Extension brings innovative programming to urban areas
Pizza Farm and Fortson Farm bring a little bit of rural into the metro.
The metro Atlanta area is no stranger to UGA Extension. Programs like Pizza Farm and Fortson Farm bring agricultural education to the youngest in the state’s metro population, while Extension’s presence at events like Taste of Atlanta allows agents to share information on programs and advice on topics of concern to urban dwellers.
Started in 2013, Pizza Farm was developed by Extension “to expose urban youth to agriculture and to good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle,” said Kisha Faulk, family and consumer sciences program development coordinator and former Fulton County Extension agent.
Faulk chaired the Pizza Farm committee, which included representatives from Fulton, DeKalb, Gwinnett, Cobb and Clayton counties. “It also showed that Extension was alive and well in the metro community. Pizza Farm is an opportunity to let us expose urban youth to Georgia’s roots in agriculture,” Faulk said.
The Pizza Farm program uses the pizza theme to educate students about the different commodities that the state produces. Students rotate between stations that tie Georgia agriculture to a pizza—vegetables and tomato sauce, wheat and dough, dairy, meat toppings, even Georgia-grown fruit—and encourage healthy lifestyle choices.
“It exposes them to the work that we do in dairy, beef, farming and vegetables and other produce grown here,” Faulk said. “Urban youth are familiar with the grocery store, but not the fact that the food at the grocery store is tied to the farm—it’s all one, big cycle.”
In 2014, about 1,000 students came through Pizza Farm, roughly 200 students more than in 2013. Count the dignitaries that also attended in 2014—mayors, state legislators, school board members, county department heads, the state commissioner of agriculture, leaders from the college as well as industry groups—and the final total was more than 1,000, Faulk said.
Fortson 4-H Center brings the farm-to-plate concept to the classroom through its traveling farm program. The facility keeps a small, working farm with sheep, goats, calves and chickens and, at a teacher’s request, will bring animals to a school to teach students about the animals and the products they provide.
Teachers later bring their classes out to the 4-H center to see the Fortson Farm in action. There’s an onsite environmental education class, as well as an organic garden where students harvest what is grown and then use the fruits and vegetables to make a smoothie. Additionally, classes often act on the opportunity to donate and “adopt” one of the farm’s animals—they get a certificate and fact sheet about the animal beforehand, then get to see their adopted animal as part of the trip.
Fortson Farm personnel try to stay in the metro area, within a 50-mile radius of the 4-H center, but they won’t deny any teacher a presentation, Allen Nasworthy, Forston 4-H Center director, said.
“Their faces light up, especially the metro kids,” Nasworthy said. “Some kids have no clue where products come from, and we just assume kids learn this at some point. They ask, ‘Can we get milk from that cow?’ ‘Yeah, we do.’ They get excited not just to learn about the animal, but to be around it.”
— Kathryn Schiliro, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences