It just happens to be that time again where students are headed back to the classroom; anxious to share their summer experiences with friends and peers.
With smiles on their faces and the general sense of “awe” so thick you could cut it with a knife, Owens Community College Urban Agriculture students are sharing their summer experience with each other, the college populous, and our community.
Throughout the summer, several students took courses in urban livestock and animal husbandry, organic crop production, and many had internships in local businesses ranging from the Seagate Food Bank to local agricultural producers throughout the region.
In the urban livestock and animal husbandry students were hands-on in the animal world; dissecting tilapia raised in a greenhouse, feeding miniature Dexter cattle, and milking an international consortium of goat breeds.
Joanne Roehrs, a faculty member in the Math and Science department at Owens, had an absolute blast taking students to visit some of the region’s top producers of livestock and other animal bi-products. What’s not to love about getting to feed freshwater shrimp in Whitehouse and even a chance to “clean” your first chicken in Toledo.
Many of the students have taken the course because of their vested interest in learning all the best management practices and inside information for raising animals successfully as they intend on starting their own farms and homesteads.
Having students appreciate these experiences is an important infusion into the agricultural sector as the average age of farmers in Ohio is quickly approaching the upper 50s. These new pioneers are looking at making a shift in the paradigm of our current food systems and are the future of our local food supply; but it doesn’t take a future farmer to appreciate a trip to see where our food comes from.
I encourage anyone that is interested in getting acquainted with the agricultural industry of northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan, or just looking for a great place for a unique date opportunity to spend a day trip at an agricultural establishment or volunteering at a community garden. Too often people in our community downplay the exciting opportunities that exist and overlook that we have fun and exciting places that are more than happy to have volunteers and visitors.
You do not have to wait for the staple events like MacQueen Orchard’s Apple Butter Stir on Oct. 6 and 7 and local harvest festivals like the Oak Harbor Apple Festival the following weekend to find a niche getaway. There is a wide range of places worth visiting.
The next Thursday, if you are out shopping at the popular Perrysburg Farmer’s Market (3 to 8 p.m.), feel free to ask the producer if they offer volunteer opportunities or allow visitors at their farm or place of business.Remember that not all companies are equipped or staffed well enough to allow visitors, but I am sure they can recommend a great place to suit your interest.
It is increasingly important for individuals and families to know where their food is coming from and has been the inspiration behind the USDA’s Know Your Farmer Know Your Food Program, which can be accessed here. Using the KYF compass you can locate Farmers Market and other projects within the entire United States in case you wanted to find a market while planning the next trip.