The Blackwood Educational Land Institute is a regenerative farm based in Hempstead, Texas working to engage young people through community-powered agriculture.

The organization formally began in 2000 as a nature camp, designed to inspire a new generation of farmers but grew into an educational farm dedicated to soil health and regeneration. Over the years, what started with a metal barn and straw bale house grew into an educational farm dedicated to soil health and regeneration. Today, their operations include chicken coops and beehives on the original property in Hempstead and an urban rooftop farm in nearby Houston.

Most of the Institute’s programming revolves around youth engagement. Students stand to benefit greatly from active learning on farmland, according to reports by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies and the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture. Immersion in field schools such as Blackwood can offer an applied learning experience that weaves different disciplines together.

“A lot of people’s eyes glazed over when I started talking about buzzwords like nature conservation because they just do not understand it,” Cath Conlon, CEO and Founder of the Blackwood Educational Land Institute, tells Food Tank. The Institute offers workshops, field trips, and weekly day camps to students from elementary through high school and internships for college students.

Through these opportunities, students have the chance to learn about the full life cycle of food, from farm to plate. They are also taught lessons in carpentry, science, writing, nutrition, and native pollinators. Teachers can bring their classes to courses on permaculture, service learning, and the scientific process of food growth from seed to table, which are facilitated by Blackwood staff.

Conlon believes that farmers must have a versatile skill set to survive, let alone prosper. They need to be an accountant, marketer, a herbologist, a soil scientist, and a community builder. “A farm without people will never succeed,” Conlon tells Food Tank. “That human component is ever more important today than what it has ever been before.”

Read the full article about community-powered agricultural programs for youth by Max Sano at Food Tank.