E-Farm Proposal

Evanston Food Exchange PO Box 5430, 1101 Davis Street Evanston, IL 60201 www.evanstonfoodexchange.com

E-Farm to Career: Growing Whole People

Need: We agree with the founding premise of Evanston Cradle to Career (http://evanstonc2c.org/). Despite the wealth, hard-working schools, and dedicated non-profits in Evanston, too many of Evanston’s youth are unprepared to succeed as adults. One aspect of this challenge: too many Evanston Township High School (ETHS) students are leaving high school and even graduating without the skills to find living-wage employment or succeed in college. Yet every Evanston youth deserves the opportunity to lead a productive and healthy life.

Proposal: Our goal is to help create a year-round and more robust urban farm-based employment, entrepreneurship, and life-skills training program at ETHS.

Such a program would have myriad benefits, including:

Career and college readiness:

o Helping ensure ETHS students graduate with the skills to land a living-wage job, start a successful business, and/or succeed at college.

 Transferrable skills the program could teach that would help students succeed with any career or college choice include:

o Business and life-skills: Innovative problem-solving, high-stakes teamwork, professional-level communication, public speaking, business plan development, budgeting, accounting, marketing, sales, and leadership (by taking responsibility for key farm and selling tasks).

Executive functioning skills: self-regulation, organization, long-term planning, goal-setting, time-management, follow-through, and decision-making.

o Character-building: honesty, accountability, empathy, and service.

 The program would also both increase students’ awareness of jobs and entrepreneurship opportunities in the growing green collar career sector, and develop students’ technical skills in some of these career areas, such as sustainable landscaping and local organic food: urban farming, culinary skills with a focus on health, and selling produce: wholesale, retail, and restaurant sales.

 Teaching farming lends itself to teaching science, math, literacy, and other academic subjects.

o E-Farm to Career could teach academics.

GRuB is an organization already teaching all academic subjects (and graduating students) through their farm-based high school program: http://goodgrub.org/youth/grub-in-the-schools/.

o Or, E-farm could be used to reinforce ETHS students’ academic abilities, particularly in the STEM/STEAM fields.

 Replacing summer learning loss with summers of intense learning.

Evanston Food Exchange PO Box 5430, 1101 Davis Street Evanston, IL 60201 www.evanstonfoodexchange.com

Student engagement (drop-out prevention):

o Providing a key learning and success opportunity for ETHS students who learn best in experiential settings.

o E-Farm would be a relationship-rich, positive, rewarding, and safe community within the broader ETHS community where students would be mentored to identify, develop, and share their unique strengths. Thus, E-Farm would provide a powerful reason for enrolled students to stay engaged in school.

Increasing students’ health and academic achievement:

o Producing more extraordinarily fresh, nutrient-dense, organic produce for ETHS’ cafeteria would increase students’ health, which would in turn support their ability to learn.

o E-Farm’s nutrition education component would also increase students’ health, and thus their ability to learn. This component would include: increasing students’ access to fresh produce, teaching the value of producing/consuming fresh produce, and providing hands-on experiences in preparing produce in delicious and healthful ways.

We propose including the following elements in E-Farm:

1. The opportunity for 15-30 ETHS students to participate each year.

o (Currently, Edible Acre employs 5 students each summer, and works with 5 students1 during the school year through Senior Studies. (Senior Studies students receive credit for this work)).

1 This information is being verified.

2. Experiential opportunities for students to learn employment and entrepreneurship skills by playing key roles in selling the produce they are growing (farmer’s markets, community supported agriculture shares, restaurant sales, etc.)

o E-Farm would use funds earned through produce sales to help finance the program.

3. Year-round program for students:

o This could be accomplished through a formal E-Farm Career and Technical Education track. Or, it could be accomplished through a “stand alone” E-Farm program. Both the CTE track and the “stand alone” E-Farm programs could include:

School year:

 After school and weekend hours.

 Internships at local green-collar career businesses (like Farmhouse Restaurant, The Chicago Botanic Garden, Endless Greens, and Windy City Garden Center).

 The opportunity for more Senior Studies students to earn credit while working with E-Farm.

 A set of recommended existing ETHS classes to support students’ success at E-Farm.


 Summer E-Farm jobs.

 Internships at local businesses (as noted above).

Evanston Food Exchange PO Box 5430, 1101 Davis Street Evanston, IL 60201 www.evanstonfoodexchange.com

4. Four Year Program:

o Students would have the option of participating in the program for anywhere from one to four years. Each year a student returns, s/he will have the opportunity to fill a more advanced role with greater responsibilities.

One of the advanced roles returning students could hold would be Peer Mentor. Peer mentors would develop leadership, supervision, communication, and teamwork skills by leading work crews and mentoring younger students.

o Providing opportunities for students to take on increasing responsibility will ensure they continue to be challenged and learn new skills, even through up to four years in the program. Offering these challenges will help keep students engaged throughout their high school careers.

o By designing E-Farm to encourage deep, long-term student engagement, E-Farm would increase its positive impact on students.

5. Developing or adapting existing curriculum for using E-Farm to teach: growing and other green-collar career skills, employment skills, entrepreneurship skills, and life-skills. (See Career and College readiness above for a skills list).

o The Food Project is one source of excellent existing curriculum: http://thefoodproject.org/food-project-toolbox

6. Expanded growing area at ETHS:

o At least 1-3 acres of additional growing space on ETHS’ property.

o Possibility: replacing some landscaping with edible landscaping maintained by E-Farm students (such as planting blueberry and raspberry bushes instead of shrubs).

o Maximizing the learning and growing potential of ETHS’ existing greenhouse.

o Including growing salad greens year-round for the cafeteria.

7. A service component: In the model of Habitat for Humanity, E-Farm could provide a structured opportunity for students to help low-income Evanston families (including their own families) install and grow backyard food gardens.

o This component would enable E-Farm students to: practice their organizational, teaching, communication, teamwork, and public speaking skills, help increase community members’ and their own families’ health and food security, gain informal community mentors, and learn from people with a diverse range of life experience.

o Garden Raised Bounty (GRuB) is an organization already successfully implementing this idea: http://goodgrub.org/kitchen-garden-project/

8. At least one dedicated full-time paid staff member to manage and implement E-Farm.

9. Regular measures of students’ skills, health, and success in employment, entrepreneurship, and college. On a yearly basis, E-Farm would analyze its success measures to identify and implement program improvement ideas.

Evanston Food Exchange PO Box 5430, 1101 Davis Street Evanston, IL 60201 www.evanstonfoodexchange.com

Methodology – Use best practices already developed by successful farm-based youth employment and life-skills training programs, such as:

o Garden Raised Bounty (GRuB) (http://goodgrub.org/youth/grub-in-the-schools/)


o The Chicago Botanic Garden’s Youth Farm (http://www.chicagobotanic.org/urbanagriculture/youthfarm).

o The Food Project (http://thefoodproject.org/what-we-do).

o The Gary Comer Youth Center (http://www.gcychome.org/?project=green-initiatives, http://www.gcychome.org/index.php/project/teen-employment/).

o The Talking Farm (http://www.thetalkingfarm.org/eths-projects/).

Implements existing ETHS Edible Acre.

o Growing Power (http://www.growingpower.org/programs/youth-corps/).

Leadership Goal – Develop a model program that could be used in other schools/communities.

Evanston Food Exchange Role

 Partner with ETHS to implement E-Farm to Career.

 Fundraise for E-Farm to Career, including grant-writing, sponsorship solicitation, and individual gift solicitation.

 Provide connections to experts, community resources, and knowledge of best practices in implementing programs similar to E-Farm to Career.

 Lend additional support as requested by ETHS.

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