By Brody McGuire, Executive Director of Rocker 7 Farm Patch: Desert Edge High School has a young, up-and-coming agricultural education program with a focus on teaching urban agriculture enthusiasts about production agriculture. The vibrant Desert Edge FFA Chapter has maintained a keen eye on community involvement.

HARVESTERS WITH HEART: Desert Edge High School harvests for the local community.

The 95 member strong Desert Edge High School FFA Chapter and agricultural education program is only four years old, and is located within the Agua Fria Union High School District.

“We have an 857 square foot greenhouse, 704 square feet of raised bed garden area, and a fledgling mechanics shop,” Desert Edge Agricultural Instructor and FFA Advisor April Scibienski said. “Our focus has been to make our students agriculturally literate members of society, as many of them do not come from an agricultural background.”

Rocker 7 Farm Patch is a new agricultural education farm located in Buckeye, Arizona, with a passion for teaching the community about the role of local production agriculture in the food and fiber they consume. The farm offers fall and spring school tours, along with a public fall festival including a corn maze, pumpkin patch and educational displays.

From the mutual vested interest in involving young people in agricultural education, these two groups developed a partnership to not only teach agriculture in a real-world, hands-on setting, but to give back to the local community as well.

This spring, Rocker 7 Farm Patch designated three rows in their wheat field as a test plot for a garden to provide farm visitors the opportunity to see exactly how their favorite vegetables are produced, not simply selected in the grocery store. The first crop of radishes was successful and abundant. Rocker 7 Farm Patch is thankful to be part of the local community, and could determine no greater use for this crop than to share it with that community. Desert Edge FFA was enthusiastic to spend a day on the farm to help with harvesting, cleaning, boxing and transporting the crop to a local food bank.

“We were thrilled to donate our first seasons crop to the All Faith Community Services Center in Buckeye, as a way to give back to our community,” Rocker 7 Farm Patch Executive Director Brody McGuire said.

McGuire planted three different varieties of radishes (Ping Pong, Easter Egg, and French Breakfast), which allowed the students to see the differences in varieties commonly used in production agriculture. Students were also able to learn about common agricultural practices used daily on the farm.

“We were able to discuss the importance of the Durum wheat crop and the impact of that specific crop to local production agriculture and global consumption,” McGuire said. “The wheat crop was a focal point for the spring school tours, where guests were able to learn products we receive from wheat, a bit about the harvest process, and were even able to grind their own flour.”

While the radishes and garden harvest were the focal point of the day, the opportunity was seized to educate young people about a common crop in our area and make it relatable to them by discussing its end uses and products. Students also learned that farmers do not delay operations in inclement weather, as they dealt with a light rainstorm during the three hours of harvesting and cleaning.

“When we made it to the community services center, the individuals there were extremely appreciative of the donation and work from these young students,” McGuire said.

All the students made their guesses on the final weight total, but guesses from students and educators alike seemed to change as the truck was unloaded. The final total was 327 pounds of freshly harvested produce right into the arms of the local community center.

“Desert Edge FFA is lucky to partner with Rocker 7 Farm Patch to bring our students some realistic, hands on experience in agriculture in our community,” Scibienski said. “Brody has been very generous with his time, serving on our advisory board and judging FFA competitions. This partnership has allowed for our students to be employed by Rocker 7 Farm Patch to gain a feel for what agritourism is all about.”

Scibienski felt fortunate for the opportunity to take her students on an educational field trip to the farm, where they learned how to harvest radishes and helped deliver them to the local food bank.

“This gave the students an opportunity to quite literally get their hands dirty while serving their local community,” she said. “The secondary benefits to this trip were to get an up close view of Durum wheat and learn its importance to Maricopa County, as well as work side by side with a farmer. Students often have preconceived notions on what it means to be a farmer and we're excited to get them in the field to see exactly who farmers are and what opportunities they might have to farm or get into related careers in agriculture.”

“The best part is that it's all very local,” Scibienski concluded, which is exactly the void Rocker 7 Farm Patch set out to fill when it opened the farm gates at its Buckeye location.

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