Kirkpatrick 4-H Farm helps urban youth experience agriculture
By Kylene Orebaugh
Rural youth may take for granted the opportunity they have to be able to go out their front door and see, smell and experience livestock or a farm environment. Not so, for some central Oklahoma urban youths.
Tomas Manske, a 4-H and youth educator for Canadian County, Okla., manages the Kirkpatrick 4-H Farm in Yukon, Okla. The farm was established in 1997 to give urban youth and their families the opportunity to experience agriculture and environmental education through two main programs.
"For some of the more urban youth, it is their first time to touch an animal, walk through a grove of trees, or just have the opportunity to see, touch, feel, taste and smell the raw products utilized in their daily lives," Manske said.
The two main programs are known as Farm Kids and Classroom. The Farm Kids program allows youth to apply for a scholarship position to house and work with animals. According to Manske, the animal projects have included:
--Even a few heifer and steer projects.
Also in the program, they can learn about plants and farming by working in and caring for garden plots on the property.
"Youth and families visiting the farm get to experience a natural setting of trees, plants and animals in an urban environment as they participate in hands-on activities and workshops designed to enhance their understanding of agriculture past and present," Manske said.
The Classroom program allows groups (schools, daycares, vacation Bible schools, and other groups) to schedule field trips to the farm to learn about agriculture.
"Students and participants are taught the roles of animals and plants from production to harvest," Manske said. "Resources such as The Oklahoma Ag in the Classroom curriculum and research based information from the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service enhance student learning through hands-on activities and handouts."
There are also classes taught to fit other curriculum.
"Classes are also taught about environmental issues and practices such as recycling, composting, and water issues," Manske said.
The project began in 1997 by John Kirkpatrick and his grandson Christian Keesee.
"Because of their philanthropic attitude and their belief of the life skills learned through an agricultural experience--responsibility, working with animals, setting goals, finances, etc.--they worked with the OCES educators and citizens of Yukon to design, develop and build the facility with as little impact to the environment and surrounding businesses and housing additions as possible," Manske said.
Today, the farm is located on property known as the Molly Spencer Farm. The farm sits in a major business district in Yukon, Okla., west of Oklahoma City. According to Manske, the facility itself consists of a 30- by 70-foot building--with classrooms in the front half and animal pens in the back half. Other animal housing and storage sheds sit on approximately one acre.
"In addition, access is available to the remaining 35 acres with the original Chisholm Trail running directly through it. Also available for education purposes are: two small ponds, an orchard, a small vineyard, an old west town front and a one room schoolhouse," Manske said. "Furthermore, the property supports a small flock of sheep and a herd of cattle, as well as Katy the mule."
In addition to Manske, other OCES staff working on the farm include: Susan Meitl, 4-H; Casey Sharber, horticulture; Brad Tipton, agriculture and CED; and Donna Jung, family and consumer science.
"Numerous adult volunteers and 4-H teen leaders are utilized to assist with programs and classes throughout the year," Manske said.
The project is primarily funded through grants and donations.
"Funding for the Kirkpatrick 4-H Farm is through grants received from The Kirkpatrick Family Fund, Canadian County Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, Canadian County 4-H Foundation, the United Way of Canadian County, and donations from numerous individuals and companies," Manske said.
To date, more than 15,000 youth and their families have visited the farm and taken part in the programs offered at the farm and its surrounding property.
"The facility is available for booking by groups and classes during the year, with seasonal topics such as pumpkin planters and crops in the fall to dairy and harvest topics in the spring," Manske said.
And that is exactly the purpose of the 4-H farm--to learn.
"Youth and families learn many lessons at the farm from daily care and maintenance of animals in the Farm Kids program to agricultural and environmental awareness in the Classroom program," Manske said. "The goal is to create an understanding of modern-day agriculture and the many aspects involved in that industry such as production, processing, distribution, and by-products."
Kylene Orebaugh can be reached by phone at 620-227-1804 or by e-mail at email@example.com.