Sow to Grow Farmers Market
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Show 1535: Student Farmers Market
Air Date: August 30, 2015
Conference Announcer: In 2014, Metro Career Academy was awarded the $50,000 Cox Connects Community Impact Grant to fund Oklahoma City’s first student-led farmers market.
Rob McClendon: Well, Oklahoma City’s Metro Technology Center was honored this month for an initiative designed to provide students with a unique interdisciplinary learning opportunity by creating their own farmers market. Called “Sow to Grow,” it brought together horticulture, culinary arts and entrepreneurship career majors to operate their own small business while meeting the local community’s needs for fresh fruits and vegetables. And we were there on its opening day.
Jona Kay Squires: OK, smile, 1-2-3.
Alisa Hines: With a scissor snip, the Metro Tech Career Academy Farmers Market is open for business. Jona Kay Squires is the horticulture instructor and says it’s a typical farmers market.
Squires: What you’re seeing here today is the farmers market, and we can’t count on the weather so we moved it inside. And you’re seeing vendors from all around the state of Oklahoma. Some have come as far as Duncan, Okla., to -- we have -- I have former students that are here, third-generation agriculture producers. There’s a gentleman over here, he’s a lawyer by day – he’s an agriculture farmer 24 hours a day. We kind of have a joke about that. Our students are having, you know, their projects and the things that they’ve either grown in the garden as well as things they’ve done in the classroom.
Alisa: And Jona Kay says it’s that hands-on experience that helps the students really grasp the concept of entrepreneurship.
Squires: I guess because for the students to learn, you know, it’s, it’s just the whole opportunity. They get to put all of those things together. They get to actually go from production to consumption, become the business, the entrepreneur. They get to work side-by-side with other producers, entrepreneurs. We can talk about it all day long in the classroom, we can show ’em, field trips, bring in guest speakers, but until they actually do it physically and understand all those components, they don’t understand it and get it. And so I guess to be honest with you, we, you know, we felt like that was the best way for them to get it. And for our community, actually, economically, you know, we hope we’re encouraging some other great things from it.
Alisa: Student Sawyer Austin loves the experience.
Sawyer Austin: We are growing our own vegetables out in the garden by the greenhouse. We’ve propagated them and everything all our own. It’s taught me a lot about how to keep a garden up – what to use, what not to use, what not to do in a garden.
Alisa: And for student Evan Mander, it’s teaching him how to keep things growing.
Evan Mander: I’m learning how to grow something and not kill it. Because I can kill – if you put a perfectly well plant in my hand, I can kill it just by looking at it. It gives me responsibility to where I, like my cattle – I’m responsible for them. If they don’t have water, they don’t live. If I don’t feed them, they don’t live. So it just builds more to where you’re having more responsibility when you get out of college and high school and you’re, when you’re in the adult world.
Alisa: Even though they’ve been preparing for this day, it’s kind of surreal to the students.
Squires: I don’t think it’s all come to them until today and being involved in it. And I’m curious to see that growth with them as we continue each one. Because I think some of ’em are nervous, some of ’em are scared. What we’re seeing is a lot of ’em are getting excited about what’s going to be my job? Or can I help do this? Or do you want me doing this, this skill? So I -- you’re seeing their confidence build from that, and you’re seeing them understand that it’s a lot bigger project, but they can actually give a lot more to it and that they’re open to a new experience.
Customer: Thank you so much.
Squires: You can’t put a price tag on that. You know that’s that education by tuition by learning, and I think that’s the best part, and I think that’s what CareerTech does really exceptionally well. We take all that cumulative book knowledge, technical knowledge, and we get to take it to a real experience and a real opportunity. And I, and I’m passionate about that, and I’m passionate about the fact that, you know, agriculture – none of us can live without it – gotta have it every day. And that’s the good thing -- I get to tell them, I mean, everybody needs you – you know what I mean? Where would you be without it? So they get to be a part of that, and I think that takes, that gives ’em that confidence and it gives ’em a skill set to really be able to achieve some pretty phenomenal things.
Alisa: And there is one very important reason to have the farmers market at their school.
Squires: There’s an economic investment. There’s a healthy food investment. Where this school and where we’re at, we’re in one of the worst ZIP codes in the state of Oklahoma. And that was kind of the thing that we talked about was – our kids complain about our lunches, we complain about having healthy foods, but healthy foods that tasted good, and so that’s kind of was the springboard for what kind of also helped us start the project.
Alisa: Healthy foods grown locally by local students.
Mander: Come to our farmers market every Friday from 10 to two.
Rob: Now, those at Metro Tech tell us none of this could have been possible without a $50,000 Cox Connects Community Impact Grant to get the “Sow to Grow” program up and growing.