Wednesday, 12 April 2017 09:55

Partnership with urban youth group furthers agriculture education

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Tyler Weins from Farm Credit Canada,  Melissa Pearl of the Medicine Hat Youth Action Society, Nichole Neubauer representing Neubauer Farms meet in regards to their partnership announced earlier in April. Tyler Weins from Farm Credit Canada,  Melissa Pearl of the Medicine Hat Youth Action Society, Nichole Neubauer representing Neubauer Farms meet in regards to their partnership announced earlier in April. Photo by Patty Halladay

Neubauer Farms is always busy as the owners combine both the regular agriculture production as many farms do, but with an added educational tourism component.

Many tours are conducted at the this original Neubauer Family Century Farm which is owned and operated by Mark and Nichole Neubauer and their two children. The farm located south east of Medicine Hat, offers both private and school tours.
In early April, Neubauer Farms added a new program.
Farm Credit Canada has donated funding to the Medicine Hat Youth Action Society in order to develop the “Growing Together” youth project which will be based out of Neubauer Farms.
“I was contacted by the local Farm Credit Corporation office when they became familiar with the agriculture education programming that they offer here at the farm. They wanted to become involved with our program in some capacity,” explains Nichole. “After some discussion, they decided that the work being done with the Medicine Hat Youth Action Society aligned with their funding mandate.
She explains in the summer of 2016, the Medicine Hat Youth Action Society and Neubauer Farms launched a pilot program for youth ages 11-17.
Youth from the community visited the farm on a weekly basis throughout the summer. They were responsible to plant, maintain and harvest their own vegetable garden.  
As produce ripened it was harvested by the youth to take home. The Neubauers coached the youth as they prepared snacks such as salads and smoothies with produce they grew and harvested.
“Due to the success of the pilot, it was our desire to expand this program this year. The youth have named this program ‘Growing Together,’”  says Neubauer. “We are looking to expand enrollment this summer, and thanks to the funding provided by FCC,  the youth will have the opportunity to build entrepreneurial skills as they will be selling their produce at a local market. We are always looking for opportunities to partner with other organizations and groups. We are a local voice for agriculture, partnerships allow us to share our story more effectively with our community.”
According to their website, the mixed farm not only has crops such as cereals, oilseeds, forage and raises beef cattle, but has a large garden including a pumpkin patch. Visitors can also see how to mill wheat into flour plus the opportunity to visit numerous farm animals such as chicks/chickens, goats and pigs, as well as feed baby calves.
Besides this new partnership with the Youth Action Society, the Neubauer family has hosted the Growing Minds on-farm agriculture education program.
They estimate more than 12,000 students from Medicine Hat and surrounding area have visited the farm to learn about agriculture and where their food is grown.
“The basis of our agriculture education program is to tailor each visit to the needs of our audience. We have spent years creating programming options that adjust to the developmental level of our visitors,” says Neubauer. “With our current level of infrastructure, 3,000 student visitors per year is our maximum capacity. Our focus has always been to offer an amazing experience to our guests. This includes small group activities with plenty of hands-on exploration. Each year, we have a waitlist of teachers who would like to visit, but the quality of our program would be compromised if we accommodated every request.
“The general message of teaching our visitors ‘where their food comes from’ is always priority number one. We collaborate with teachers to ensure the tour meets required education outcomes. Our Community Classroom experience allows students to visit the farm for two entire days. Essentially, our farm becomes their classroom. We are always open to new ideas and because some students have visited us multiple times, we constantly strive to be innovative, creative and to offer a new experience. That’s the beauty of visiting the farm. It changes and evolves with the seasons. A trip to the farm is never the same.”
She adds they embed safety into many of their activities to teach children why there are rules in place to keep them safe. With materials from Alberta Agriculture, they have set up specific learning stations centered around farm safety.
There is plenty of behind-the-scenes work that goes into creating a successful tour. Neubauer notes for one standard 90-minute field trip, there are about 90 minutes of planning and preparation required.
The biggest additions to their program have been in the form of infrastructure development. In 2013, they added a 40x60 canvas covered shed to be used as their indoor classroom. The natural lighting and ability to get in out of the elements have made a huge impact for them.
This past fall, they completed their indoor washroom facilities, and the real game-changer is currently in the planning stages. The Neubauers will be adding a community kitchen so visitors can prepare fresh produce from the garden.  
“I have an amazing team who works with me,” says Neubauer. “To accommodate 3,000 guests each year, I have hired additional ‘Farmer Facilitators’. The biggest challenge our program faces really comes down to funding. We charge a small users fee to our visitors to cover some of our expenses. Our agriculture education program operates as a social enterprise, whereby any profits generated are directly re-invested into program development. It is very important to us that agriculture education remains an affordable option for educators throughout our community.”
With that in mind, Neubauer Farms has partnered with The Medicine Hat and District Childcare Association (not-for-profit).  Together they will host a Field to Feast Fundraiser long table dinner on Saturday, Aug. 19 which will be held in conjunction with Open Farm Days. 
Neubauer Farms will raise all of the produce and proteins for the meal. They have hired a local caterer and are just finalizing details. All proceeds raised will go directly to the Medicine Hat and District Childcare Association for the purpose of funding agriculture education opportunities for children throughout southeast Alberta.
The Neubauers also offer the region’s only Community-Supported Agriculture program which began in 2013 to approximately 30 families from the Medicine Hat area. This allows these families to come directly to the farm to pick up locally-grown produce fresh off the farm.

Read 1919 times Last modified on Wednesday, 12 April 2017 10:13
Ryan Dahlman

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