Jaime Souza, the education and outreach coordinator for the St. Croix River Association, answered questions about the "Farm to Faucet" educational pilot program she is helping start.
Q: What is the Farm to Faucet educational pilot? What was the process of creating this program?
A: The Farm to Faucet education pilot will guide high school students to explore the connections between agriculture and watershed health. (St. Croix River Association) will work with education partners, such as the Kinnickinnic River Land Trust, River Falls High School and the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, within the Kinnickinnic River Watershed, one of the highest phosphorus loading sub-watersheds to the St. Croix River, to merge existing agriculture and environmental education curriculum into one Farm to Faucet curriculum and pilot the curriculum with local high school students.
The process for creating this program is still evolving. It began when I decided to apply for the 2018 EPA Environmental Education grant, which had a strong agriculture focus. I was inspired to use the Kinnickinnic River watershed as the environment for a merged agriculture and watershed education curriculum because in 2018, the Kinnickinnic River was named by American Rivers as one of America's Most Endangered Rivers. I rallied our Kinnickinnic River partners last spring to help piece together a strong grant proposal, but unfortunately, we did not receive the grant.
The Compeer Financial grant became available last fall and it seemed like our proposal would be a good fit for their RFP, so we applied and were awarded $10,000 to create a Farm to Faucet pilot by June 2020. I will soon be meeting with our Kinnickinnic River partners, such as River Falls High School and the Kinnickinnic River Land Trust to make plans to move this program forward.
Q: What are your goals for the program and its outcomes?
A: The overall goal of this project is to inspire the next generation of farmers and watershed stewards to protect the water resources within the Kinnickinnic River Watershed by:
• Working with Kinnickinnic River Watershed partners to compile and strengthen the myriad of existing agriculture and watershed education curricula into a single cohesive curriculum;
• Implementing a Farm to Faucet pilot program that explores the connections between agriculture and watershed health and encourages critical thinking and problem solving for local water quality issues; and
• Piloting the Farm to Faucet program with local high school students and immersing them in hands-on learning and discovery.
The Farm to Faucet education pilot will result in a combined agriculture and watershed education curriculum that will engage at least 50 high school students (hopefully more) from the Kinnickinnic River watershed to inspire the next generation of watershed stewards to have a deeper connection to the land, local food production, and sustainable agriculture with the ultimate goal of preserving the Kinnickinnic River and its watershed for future generations to enjoy. The Farm to Faucet education pilot will demonstrate to students that they can be caretakers of the river today and tomorrow. Students will also engage in sustainable agriculture practices as part of this project.
Q: Why is it called "farm to faucet?"
A: It's a catchy name that demonstrates how sustainable agriculture and gardening can support watershed health and better water quality. What we put in our soils can help or hinder the health of our rivers. The Kinnickinnic River, as well as hundreds of other tributaries flow into the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, our local National Park. By keeping the water that is flowing into these tributaries healthy, we are protecting this National Park forever.
Q: Which school(s) will students be from?
A: River Falls High School will be the primary school we will work with to develop the pilot, but we will most likely involve a few other local high schools in testing the curriculum or offering teacher trainings on the Farm to Faucet curriculum.
Q: What is the time frame of this program?
A: That still remains to be seen. I will be meeting with our Kinnickinnic River watershed partners to discuss details like this.
Q: Why focus on the Kinnickinnic River and its surrounding watershed?
A: The Kinnickinnic River is a popular trout fishing stream in St. Croix and Pierce counties, two of Wisconsin's fastest-growing counties. The river's picturesque canyon is home to 40 threatened and endangered species of flora and fauna, and its cold, spring-fed waters are classified as Extraordinary and Outstanding Trout Habitat by the Wisconsin DNR. Agriculture has been identified as one of the contributors to the nutrient runoff in the river and its waters are designated as impaired by the EPA. The Farm to Faucet program will inspire high school students to learn about the importance of agriculture to the local economy and foodshed while exploring solutions to these nutrient runoff problems.
Q: Since this is a pilot, I assume that it is expected to continue and grow. Are there any goals that you have for the future of Farm to Faucet?
A: Yes, I hope the Farm to Faucet curriculum pilot will serve as a template that can be used to inspire future farmers and conservation leaders throughout the watershed. The Farm to Faucet program will be part of the Rivers Are Alive K-12 environmental education program, a partnership between SCRA and the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. We are working hard to develop the Rivers Are Alive program and curriculum to be a template that any watershed in the United States could potentially adapt for its own purposes. That is a long-term goal!