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Student Farmers Explore Agriculture and Business (January 15, 2010)

Several junior high and high school students on the island of Rota are currently exploring the agricultural industry by growing and marketing produce from the Northern Marianas College’s 4-H Youth Development Farm Plot Project.

The 4-H youth development project is aimed at promoting agricultural practices and methods, such as irrigation, mulching, pest control, and farm safety. Other project activities include workshops, demonstrations, and hands-on exercises relative to food production, processing, and marketing.

Led by NMC’s Cooperative Research Extension and Education Service (CREES) with the assistance of other NMC staff at the Rota Instructional Site, the project kicked off with with the clearing and construction of farm plots. The local Rota government has also been instrumental in the project, with the Department of Public Works transporting topsoil to the plots and staff from the Rota Municipal Council assisting with the construction of the plots.

The Project’s student members usually meet once a week at work sessions to tend to their plots for a few hours. Schedules are carefully tailored so as not to conflict with student school schedules.

Workshops and presentations are also conducted regularly, allowing ample time in between for members to practice any new concepts or principles introduced.

“Farming is a lot of hard work,” said one student member. “But, in the end, it’s totally worth it.”

At the work sessions, students are engaged in many hands-on activities, including weeding and watering. To ensure that students attain a complete experience of planting and harvesting, all crops grown at the plots have short growing seasons of only a few months or so. After harvesting, students then meet to discuss the distribution of the crops.

“The students have demonstrated a tremendous amount of progress in their farming techniques and abilities, as well as a profound development in life skills,” said CREES Project coordinator Dean Manglona. “Many of them have expressed interest in setting up their own vegetable and fruit gardens at home”for either personal use or sale to local markets.”

Crops grown at the plots include corn, bell pepper, horseradish, pineapple, eggplant, and other fruits and vegetables.

“We are pleased to see our youth engaged in positive experiences that aid their understanding of agriculture and business,” said NMC Interim President Lorraine Cabrera.

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