Urban youth connect with farms
For some teenagers, sitting around messing with their phone is what they live for. Indeed, research has shown that kids often spend as little as seven minutes outside, a day...and the results aren't good. But not these teenagers, at least not today. Thanks to the support of members of the land trust, Genesee Land Trust's Urban Youth Conservationist program is getting kids outside, onto farms, and into nature.
That was the case when Genesee Land Trust brought three teenagers from Rochester out to Alasa Farms. Alasa Farms was protected with a conservation easement in 2011. The landowners and large animal rescue organization, Cracker Box Palace encourages the land trust to bring urban youth out periodically. This was one of the few times they had actually been on a farm, yet it was a continuation of their education as part of program where they had been studying the farm's history, ecology, and current operation.
Not what you'd expect
When we first arrived at Alasa Farms, the youth were astounded by the number and variety of animals- horses, goats, sheep, rabbits, chickens, peacocks, ducks, turkeys, geese, and some very large pigs. Kamaria Graham, an 11th grader and a lover of all animals, was particularly taken with the horses, excitedly feeding them carrots and reaching in to pet everyone.
Claudia Edmond, who has lived in Rochester her entire life, found herself face-to-face with the farm's goats, sheep, rabbits and chickens- a first for her as well. "It was cool, but I was nervous being so up-close and personal with those big animals," she remarked, noting that "I was more comfortable with the small animals like the rabbits."
But for Isaiah Hepburn, the highlight of the trip came on a snowshoe trek to Second Creek.
This was the first time the three had had a chance to snowshoe, let alone experience the sparkle of snow in the woods on their way to a woodland creek. Kamaria, standing by the stream, listening to the cascading waters, quietly remarked that she felt relaxed, that being in the woods brings a kind of calm, or peacefulness.
The youth were enjoying themselves so much and felt so comfortable that they were willing to try leaving the main trail and follow deer prints to see where those led. All three agreed that snowshoeing is something that more kids like them would probably like to do.
A program designed to change lives
Perhaps one of the most remarkable things about the Urban Youth Program is that these three teenagers have only known each other since July, but when out on a field trip act more like siblings- joking, heckling, and laughing. Huffing and puffing up the hill, back to the farm, snowballs started to fly. Running, laughing, falling, and pelting each other with snow was a great way to end the first snowshoe adventure. "We had wanted to talk about what the day had meant to them on the drive back to Rochester," said Lorna Wright, Director of Conservation Programs for Genesee Land Trust, "but when I turned around, they were either asleep or quietly thinking. They were able to leave the mental tension and stress from everyday life in the woods. That's a gift that more kids need to experience."