The Eastern Rhode Island Conservation District (ERICD) today announced that they have received grant funding in the amount of $78,889 from the van Beuren Charitable Foundation (vBCF) for the Portsmouth AgInnovation Farm Program (AgInnovation).
The funds will support programming for after-school classes and summer camp, among other things, according to ERICD. AgInnovation is a partnership between ERICD and Portsmouth Middle School (PMS).
The project began in December 2019, when 5 acres of fallow farmland in Portsmouth were offered by Martin Beck of New England Grassfed Beef to ERICD to lease for an educational program.
ERICD’s District Manager, Sara Churgin, coordinated with PMS’s Principal Joao Arruda and Science Coach Margie Brennan to discuss an educational partnership – and the Portsmouth AgInnovation Farm was born. Brennan created a virtual AgInnovation class during the pandemic with 25 students. Through student-led discussions, Brennen worked with the students to learn about topics such as gardening, composting, solar power, and irrigation. They researched and planned what is now the general idea and layout of the farm. The students completed their first full growing season in 2021, donating produce to local food pantries.
Brennan said in a provided statement, “These kids are our leaders of tomorrow. We believe that through educating them about sustainable agriculture with hands-on learning, they will feel connected to the food system, each other, and the wider community – giving them the tools they need for the future.”
The farm’s programming has grown, with the addition of resources including a classroom structure, community farm plots, seasonal high tunnel, pollinator path, tractor with attachments, chickens, composting, and outdoor pavilion planned for construction in Spring 2023. Brennan runs programming year-round, teaching concepts and methods that the students implement on the farm Spring through Fall.
Sara Churgin, said in a provided statement, “We are so appreciative of how our community has come together in so many ways to make this project in Portsmouth possible, and we can’t wait to take it island-wide.”
To learn more about the farm visit https://www.easternriconservation.org/aginnovation-farm or contact Sara Churgin at firstname.lastname@example.org.