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By Elizabeth Tanner
Minnie Lou Bradley, center, joins with a group of student respondents at Taco Bell for an all-you-can-eat Tuesday, Aug. 31.
CHILDRESS — Striving to educate youth on environmental sustainability, rancher and cattlewoman Minnie Lou Bradley, of Bradley 3 Ranch, recently sent out questionnaires, quizzing 30 Childress Elementary, Junior High and High School students on solar energy, the economic importance of bees and bats in agriculture, future water and food sources and more.
“As a longtime rancher, working with several different colleges, I have learned how little the average public-school student knows about the world they live in as to the environment, such as what makes the lights come on at the flick of a switch, will grocery shelves always be full, where does water come from when the faucet is turned on, the list continues,” Bradley said. “Few know, but by the middle 2030s, nine billion mouths will require food, water and clean air for survival with a much smaller land mass to produce food. As of now, most have never given it a second thought as it all has been readily available, but perhaps not if we are not made aware of the needed stewardship each of us need to heed.”
And, with 100% of the returned questionnaires showing an interest in hands-on training, Bradley said she sees not only a want, but a need for a farm-to-school program in Childress.
“The goal of the survey is to see if they would like more hands-on training,” Bradley said, “such as going to the field to understand how solar power makes electricity or how methane gas can be removed from food waste by making it into compost and thus turning it into wonderful fertilizer to greatly improve the soil to produce more food per acre.”
At the farm, students would also have the opportunity to partake in lab experiments, such as cutting into bats to weigh their nightly kill; become journeymen plumbers, electricians, carpenters, artists and landscapers; learn from and meet field-related specialists; cook and preserve their harvests; acquire scholarships; and empower themselves through new problem-solving skills that can change the world.
Modeling the curricula after already successful farm-to-school programs throughout the country, Bradley said extensive research has shown her just how efficacious the program can truly be.
“We are very fortunate in Childress to have some facilities that would allow this to happen without a lot of cost,” Bradley said. “At this time, I’m in contact with the Nobel Research Institute, headquarters for the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium, which is made up of many international businesses, who are sponsoring environment plus stewardship in advancing such programs across the nation. The time is ripe for a lot of assistance as many realize we must become active in food security, water and soil.”
Encouraging those interested to keep tuned for future headway, Bradley believes this is only the beginning of many great things to come.
“I’m passionate about this,” Bradley said. “I want to open up these kids’ minds – that’s the main goal.”