Spring Valley EcoFarms reports on its research and outreach programs and recent tours:
As flood waters subside from Midwestern farms and Georgia growers struggle through a drought, media outlets have jumped at the chance to educate the public about food. However, five-minute video clips or 250-word articles lack what Spring Valley EcoFarms offers: information rooted deeply in research.
For 15 years, academics, college students and farming professionals visiting the 100-acre facility have learned how to improve soil quality, rely on nature's nutrients for increased crop yields, and implement the latest techniques in organic farming. The farm's Agroecology Lab continues to be a research station for the undergraduate and graduate students within University of Georgia's Odum School of Ecology. Full Moon Farm, also located on the Athens property, provides farmers across Georgia and beyond with a business model necessary to implement community supported agriculture.
Now the 501(c)(3) non-profit organization enters a new stage of educational outreach by opening its gates to students in northeast Georgia's public schools. In May, nearly 90 third-graders from Timothy Road Elementary School explored Spring Valley EcoFarms. Kari Speakman, a Timothy Road Elementary teacher, says: "The tour fit (with our school curriculum) because the students were able to see animals in their natural habitats. They also saw how plants can grow without chemicals."
Sites within a farm tour include: a two-acre old-growth hickory forest, an original farmhouse built in 1868, free-range chickens, pigs and cows, a greenhouse with rare and endangered plants from Southeast China, as well as an active organic fruit and vegetable farm. "Spring Valley EcoFarms creates an outdoor learning laboratory that allows kids and adults an opportunity to use all their senses in order to understand how farm life can work with nature to produce food for people while also conserving nature," says tour leader Rachel Smalls, a graduate student at the University of Georgia.
Anabel Foucart, the farm's vice president and marketing communications director, explains that exposure to such outdoor learning labs is key for today’s school children. She says, "At Spring Valley EcoFarms we feel there is a need to support public schools through outreach. Our objective is to educate children in 'green' and environmental subject matter in a fun but strategic fashion, taking the burden off of the teachers who are focused on developing basic skills. We have the resources and talent to roll this out to children of all ages and backgrounds -- and hope to encourage a vivid interest and dialogue around sustainable themes and conservation."
As the consumer -- either young or adult -- continues to learn about food safety and increasing food costs, Spring Valley EcoFarms will continue serving as an open-air classroom. To learn more about the farm or schedule a tour, please visit www.springvalleyecofarms.org.
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