Back to Top


Service Learning Coordinator, Danielle Follette, and Education Outreach Coordinator, Elizabeth Johnson, spent an energizing three days with farmers at the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Services (MOSES) Organic Farming Conference in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.  The workshops were diverse and informative, focusing on organic practices that reduce soil erosion, decrease water consumption and contaminants, and increase farmers’ yields. Needless to say, CEES staff found plenty of opportunities to learn about creative and cutting edge farming practices and to meet people with whom to engage in some really informative conversations. 

While there were many exciting classes, we were able to narrow it down to a couple favorite things we each learned.  We learned that pigs grazed on invasive bush honeysuckle produce some pretty tasty pork! We also learned how to predict deficiencies in soil nutrients based on the type of plants or weeds that inhabit a space.

Keynote speaker and compost presenter, John Jeavon, captivated the audience with composting techniques to increase both soil and water quantity and quality. His non-profit, Ecology Action in Willits, California, yields high produce and grain harvests on a small footprint of acreage, all the while leaving half of the space dedicated to native plants and wildlife habitat.  The “Grow Biointensive” sustainable farming technique utilizes nutrient rich, water conserving compost in the growing beds each season.  A high carbon to nitrogen ratio, particularly high structural carbon such as lignin, increases the soils water holding capacity and reduces his farm’s water usage by over sixty percent that of conventional agriculture. It is rather encouraging to hear a farmer tell a story about increasing space for native wildlife, increasing yields and decreasing their impact on the water budget of California.

One unique presentation that focused on international agriculture and the betterment of opportunities for young people was given by Lawrence Afere, farmer and founder of Springboard Nigeria. Springboard hires local youth to operate small organic farms in sub-Saharan Africa and uses the proceeds to connect young people to agriculture, education, and entrepreneurial opportunities, all while improving the local environment.

The story of Springboard and Lawrence's efforts proved to be inspiring and an endeavour with similar objectives of the current work being done by Discovering the Science of the Environment. Last month’s newsletter highlighted three Indianapolis elementary schools and three Eldoret primary schools that are connecting through conversations about science, schoolyards, and school gardens.  The goals of this endeavor are to deepen science knowledge, increase science vocabulary, and enhance students’ ability to apply classroom content to real world situations.  Springboard is educating older students similarly through agriculture and challenging them to think critically about their own future as well as the future of Nigeria and beyond.  This was really quite a gem to find at a MOSES, and it reinforces the magnitude with which agriculture affects people and the environment.

Over the last two years, agriculture has been one of the vehicles through which CEES science education has been delivered to school age children all across Indianapolis. Service learning events have also taken place to help with community gardens. In both cases, the students were taught about conservation practices, science and sustainability principles. Danielle and Elizabeth both have a strong interest in agriculture and plan to incorporate sustainable agriculture methods not only in CEES education but into future career endeavors.

Being able to attend this wonderful conference plus learn and share with other attendees has been an amazing experience. The event continues to grow every year and we hope to make it back again soon.

davisjg's picture