Teens Grow Greens
Farm & Ranch Living|August/September 2017

A Milwaukee high school returns to its roots to give kids hands-on farming experience.

Alex Wendland Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Tucked away on the northwest side of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, are 80 acres complete with a barn, greenhouse, gardens, an aquaponics system, chickens, goats —and high school students.

The students, clad in sneakers and jeans, arrive straight from classrooms at Milwaukee’s Harold S. Vincent High School. They come to learn, through experience, from the school’s agriculture teachers about what’s involved in making and maintaining a farm.

Step into the right classroom and you just might find yourself in a plant-filled workshop or see a rabbit 28 farm & ranch living hopping around as part of a lesson. Agriculture study, a rarity at big-city public schools, is back in a big way at Vincent. While food and farming education formed the backbone of the school in the 1970s and ’80s, the focus on agriculture waned with budget cuts.

That changed in 2013, when a five-year grant from the University of Wisconsin-Madison revived the dormant agriculture sciences program. Student and community interest has been building ever since.

Students get hands-on experience by taking care of the farm’s handful of chickens, goats and turkeys. Even parents have a chance to get their hands dirty during the school’s Saturday volunteer program. “Every freshman is taking the Intro to Agriculture class,” says Gail Kraus, program coordinator and outreach specialist from UW- Madison. The 2016 school year was the first time the introductory class was mandatory for Vincent students.

Now a few years into the program, Kraus and her team have made such an impact on the school that the district is renaming it the Vincent School of Agriculture Sciences.

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