Spring is finally here and the sap is flowing freely. Native wildflowers are just beginning to blossom along my wooded roadside, mingled with virile sprouts of green. I can smell the earth driving its fertility forth as we tilt towards the sun. This time of renewal and fecundity calls out to all things emerging to push forward and grow. How appropriate that our Future Farmers Grant Fund is now open to youth of all age groups who yearn to learn more about organic production. These young organic sprouts need a place to grow and an association of organic funders along with UNFI Foundation is providing that opportunity.
The announcement reads: “The CCOF Foundation, in collaboration with partner organizations UNFI Foundation, Driscoll’s, Organic Valley, Bradmer Foods, and National Cooperative Grocers Association will be making grants in three educational categories in 2014.” In my blog “Where will Future Organic Farmers of America come from?” I described the birth of this program and the reasons why it is so critical at this time with so many farmers nearing retirement age. How do we begin to nurture young people to germinate into organic leaders? The program has three age groups and requirements so that these leaders can emerge and mature as they move right through higher education.
For the little sprouts in Kindergarten through Eighth Grade, we have ten $1,000 grants available for classroom organic projects. These $1,000 grants will available for 10 schools in California for projects completed in the 2014-2015 school year. Since projects must follow the production standards of the National Organic Program, the curriculum will have a new twist to the activities: raising chicks or planting a school garden. What better way to teach our children that organic starts in the health of the soil and the inputs you provide. These kids will come away from the classroom with an understanding of organic principles that they will take home and share with mom and dad. Spread the word now because the application period opens May 1, 2014 and all applications must be post marked no later than June 13, 2014.
For budding High School students currently in grades 7-12, there are grants for individuals nationally to complete an organic Supervised Agriculture Experience (SAE) projects. This is a first of its kind organic program coordinated through Future Farmers of America (FFA). Applicants must be members and demonstrate financial need to apply. The projects must follow production standards of the National Organic Program to ensure we educate young people on organic production methods in farm settings. Prior to this grant program, those budding future farmers didn’t have an option to explore organic processes and techniques through FFA. Now is the time to get the word out. Applications will be available through the National FFA in fall 2014 and must be submitted with a postmark date no later than November 15, 2014. Ten ambitious students will receive $1,000 grants through this program.
Finally, we directed grants for Vocational and Higher Education where students nationally can study organic agriculture. There are $2,500 grants available for at least 10 individuals who are currently in a vocational or higher education certificate or degree program* in 2014. These burgeoning organic leaders can be any age, full or part time students. These future leaders must clearly demonstrate how the program will benefit their career of organic production or becoming an organic professional. This deadline is fast approaching as Applications must be submitted online by midnight June 13, 2014.
The world needs organic farmers and organic leaders now more than ever. Future organic trailblazers will now have a place to germinate and set down roots. If you want to be part of this seeding process, please share this opportunity with your networks, friends and family. Help us get the word out by encouraging young people and schools to apply. Let’s build a new organic future through intentionally nurturing our best!