This summer, dozens of Columbus North YMCA youth participated in 4-H urban gardening programs as part of an urban agriculture exchange program with 4-H and YMCA youth from Accra, Ghana. In response, in May of 2017, three Ghanaian youth and an advisor will travel to Columbus to share their urban agriculture experiences at the annual Ohio Future Farmers of America (FFA) conference at the Ohio State Fairgrounds. The exchange is part of an InFACT Discovery Theme Linkage and Leverage Grant project: “Our Common Home Food Security Project: A Youth Based Approach to Climate Resilient Agriculture,” that was catalyzed by Cardinal Peter Turkson’s visit to Ohio State in November of 2015.
Project coordinator Dustin Homan worked with with Franklin County Extension Master Gardener Volunteers (MGVs) led by OSU’s Mike Hogan and with help from Dr. Robert Agunga, to help North YMCA youth plant, tend, and harvest a garden, and facilitated eight 1-hour gardening workshops with elementary school students between June and August of 2016. Students were taught various gardening techniques and were able to grow their own produce, including tomatoes, cucumber, zucchini, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, and eggplant, which were distributed to participants and their families. Dustin Homan and collegiate 4-H members from OSU have also continued a series of bi-weekly after school programs to teach about nutrition, local food systems, cooking techniques, and incubating chicks. The goal of the workshops is to recruit interested students for next summer’s garden and build relationships between 4-H leaders and urban youth in Columbus.
In addition to Homan’s leadership, multiple partners have been involved in shaping and supporting the project, including Laura Joseph (OSU Center for African Studies), Steven Blalock (OSU Mershon Center for International Security Studies), Dr. Greg Hitzhusen (OSU College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) and School of Environment and Natural Resources, co-PI), Dr. Robert Agunga (CFAES and Center for African Studies, co-PI), Tim Sword (Greater Columbus Sister Cities International), Trevor Secord (North YMCA), Kwabena Nketia Addae (Ghana YMCA), Appiah Boating (4-H Ghana), and Mike Hogan, Sue Hogan, and Master Gardener Volunteers (OSU Extension Franklin County). Images and content for this post were drawn from an InFACT grant progress report submitted by Blalock and Homan. Stay tuned for more information as this program of exchange continues!