Cambridge, Wisconsin Ag Corps Connects Farm and School

A Wisconsin school farm provides backdrop for Grants in Place effort.

July 25, 2016 |

Left to right: (kneeling) Dr. Bernie Nikolay, Cambridge School District Superintendent; Raquel Parish, teacher and project leader; (standing) Dean Lund of Dean Lund Insurance, Inc.--American Family Insurance; Karen Stenjem, Cambridge FFA Alumni; Bill and Gina Eggert, Cambridge; Lexi Chitwood and Katherine Schmid, Civic Engagement interns. Missing: Intern farmers Adam Gunnelson who was ill and Cade Vethe, who was in band camp.

A bucolic Wisconsin farm provided the backdrop for an excellent Grants in Place project, the Cambridge High School Ag Corps. Funded by a $5,000 collaborative grant, high school teacher Raquel Parish coordinated farm-related work by Adam Gunnelson, a Cambridge High alum and current Northland College student, and Cade Vethe, a rising junior at Cambridge High School. The project took place at the Cambridge School District's Severson Learning Center, an 80-acre farm that was bequeathed to the district several years ago.

The trio assisted with farm-based summer school programs, maintained and harvested the community garden, and did conservation work on trails, wetlands, and the farm pond. The garden work is of the utmost importance to the greater community, as the produce is donated to the Cambridge Food Pantry, which, ideally, operates out of the Cambridge Middle School. Parish commented at a July 25th reception, "This project has allowed us to do a lot of work that we wouldn't have been able to do otherwise."

In addition to their farm work, Cade, Adam, and Raquel assisted the community's Civic Engagement interns, Lexi Chitwood and Katherine Schmid, with planning and holding a Farm Fresh Food and Fun--A Healthy Eating Event for Kids, which was held in conjunction with Cambridge's Open Air Market.

Taylor McCabe-Juhnke, a communications and planning assistant for the Rural Schools Collaborative, expressed how much she enjoyed working with the Cambridge young people: "It is really nice to see a school and community working together so well, and it is wonderful to support this kind of grant-driven work in the community that is home to your operations office."

This project would not have been possible without the support of local donors. Funds were provided by Dean Lund Insurance, Inc., American Family Insurance, Cambridge School District, Cambridge FFA Alumni, and Bill and Gina Eggert.

Grants in Place is a modest classroom grant program open to any certified teacher in a rural public school in the United States. In 2016, more than 60 teachers from seven states received grant awards in support of innovative education projects. Grants in Place proposals focus on the basic tenets of place-based education, teaching and learning that is imbedded in community with a public purpose.

The Rural Schools Collaborative is committed to the concept that small towns and schools get better together. Launched in the spring of 2014, the Collaborative is currently working in 12 states. This year its collaborative Grants in Place effort awarded more than $115,000 in place-based learning grants. Cambridge, Wisconsin serves as home to the Rural Schools Collaborative's operations office.

Below: The verdant school garden has kept Cambridge High School interns busy this summer.

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