Today’s guest is from the Bronx in New York. His journey to agriculture started accidentally while he was dealing with student conflict in his class. From zero agricultural background, Stephen Ritz created a system – a whole school program that changed how the students, the parents, and the community view agriculture. This program, called Green Bronx Machine, is more than about educating his students about farming. Stephen sees it as a way to solve real problems in the community like lack of student engagement in school, poor education, and poor health including unequal opportunities for the disadvantaged.
On today’s episode, Stephen talks about the effects and benefits of Green Bronx Machine to the students and the community as a whole. He shares how he integrates growing food with academics. Stephen also elaborates on one of the goals of the program’s model, which is not about a “me” mentality, but a “we” mentality. This outlook is about people everywhere working together in achieving the goal of making wise choices, living healthy, and personal and community development. He is encouraged to see the outcome as his students are empowered to make healthy choices as a result of instilling child wellness and mindfulness in them.
“When we teach our children about nature, we teach them to nurture. And when we teach children to nurture, we as a society collectively embrace our better nature. And that’s what this work is about.” – Stephen Ritz
This Week on The Future of Agriculture Podcast:
The 9-1-1 situation in Stephen’s class that lead to a 3-1-1 moment
One of the significant effects of the Green Bronx Machine Project: Students you don’t expect to go through college ending up as college graduates
Evolution of the program, how it has evolved today, and some of the programs offered such as after-school programming, weekend programming, and summer camps
Age window of students allowed in the program
How the collateral learning influence the behavior of the students
How the program can change the community’s outlook on food as medicine in relation to diabetes and obesity
The process that Stephen adapts especially for first-time student-growers: If they grow it, they eat it
The focus of the model of the program – quality of teaching and quality of learning
Metrics Stephen uses in the program concerning academics (attendance, performance, etc.)
What makes the Green Bronx Machine a whole-school solution and not just any other kind of school economics program
Content of Stephen’s book – his story, his children’s story, the community’s story, and tools that equip people to grow something great and impact their community
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