Practical Farmers of Iowa is once again offering mini-grants to youth ages 18 and younger for on-farm research and demonstration projects. The grants are open to individuals as well as small groups of youth working independently or as part of an FFA or 4-H club. The deadline to apply for the 2012 program is April 6.
The Youth Mini Grant program, now in its second year, was created to encourage youth to take an interest in agricultural research and demonstration projects. Awards range from $50 to $250 per applicant. This year, PFI will award up to 15 grants, with amounts varying based on project complexity and associated expenses. To be eligible, candidates must hold a current family, individual or student membership in Practical Farmers of Iowa. Grant recipients must be willing to share their research results with PFI members through outlets such as press releases, newsletter articles and events.
PFI Youth Mini Grants can be used to reimburse expenses such as seed; planting supplies; livestock or livestock supplies; laboratory testing; office supplies; food and beverages for a demonstration event; and other pre-approved items.
Unique, worthwhile projects help get youth thinking creatively and learning by doing
Projects funded in 2011 ranged from a 12-year-old testing ways to control jumping and burrowing goats, to a sibling youth team comparing two kinds of bee hives, to a high school FFA chapter testing which of 10 different tomato varieties students preferred.
Sophia Roland, one of last year's grant recipients, devised a project exploring whether different planting configurations would increase the yield of purple snap beans. She planted three separate garden plots, one with traditional rows spaced 18 inches apart and seeds planted every 3 to 4 inches; a second with double rows spaced 3 inches apart; and a third with seeds clustered in a block planting configuration, where seeds were spaced about 5 inches from each other in all directions.
"I wanted to find out the best way to get the most product out of a garden plot," says Roland, who will turn 14 this year and lives in Storm Lake in Buena Vista County. "When I harvested each crop, I checked the weight of the beans from each garden plot. At the end of the harvest I calculated the total weight from each garden to figure out which produced the most beans."
Project made her "feel like a farmer"--she assumed full responsibility for managing her crop
Roland, who received a $150 mini grant to purchase seed and a digital scale, says the project made her "feel like a farmer" because she had to assume full responsibility for managing her crop and – like all farmers at one time or another – she had to cope with unexpected misfortune. "One of my garden plots was eaten by our calf, and farmers often have to deal with bad things happening to them," Roland says. "He somehow broke through the fence and ate about half the garden."
While Roland regularly helps her family on their small vegetable farm – they sell the produce at local farmers markets as Littlefield Abbey Farm – she says being in charge of her own crop gave her new insights into the knowledge working farmers need to succeed. "My grandfather has a farm, but I never really understood what he had to do to look after his fields, and weigh his corn," she says. "This was the first time I had to take full responsibility for a garden and take measurements. I had to be more careful and make sure everything was doing well."
Roland says other young people will benefit from a PFI Youth Mini Grant for similar reasons. "It will help them understand more about what farming really is, and will increase their knowledge about what goes into farming and the responsibility needed to raise a crop."
Applications are now open for PFI youth mini grants; deadline is April 6
To request an application contact Luke Gran at 515-232-5661 or [email protected], or visit http://www.practicalfarmers.org/programs/youth-and-next-generation_mini_grant.htmlto get an online version. Applications are reviewed by an independent panel of PFI members. Recipients will be announced in May.Founded in 1985, Practical Farmers of Iowa is an open, supportive and diverse organization of farmers and friends of farmers, advancing profitable, ecologically sound and community-enhancing approaches to agriculture through farmer-to-farmer networking, farmer-led investigation and information sharing. Farmers in the network produce corn, soybeans, beef cattle, hay, fruits and vegetables, and more. For additional information call 515.232.5661 or visit www.practicalfarmers.org.