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Massachusetts Kids Get a Lesson in Natural Resource Conservation

Brady Brazell, NRCS Civil Engineering Technician and Julie Tosten, NRCS Soil Conservation Technician, admire the goats taking a walk around the farm.

Brady Brazell, NRCS Civil Engineering Technician and Julie Tosten, NRCS Soil Conservation Technician, admire the goats taking a walk around the farm.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is working with Land’s Sake, a non-profit organization in Weston, Mass., to improve soil health and to install an irrigation system and a high tunnel on their working organic farm.

The Land’s Sake farm has been in operation since 1980, when the town bought the land from Harvard University, which owned it as part of the Arnold Arboretum. Land’s Sake’s mission is to connect people with the land through farming and forestry through educational programs on their farm and local conservation lands.

One day this summer, NRCS staff in Massachusetts were conducting a GPS-based survey of the entire property, when a along came a group of the farm’s Green Power Summer Youth Camp participants, walking four goats on leashes.

Hot from harvesting garlic all morning, the campers were ready for a break. The NRCS employees seized the opportunity to educate the kids—the human kind—about what they were doing, and the kids told the NRCS staff about their goats.

District Conservationist Dan Lenthall and Civil Engineering Technician Brady Brazell explained the NRCS project to the campers, aged 13-15, and two camp educators.  They discussed the irrigation project and the need to have accurate topographic information and field boundaries to design an efficient irrigation system for the farming operation.

The educators helped the kids relate what they were hearing to their work on the farm.

Lenthall told the group, “Land’s Sake wants to improve the efficiency of their present irrigation system and reduce their reliance on the public water supply that could be used elsewhere in the community.”

That was an important lesson for these campers. The Green Power Summer Youth Program teaches kids about sustainable agriculture, food justice and community through hard work.

Participants weed, plant and harvest on this organic farm, lead farm tours, maintain an education garden, perform community service and cook a community meal. Students also receive a percentage of the profits generated by the sale of produce at the Land’s Sake farm stand.

Land’s Sake also works with local public schools, which is part of a long tradition of agricultural education in Weston. The farm was recently awarded a forestry grant from the Massachusetts Urban and Community Forestry Program and works with the Weston Conservation Commission to harvest cordwood on town conservation lands.

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