May 03, 2006
It Takes A Global Village
Little kids love feeding the animals and riding a tractor pulled wagon. Some 20,000 students each year enjoy farm-related programs presented by the Cornell Cooperative Extension at the Suffolk County Farm in Yaphank.
Youngsters enjoy learning about farm life, but Cornell reps have admitted that engaging older kids is difficult. "We have very disconnected young people in Suffolk County," Tom Lyon, a member of Cornell's farm program advisory committee observed. They are insulated and privileged, but, he continued "hungry to learn about other parts of the world."
To nourish that appetite, Cornell has proposed the creation of a "Global Village" on the Suffolk County Farm in Yaphank. During a presentation before the county legislature's environment, planning and agriculture committee recently, Patricia Hubbard, Cornell's 4-H Youth Development Program Director, explained the global village concept.
It's geared toward engaging middle and high school students, and helping them look at the broader world in which they live. "We want them to be able to understand how people in other agrarian cultures live," Hubbard said. A prospectus compiled by Cornell offered a surprising statistic: while fewer than 2% of Americans live on farms, over 70% of the Third World exist as subsistence farmers. A real global village at the county farm would help students experience the lifestyles of other farming societies.
The concept has been successfully implemented elsewhere in the county. Rutland Massachusetts is currently home to a 250-acre organic farm, global village, and visitor center operated by Heifer International, a non-profit charitable organization dedicated to relieving global hunger and poverty. The organization has offered to assist Suffolk in developing a local global village.
Beginning on a small scale, Cornell envisions replicating houses of other countries, like Peru or Guatemala. Garden plots and areas for animals will be featured, and an emphasis will be placed on showing kids the connection between agriculture and a society's operation. In America, that connection is rarely experienced by youth, many of whom may think there's a food factory that produces what they eat, executive director Tom Williams noted.
Programs at the global village will enable kids to see how farming is an intrinsic part of most cultures. Kids can move outside the comfort zone of classrooms and textbooks and be challenged hands on to confront global issues of hunger, as well as environmental, societal, and economic justice. Hubbard said a popular program in the global village curriculum involves buying food to learn what it costs in other countries.
One Heifer global village in Howell, MI boasts an extensive collection of houses that represent Nepal, rural America, Africa, and Thailand. Programs include learning to prepare meals with limited supplies of food and water, trading to meet basic needs, and even overnight stays in thatched roof or stilt huts.
According to Cornell's proposal, global village sites vary from six to 50 acres in size and consist of three major components — limited resource homesteads, overnight sleeping facilities, and a conference center to accommodate offices and a resource center. The homesteads include a basic dwelling plus ancillary structures representative of small farm family living. They might include demonstration gardens, animal pens, wells or ponds, cooking facilities, and fencing.
Some village facilities use platform tents for sleeping, endeavoring to replicate the types of refugee centers in use by over 25 million people in the world today. Many programs require participants to spend at least one night in a global village homestead.
Working to build and maintain the village and adjacent farm are an integral part of the program, Cornell's proposal points out. It concludes, "Shared work responsibilities 'open up' a person in ways that provide extraordinary opportunities for growth."
Williams opined that a small-scale village at the county farm in Yaphank could provide "an exciting incubator for youth ideas in a global context."