Growing urban roots

Growing urban roots
Urban Students Discover Agricultural Science
CFAES alumnus A. Solomon Garner holds a succulent that students will plant as part of their class.

By Tracy Turner

As the class of eighth graders stood in line waiting their turn to plant a succulent, they watched intently as the students ahead reached into the box of soil, gingerly filled their pot, and then carefully added their plant.

For many students at the Columbus Humanities Arts and Technology Academy on the north side of Columbus, it was the first time they’ve ever been introduced to agriculture and the first time they’ve planted a plant.

“I’ve learned so much about soil and how plants grow from this class,” said Talia Galloway, 13. “My mom has a garden at home, and now I can help her because of what I’ve learned.”

“Some young people come into this space with no concept that agriculture is more than just gardening or farming”CFAES alumnus A. Solomon Garner

Getting urban kids interested in agriculture is one goal of the Urban ROOTS (Reshaping Outreach Opportunities Through Self-Discovery) program offered by OSU Extension and funded by the Franklin County Board of Commissioners. It’s designed to engage middle school students in immersive educational experiences in agricultural careers. OSU Extension is CFAES’ statewide outreach arm.

Now in its second year, Urban Roots teaches students in six Franklin County schools, at several central Ohio library locations, and at Waterman Agricultural and Natural Resources Laboratory on Ohio State’s Columbus campus. It’s taught and co-developed by CFAES alumnus A. Solomon Garner, who grew up on the west side of Columbus and had never thought of a career in agriculture until he took a class offered by CFAES.

Students in the Urban Roots class at Columbus Humanities Arts and Technology Academy.

His goal through Urban Roots is to generate the same spark for agricultural careers to urban kids.

“We use minilessons … that take a deep dive into what an agricultural career could look like,” Garner said. “Some young people come into this space with no concept that agriculture is more than just gardening or farming.”

“Here, they learn that it’s cultivating soil, and so much more. It’s a science, and there’s an art to it. It expands across different career sectors and different intersectional spaces, allowing us to engage with our culture in ways that we don’t even realize that we are engaging with it in.”