Dane County UW-Extension Horticulture Program Coordinator
UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
Total time – 3:01
0:21 – Overview of Grow Academy
0:47 – What Grow Academy is
1:57 – Program food use
2:30 – Program impacts
2:49 – Lead out
Lorre Kolb: Using agriculture to connect with at-risk youth. We’re visiting today with Joe Muellenberg, Horticulture Program Coordinator in Dane County, University of Wisconsin–Extension/Madison, in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, and I’m Lorre Kolb. Joe, you provide agriculture education to youth at the Grow Academy. Can you give us an overview of the Grow Academy?
Joe Muellenberg: The Grow Academy is an alternative program through the Department of Corrections in the Juvenile Justice division. We’ve been working with the Grow Academy since 2014. They opened their doors in May of that spring and they’ve asked UW-Extension to come on as a program partner to strengthen their education programs, as related to agriculture.
Lorre Kolb: What’s involved in the Grow Academy?
Joe Muellenberg: It’s like a school. They have a teacher on staff that takes the kids at their own level and they learn science, they learn math, literacy, and he weaves agriculture into a lot into those different subjects, as well as he can and then they have community partners that come in, such as UW–Extension and some other community partners and we support that program by doing hands-on activities and weaving in agriculture education into that to have the kids really kind of getting an idea, first of all how plants grow in the environment, how to understand ecosystems as a whole, they understand where their food comes from, and to understand the environmental and health effects of eating closer to home. They see plants grow from when they put it in the ground and growing up to produce fruits and vegetables and they understand how much work it took to put that food on their plate and they really start to have a new appreciation for not only work ethic but also where their food is coming from and so it starts to shift kind of societal attitudes towards our food system, as well.
Lorre Kolb: So, what happens to the food that they grow?
Joe Muellenberg: One of the most important things that we can do is offer the kids their own personal plots and they grow everything they want and their always the most passionate about that. So, they grow their own food, they give it to their families when they come to visit and on top of that, we have a much larger space where we’re devoting to just growing for our markets and for food that we can put into our kitchen and into their lunches and dinners, as well. We harvest up to, I would say about thirty different types of common vegetables.
Lorre Kolb: What are some impacts that you’ve seen?
Joe Muellenberg: Well, this is a very new program. It’s been a big learning curve for all the staff there, for the community partners involved, and we’ve been able to really incorporate a lot of different areas that are tied to agriculture and a lot of the kids have moved on from the Grow Academy with connections to job opportunities.
Lorre Kolb: We’ve been visiting today with Joe Muellenberg, Horticulture Program Coordinator in Dane County, University of Wisconsin–Extension/Madison, in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, and I’m Lorre Kolb.