuildings, a hoop house, and an almost finished entrance road off a busy street. On this morning there's blue skies and a cooling breeze. Sharrona introduced me to two young participants for a tour of the farm.
(In the background)
KAYTE YOUNG: I would love that.
SHARRONA MOORE: ...for the tour.
KAYTE YOUNG: That would be fantastic.
SHARRONA MOORE: Zion, this is Miss. Kayte.
KAYTE YOUNG & ZION MOORE: Hi
SHARRONA MOORE: Jackson this is Miss Kayte.
JASON HARMS: My name is Jason Rosales Harms.
ZION MOORE: I am Zion Moore.
(Sound of an indistinct conversation between participants in the background, and of feet walking on dry grass)
KAYTE YOUNG: We started at a wooden shed with the double doors flung open facing the road. It their farm stand.
JASON HARMS: It's open basically every day from 8 to 12. And this is the last week for the youth program. It'll still be open a little bit after. It's not open year-round but most of the summer. We got a lot of cucumbers, a lot of jalapenos, chilies, spicy peppers, just bell peppers, purple bell peppers, eggplants, banana peppers, a lot of herbs, dried herbs, eggs.
This is our You Pick for Free section where people can come pick produce for free.
KAYTE YOUNG: You got cucumbers.
JASON HARMS: We got tomatoes, onions. Here I'm pretty sure these are carrots.
ZION MOORE: Yeah, these are carrots.
JASON HARMS: And then these over here are also carrots, and these right here are all strawberries.
KAYTE YOUNG: And then we moved into the main growing areas.
JASON HARMES & ZION MOORE: We have some watermelons.
KAYTE YOUNG: Yeah.
JASON HARMS: That's zucchini.
ZION MOOORE: Tomatoes.
JASON HARMS: More tomatoes. More tomatoes.
ZION MOORE: And as you can see, we have built them up because when it rains, it can sometimes flood and kill the plants. We built it up so that, when the water... when it floods here, like all down there it will be all flooded, but the plants will still be okay.
KAYTE YOUNG: Oh so the water kind of goes in this channel.
ZION MOORE & JASON HARMS: Yeah.
JASON HARMS: In the road, so they don't get damaged.
KAYTE YOUNG: That's great. And has that happened this year?
JASON HARMS: Oh yeah, there's a lot of water.
KAYTE YOUNG: [Narrating] Next stop was the chicken coop.
JASON HARMS: This pipe right here, this is watering. That other pipe here is a food thing. And if we go in... this is where we get all the eggs from.
(In the background a rooster occasionally crows)
KAYTE YOUNG: All that's so cool.
JASON HARMS: Those are those chickens right there, are the ones that are the males of the group.
KAYTE YOUNG: Uh huh
ZION MOORE: And here -
JASON HARMS: Those chickens are all female.
ZION MOORE: Here's a fact; chickens don't like water so how do they bathe? They take a dirt bath. They use their feet and loosen up the dirt until they can like kick it up on their back and it keeps them cool.
KAYTE YOUNG: And so how do you keep them safe from like hawks and stuff like that?
ZION MOORE: We just built a fence around it so that predators can't get through, and we built a roof over it so that no flying animals can get inside, or nothing can crawl up in there.
JASON HARMS: And during the day we keep a close eye on them, make sure they don't too far and at the end of the day we take a head count for the chickens and make sure they're all there.
KAYTE YOUNG: And then you put them inside.
JASON HARMS: Yeah.
KAYTE YOUNG: So that's something that has to be done every single day right?
JASON HARMS: Yup.
ZION MOORE: At the bottom right here, this is basically the same thing that was over there on the rose, so that it won't get really wet in there. So that the water would be all in there. It won't be where really wet.
KAYTE YOUNG: So it's like a drainage ditch.
ZION MOORE: Yeah.
KAYTE YOUNG: Or almost like a moat.
ZION MOORE: Yeah. Step over here or that rooster, he's gonna attack you.
(Sound of rooster clucking in a low tone)
KAYTE YOUNG: [Narrating] They keep chickens mostly for the eggs, but they do have a couple of roosters in the flock.
ZION MOORE: That other one is kind of small and got the long tail, he's kinda the mean one cause if you just run from him, he'll chase you. That other one if you go close to him or try to pick up a chicken or mess with them, he'll go attack you. He's kind of the real... male chicken. And the other one he's kind of like the second male chicken. He came second.
(Sound of chickens clucking in the background)
JASON HARMS: The first rooster's a rare breed of chicken. There's a matching pair so this one right here and then the rooster, they match and they're a pretty rare breed.
ZION MOORE: So he protects her more than anybody else.
JASON HARMS: Yeah.
KAYTE YOUNG: Okay.
ZION MOORE: The last year or maybe some people this year, they had never seen a real chicken before. So this is like their first time seeing a real chicken. So I guess it might have been kind of interesting for them.
JASON HARMS: You just back away slowly and look them in the eye. They won't... they probably won't attack you if you do that.
ZION MOORE: Yeah.
KAYTE YOUNG: [Narrating] Back away slowly and look them in the eye. Got it. The next stop was the beehives. We approached two bee boxes on the path leading from the chicken coop to the hoop house.
JASON HARMS: A beekeeper that comes and checks all the hives to make sure they're all doing well, seeing if there's any honey ready to be harvested. We got a new set of bees back there but those are kind of more mean than these.
KAYTE YOUNG: They're a different variety?
JASON HARMS: Well...
ZION MOORE: I don't think so. It's just on... when the person that first brought them here, they brought them in the middle of the day. And the middle of the day is when bees are most active. When... if you like want to do anything with bees you probably want to do it early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
JASON HARMS: And he made them mad. He killed a couple of them while transporting them. So they got mad and stung us all.
KAYTE YOUNG: [Narrating] Next was a stop at the massive hoop house filled with lush greenery.
JASON HARMS: We have a lot of jalapenos. We got okra, a lot of our herbs are back there like the basil, thyme, stevia, a lot of stuff like that. Back behind the...
KAYTE YOUNG: [Narrating] To the left of the hoop house was a small structure.
JASON HARMS: We have a generator for our water pump, so we have a hose that we have connected up to it.. It's really long and we just water plants like that sometimes.
ZION MOORE: And so we have right here this is my mom's office - it's a trailer, because we don't have really any other...
KAYTE YOUNG: [Narrating] Wrapping up the tour is an RV that serves as Sharrona's office.
ZION MOORE: Is where we have our solar panel. So she just does all her office work in there.
KAYTE YOUNG: Okay.
ZION MOORE: And our farm stand has solar power on it.
KAYTE YOUNG: So you have a little bit of electricity?
ZION MOORE: Yeah, a little bit.
JASON HARMES: Yeah.
KAYTE YOUNG: I asked Jason and Zion about their interest in the program. What motivates them?
JASON HARMS: I just want to help the community because there's not many grocery stores here. There's not one in the neighborhood. Are all of them are on Pendleton Pike and there's no sidewalks to get to those or buses.
KAYTE YOUNG: Do you also enjoy growing food? Like do you have an interest in farming?
JASON HARMS: Yes, I have an interest in farming but I'm not going to go into it as a major in university.
KAYTE YOUNG: Right, uh huh.
ZION MOORE: I actually have my own business. I don't really have a name for it yet because it's a really small business I haven't sold anything yet. I have these rare chickens and their eggs that can hatch chicks, they can go for around 100 to around 50 dollars apiece. Called an Ayam Cemani chicken, it's an all-black chicken, their eyes are black, their feathers are black, their bones are black.
KAYTE YOUNG: And so you're raising them and then selling the chickens that hatch.
ZION MOORE: Yes. That's really my business, yeah.
KAYTE YOUNG: [Narrating] It was just about time for lunch.
ZION MOORE: During lunch we also do curriculum that basically, it's basically a school.
JASON HARMS: We learn about money saving, planting, harvesting, a lot of things that could help us out at the garden, manage our money that we earn from the garden.
KAYTE YOUNG: Yeah so, I saw a list of like different topics you guys had done, so you've done money management, chicken raising, chicken processing, so what was that like?
JASON HARMS: So we killed one of the chickens who wasn't very helpful because she was mounting the chickens and ripping their feathers off because she wanted to have an egg, but she was..
ZION MOORE: She wanted to fertilize them, but she couldn't fertilize because she's not a boy. She's still a girl but she was acting like a boy. So she was no use and she stopped laying eggs, so we had to put her into a crock pot, cook up some rice.
KAYTE YOUNG: My two young tour guides were not shocked by the chicken processing workshop. Jason had dealt with killing live chickens for meat in her grandmother's village in Honduras. And Zion had processed a rooster from his home flock that died accidentally.
ZION MOORE: One more thing is with the farm stand is we as a youth program, sometimes take a list of all our prices and the food that we have and we take it over there, we walk over there to the senior home across the street and go door by door and see if they want any produce. Cause most of them are really ill or old and they can't come over here or walk. And so we'll get like a cart or wheelbarrow get their stuff and then bring it over there. I think that's pretty much it.
KAYTE YOUNG: Thank you so much for talking to me you guys, this was great.
ZION MOORE: You're welcome
JASON HARMS: You're welcome.
KAYTE YOUNG: That was Jason Rosales Harms, and Zion Moore - senior farm hands with the Next Generation Farmers Youth Program at Florence Community Gardens in Indianapolis.
After a short break we'll talk again with CEO and founder Sharrona Moore about her vision for the program. Stay with us.
(Cheerful guitar music)
You're listening to Earth Eats, I'm Kayte Young. After my guided tour of the Lawrence Community Gardens, Sharrona Moore got the young farmers set up with lunch.
SHARRONA MOORE: There were some changes also with food this year, so normally we get our food from our... our students get free lunch from the township schools - Lawrence Township Schools. Well this year Lawrence Township Schools wasn't doing free lunch. So now my funds, some of the funds are diverted to providing them with lunch. The options are not always healthy as I would like for them to be, but they get lunch while they're out here.
KAYTE YOUNG: Once the food was safely distributed, we stepped into the shade of the farm stand to talk about Sharrona's vision for the Next Generation's Farmers Youth Program.
SHARRONA MOORE: So we teach them how to cooperatively work together and systematically grow food to become their own farmers' market. So students have a chance to learn, they learn how to become the master of their produce items. If they're growing tomatoes, they're going to learn everything there is to learn about that - growing tomatoes. So that they can produce a quality tomato crop. Now if they're friend or neighbor is growing cucumbers then their friend or neighbor is learning all there is to know about cucumbers so they can grow a quality crop, as well as the health benefits of the produce that they grow. So they can communicate those things back to our customers who come through.
They learn how to take care of chickens, they learn basic beekeeping skills, and this year we had about eight students sign up to take or to be sponsored to take a beginning beekeeper class. So next spring they'll come back, and they'll be the owner of their own hive out here. So they'll have all their equipment and their hive, and they learn the importance of bees. So that's another value-added item for our farm stand, and for the kids to be able to make money off of.
All of the produce that's being harvested, that's sold at their farm stand is donated from our garden to their program. So they earn profit sharing, but they are learning inventory, overhead and profit, data collection, you know record keeping, all those important things in order to run a small business. So they count the register, they learn how to do financial transactions - cash and credit cards, we even take SNAP here. So this'll be our first Saturday this upcoming Saturday will be our Saturday being open.
KAYTE YOUNG: I wanted to hear about the stipend structure in place for program participants.
SHARRONA MOORE: Junior farm hands make $50 a week, stipend, plus they earn profit sharing off of what's made at the farm stand. Senior farm hands, a second-year students make $75 a week and still earn profit sharing. Third year students earn $100 a week, and still earn profit sharing, and then also the senior farm hands this year are, we got some extended funding to keep on a few. So they'll continue to work out here Tuesday and Thursday from 5 to 8 and on Saturday 10 to 2. So our farm stand will be open 3 days a week, and they'll continue to earn profit sharing, plus a stipend every week for just continuing to work out here. We'll be able to keep four or five of them.
Senior farm hands are actually team leaders, so when they come back their second year, they've learned everything. They're nominated by their peers, which is important. Because peer observation is really important right? Their peers are observing their work ethics, their character, their behavior, how they treat other people, their knowledge here at the farm. So their peers are paying attention. As a senior farm hand they are a leader, a team leader. So it's their job to make sure in their team... the junior farm hands have to look to their senior farm hands for resources, information, correct way to do things here at the farm, so it's nurturing their leadership skills as well.
KAYTE YOUNG: I asked Sharrona about the logic behind offering the stipend.
SHARRONA MOORE: Well first of all we're working to reduce youth crime. By giving these kids a stipend every week, they're not going to be out opening up car doors stealing change. They're gonna feel like their work has worth. So they get their certificate in the end, and parents were looking for stuff for their kids to do... but understand $50 a week is not a lot of money. These kids are out here because this is absolutely what they wanna do. It's more to growing food, and being out here in the sun, and being hot and dirty everyday than just $50 a week.
What they're doing is... and I talk to them constantly about activism, food justice, systematic oppression, food equality, food access, food security, those are things that, terms that they're becoming familiar with early because this is the work that we do. Why do we grow here? We grow here to fight food insecurity. That's why we're donating half of what we grow to the pantries. But we're also here to improve food access for our food community. There's nothing else in this area where people can go and just get fresh organic local food.
Going to the grocery store is not freedom. The grocery store still controls what we eat. Being able to grow food and be in control of your wellness is true freedom, and so that's what we talk to the kids about. We also talk to them about investing in their communities as they get older - building in their communities, building businesses here, building your homes here, not just taking your families and moving outside the community cause there's issues here, but being a part of the solutions in the communities. So those are other things that I talk to them about all the time.
It's about learning how to be sustainable. You can grow enough food to take care of yourself, and your neighbors, at your own house. Doing it systematically in your neighborhood means that everybody in your neighborhood eats. Now we don't worry about the grocery stores closing. Cause we're going to farther away and we're gonna buy our sugar and our flour in bulk, and we're gonna come back and we're gonna distribute amongst our neighbors; we're gonna buy that collectively.
But our community should be able to be sustainable. Just by our own efforts. And that's what we're teaching them. How to care... how to homestead, cause we don't expect the grocery stores to come back. They'll have to gentrify our whole neighborhood for the grocery stores to come back. At way things are right now, the economic foundation of this neighborhood, the median income of this neighborhood, grocery stores aren't coming back. More and more businesses are leaving. They have to be aware of this. This is awareness at an earlier age, this is rebuilding and building a new nation. That's what this starts with, this small group of kids, this is building a new nation.
Food is justice, it's equality, it’s the one thing that no matter what color you are, what gender you are, no matter what religion you are, we all eat. Everybody eats. This is about justice for all people right here, they need to know that. I'm eating lunch at the same time so excuse me.
KAYTE YOUNG: It's okay.
SHARRONA MOORE: I gotta each lunch on the run.
KAYTE YOUNG: I asked Sharrona what she had in mind when she offered a chicken processing workshop in a youth program.
SHARRONA MOORE: The chicken processing was... we sent out permission slips to see if parents wanted, there were some parents that didn't want their children to see that. But I need them to understand when you order six chicken wings how many chickens goin' die. We need them to understand the importance of why we're growing food, and where these chickens fit in the cycle of the system here. They also learned how to butcher a chicken. So if you buy a whole chicken in the store, where do you start cutting it? It was more to the whole process than just the slaughter, the processing the chicken.
KAYTE YOUNG: And as we learned from Jason and Zion, they're learning a lot more than how to process chickens.
SHARRONA MOORE: They have to care for them every day. We have five teams, and each team is assigned a job duty for the day. So during the course of five weeks they care of those chickens five times. From feeding, watering, collecting eggs, maybe they have to clean out the coop and put new hay down. They understand their behaviors, they learn how to round them up, they learn so much about how do chickens bathe, how do we keep them healthy, even putting the apple cider vinegar and garlic in their water - you know to keep them from getting worms. (laughs) They know about that. We learned about eggs, sizing, how to grade them, the different colors of the eggs, right?
Processing the chickens was also about them understanding clean eating. If you eat meat you should know where your meat is coming from. And if you're gonna raise chickens at your own house, this is how you will process your chicken. They understand the process of getting the chicken from the farm to the table. Everything here is about getting the food from the farm to the table. How do we do it? From the seeds to the harvest, right? To taking the harvest back, diverting waste back to the compost and making new soil.
KAYTE YOUNG: I was interested in experiencing some farm to table salsa. Before I hit the road, I stopped by the farm stand to pick up supplies. I bought several varieties of peppers, golden cherry tomatoes, a cucumber and a couple of egg plants. The eggplants are for baba ghanoush, not salsa in case you're wondering. As I was about to head out, Sharrona offered me a Carolina Reaper pepper.
SHARRONA MOORE: It's... your whole life'll flash before your eyes.
KAYTE YOUNG: (laugh) Alright I'm gonna treat this one special, I'm not gonna throw it in with the rest of them.
[Narrating] We'll hear more about that hot pepper in another episode. To learn more about the Lawrence Community Gardens and The Next Generation Farmer's Youth Program, check our website EarthEats.org.
Be sure to find us to find us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. We have a short video this week of chickens taking a dirt bath, and Zion explaining. You can find us @EarthEats.
Increasingly farmers don't own the land they work. That's particularly true in the country's breadbasket and it can have environmental consequences. Harvest Public Media's Dana Cronin looked at farmland rental data to figure out how the system is impacting the land itself. As she reports, farmers who rent appear less likely to use conservation practices.
DANA CRONIN: Central Illinois farmer Lin Warfel feels a deep connection to his land.
LIN WARFEL: One summer afternoon me and my wife were sitting on the corner of the horse tank over there. It was a hot afternoon and it started to rain, and we both cried. We were so full of joy for that rain, my wife and I sat there and cried.
DANA CRONIN: Warfel, now 80 years old still owns the land that's been in his family since his great-grandfather arrived in Champaign County in the 1800s, but now he runs out the corn and soybean operation to his neighbors down the street. It's a crop share arrangement. Warfel provides the land and pays the taxes, his tenants provide the machinery and labor, and they split the profits fifty-fifty. His tenants are good farmers Warfel says and he thinks his land is in good hands. Still...
LIN WARFEL: Of course I watch them like a hawk. I live here, I watch what they do every day.
DANA CRONIN: Not all farmland lords are like that though. Many don't even live near the acres they rent out.
LIN WARFEL: A guy who’s renting the land from Springfield is not going to be sitting here with his wife, and he's not going to be crying when it rains.
DANA CRONIN: More than half of Illinois farmland is rented according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That's the highest rate in the country but it follows a Midwestern trend. Soren Rundquist studies agricultural conservation practices for the Environmental Working Group, things like planting cover crops and their prevalence on Midwestern farms.
SOREN RUNDQUIST: The sense that we get, that it's more of a business decision, trying to make the most out of your investment in terms of renting land, planting your cash crop versus incorporating a best management practice.
DANA CRONIN: For many landowners it's all about making a profit and while there are some existing conservation incentive programs most of them involve long-term commitments. Most farmland leases run one year at a time. Harvest Public Media analyzed data from the 2017 census of agriculture. Those numbers show in general Illinois counties with higher rates of rented farmland have fewer acres planted in cover crops. Same goes for acres of no-till, a conservation practice that helps reduce soil erosion and sequester carbon that contributes to global warming. Gary Schnitkey is a professor of farm management at the University of Illinois. He says many farmland owners don't see a profit in conservation programs that don't yield an immediate returns.
GARY SCHNITKEY: The attitude of the landowner really matters. Right? So if they're are concerned about the long-term viability of the farm, which many of them are, so those things can happen. If on the other hand those landowners want the largest current return you can get without much concern for the future then you have more of an issue.
DANA CRONIN: He says farmland is a pretty good investment. Bill Gates for example is America's top farmland owner, and that's why their rental system will likely persist.
GARY SCHNITKEY: I mean it's the only system you got so whatcha going to do? (chuckles)
DANA CRONIN: Lin Warfel says the system we got could have long-term consequences for the soil.
LIN WARFEL: If you don't protect the soil from wind and water erosion, and if you till it constantly with huge machines, that has an impact. And it's having an impact. We are losing precious soil.
DANA CRONIN: He says to save the soil we need more farmland owners like him who know how to take care of it. I'm Dana Cronin, Harvest Public Media.
KAYTE YOUNG: Find more from this reporting collective at HarvestPublicMedia.org. (Trendy Music)
I've got a French sorrel plant in a perennial garden bed next to my front porch. I've had it for years. It comes back every spring. Sorrel is a delicately leafy green with a distinctive lemony taste. I never know quite how to cook with it, but when I tried this soup recipe last year I loved everything about it. It's rich and satisfying but still light and fresh tasting. It's a nice soup for spring or summer and it's simple to prepare. You can probably find sorrel at one of the local farmer's markets or possibly at the grocery store, and if you have some growing in your garden you can start there.
Sorrel is a great green to grow in your garden because it is a perennial, it comes back year after year. As long as you can keep the deer off of it, you've got it three seasons out of the year. It's a very pretty plant to so it's nice to put in your garden beds as a landscaping plant. It's got bright green kind of oval shaped shiny leaves. It's a lot like spinach in texture, it's a very tender leaf. And then we'll want to wash it and spin it dry in a salad spinner.
(Sound of salad spinner)
Once you have the sorrel leaves washed and spun, chop them up. You'll need 2 and 1/2 cups. If you don't have enough sorrel feel free to substitute spinach or chard leaves to make up the difference.
Next you'll want to get the rest of the vegetables and herbs prepared. The recipe calls for one small onion, one medium peeled carrot, one stalk of celery, and two small potatoes. All of the vegetables should be diced into small pieces. The soup won't be blended so think about what you would want in a spoon sized bite soup, also the smaller pieces will cook more quickly. The last ingredient to prepare is the fresh thyme. Strip the leaves from the stem and finely mince.
(Sounds of vegetables being chopped)
Now you're ready to start assembling and cooking the soup. We're gonna start by melting 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a heavy pot such as a Dutch oven. And to our melted butter we will add the chopped celery, onions, and carrots.
(Sound of vegetables sizzling in pot)
We'll cook up these vegetables over a medium heat until they begin to soften. And we'll add about 2 teaspoons of salt, two grinds of pepper.
(Sound of pepper grinder)
And once the mirepoix vegetables the carrots, the onions, and the celery are starting to get soft then we're going to add the diced potato, a third of a cup of uncooked rice and that can be Basmati or Jasmine and four cups of vegetable broth. You could also use a chicken stock for this, and I've made my vegetable broth a little bit more rich by heating it up with some Parmesan rinds, it really adds a nice savory flavor to soups.
We'll simmer this on a low heat until the rice and potatoes are tender. Should take about 20 or 30 minutes. Once they are tender we'll add the cream, the sorrel leaves, and some fresh thyme. And then once the sorrel is wilted will taste and adjust the seasoning maybe add a little bit of salt and pepper and that's it.
Now that our soup has been cooking for about 20 minutes we're going to check... and yup those potatoes are tender, and the rice is cooked. So now it's time to add the cream, it's 1 cup of cream, 2 teaspoons of fresh thyme finely chopped, and then our sorrel leaves and you're going to want about two and a half cups of those. And just stir that in, heat through, and adjust the seasoning and then you're ready to serve.
This does not get pureed, I mean you could do that if you'd like but I think it's a really nice soup with all of the textures of the diced potatoes, onions, and carrots, and celery, and then a little bit of that rice just to kind of thicken it and give it some body. The cream is adding a richness, and then that bright sorrel flavor. The sorrel is very tart, it has a lemony flavor. But in this dish it's not overwhelming because of all the other flavors that you have going on and just the proportions. So it's a really nice soup to great way to serve sorrell and I hope you'll try it.
As always you can find the recipe at EarthEats.org. I share seasonal recipes from the Earth Eats archive each week in e-newsletter, the Earth Eats Digest. There's a signup link on our website EarthEats.org. It's a great way to keep in touch between episodes, and to find out about the latest videos on our YouTube channel. This week I walked through the steps of making and canning strawberry jam with less sugar than traditional jam recipes. You can use this method for any fruit jams, for all the berries and stone fruits this summer. See the video by searching for Earth Eats on YouTube and please subscribe and share with your friends.
(Earth Eats theme music, composed by Erin Tobey and performed by Erin and Matt Tobey)
That's it for our show this week, thanks for listening. We'll see you next time.
RENEE REED: The Earth Eats team includes Eobon Binder, Mark Chilla, Toby Foster, Abraham Hill, Payton Knobeloch, Josephine McRobbie, Harvest Public Media and me, Renee Reed.
KAYTE YOUNG: Special thanks this week to Robin Tutor-Marcom, Sharrona Moore, Jason Rosales Harms, Zion Moore, and everyone at Lawrence Community Gardens.
RENEE REED: Our theme music is composed by Erin Tobey and performed by Erin and Matt Tobey. Additional music on the show comes to us from the artist at Universal Productions Music. Earth Eats is produced and edited by Kayte Young and our executive producer is John Bailey.