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Farm for All: Welcoming Everyone to On-Farm Programs

At the Learning Center, one of our guiding principles is that biological and cultural diversity are essential to the health of our world. We believe that having all kinds of living things on the farm is not just good and healthy, but necessary for our future.

As the On-Farm Program Director, I'm always thinking about how to weave this important principle into our work, particularly when it comes to welcoming all kinds of people to the farm for our programs. How do we ensure that our program participants reflect the diversity in our communities? Since our programs are funded primarily by program fees, how do we ensure that we welcome everyone regardless of their ability to pay? How can we break down barriers to participation in workshops, day camps and more? What can we do to ensure that the farm feels like home not just for some people, but for everyone? 

Looking back at 2014, I'm reflecting on our work to answer these questions, and I'm excited about a couple of things:

  • Thanks to generous donors, we were able to offer school field trips and other custom programs to low-income members of the community for a reduced fee. The Kovler Center for Survivors of Torture, Guilford High School in Rockford, U CAN Chicago, Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School, Camp Parkside in Milwaukee, Tamarack Waldorf School, and Haskell Elementary in Rockford had fun, hands-on farm experiences that were funded in part through our Farm for All Fund. We gave out over $7000 in scholarships in 2014, and we're planning to offer $10,000 in scholarships in 2015. 
  • We want to welcome people who primarily speak Spanish to the farm for workshops, day camps, and events. Led by Reverend Neddy Astudillo, the co-founder of the Learning Center and the pastor of San Jose Church in Beloit, we taught cheesemaking, organic gardening, and animal day events in Spanish for youth and families this year. Thanks to a Youth Educator Grant from USDA-SARE, we were able to offer these programs free of charge. We're planning to continue to offer workshops in Spanish in 2015.
  • We partnered with our friends at the Farley Center for Peace, Justice and Sustainability to offer our Farm Dreams class to new immigrant farmers in Southern Wisconsin.
  • We added a ramp to our main workshop space so that people with limited mobility, particularly people who use wheelchairs, can attend our workshops free of hassle. 

In 2015, we'll keep thinking about our values and how to make them into a reality. If you want to get involved by making a contribution, requesting a scholarship, translating a workshop, or something else, email us at programs@learngrowconnect.org. We'd love to hear from you!