- Associated Press - Saturday, November 19, 2016

GARY, Ind. (AP) - The bleating of a pair of goats has been added to the clucking of hens at Thea Bowman Leadership Academy’s urban farm.

Nearly two dozen students at the high school are taking the Entrepreneurship and Personal Finance class, which oversees the farm. A couple of years ago, teens wrote a business plan to operate it and are continuing to expand it. They are responsible for feeding and caring for the animals, harvesting the chicken eggs and learning the basics of farming.

Even though the number of farms are declining around the country, according to the Urban Farming website, urban farms are springing up in cities around the United States.

Urban agriculture or urban farming is the practice of cultivating, processing and distributing food in or around a village, town or city. Urban agriculture also can involve animal husbandry, aquaculture, urban beekeeping and horticulture.

Bowman teachers Lynda Bodie and LaMario Richards said the charter school piloted an advanced business class a couple of years ago and the students turned their new chicken operation into Eagle’s Nest Farm, with a wholesale certificate of registration through the Indiana State Egg Board.

This year, Purdue University in West Lafayette selected Thea Bowman to be one of two schools in the state where it started a middle/high school chapter of its Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences (MANRRS) Program. The group promotes the agricultural sciences and related fields in a positive light to ethnic groups that have not been consistently connected to opportunities in the agricultural business fields.

Bodie said Bowman students will work on projects and participate in activities throughout the year at Purdue West Lafayette and be mentored by students and faculty from the Purdue College of Agriculture.

Bowman students are working with a team to complete group research projects in the plant science field. At the end of the school year, students will present their findings in a research symposium at Purdue, and may have a chance to attend a national conference.

The Bowman students meet twice a month with Purdue advisers Eli Hugghis and Christine Charles, along with their teachers Richards and Bodie. Myron McClure, Assistant Director, Purdue Office of Multicultural Programs, oversees the program.

Bodie said the 17 chickens produce between seven and nine dozen eggs a week. The students also oversee a garden where they grow Swiss chard, egg plants, tomatoes, kale, greens and peppers.

The students don’t let the farmyard manure bother them. They go out and take care of the animals, picking kale from their garden to feed the goats and shoveling manure as needed.

Fresh fun learning experience

Senior Asia Duncan, who is president of the new MANRRS chapter at Bowman, said this is her first experience with urban farming.

“It was a brand new experience. I think everyone needs to know about this,” she said.

“We’ve all tried the goat milk soap and it’s really good for your skin. We use the Swiss chard to make smoothies and that’s sold to students and teachers at school.”

Senior Eddie Campbell said he’s enjoying working with the animals, though he plans to major in nursing.

Senior MaeKare Keys said she is the “go-to” person regarding feeding the animals, and this is her second year working in the urban farm.

“I started last year and it has really grown on me,” Keys said. “My mom would like to do this. We’ve already got a small garden in the back.”

Senior Omunique Reed, who plans to major in clinical psychology, has enjoyed working in the 4-H program and saw the school’s program as another opportunity to learn about urban farming.

Bowman High School Principal Sarita Stevens said the Agribusiness Systems Career Pathway is one of three career pathways offered at the charter school.

She said the urban farm and the school’s affiliation with Purdue University”s MANRRS Programs and the 4-H provide enrichment activities for the students further develops their knowledge of the industry.

“These experiences include a platform for showcasing the animals raised on the farm and the participation in hands-on activities related to veterinarian science, plant and soil sciences and food production,” she said.

Stevens said other career pathway options offered at Bowman are Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics and Health Sciences.

“One of the most important accomplishment of an educator is helping students match knowledge to skills,” she said.

“Students are often disconnected from the purpose of learning. When a student connects, they often explore and learn far beyond what is prepared for them in the classroom. In some cases, like advanced technology class, the students and the educators learn together. This provides a wonderful discovery learning environment in which the student is more actively engaged in the educational process.”

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Source: The (Northwest Indiana) Times, https://bit.ly/2g8gQxV

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Information from: The Times, https://www.nwitimes.com

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