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Missouri Sustainable Agriculture Demonstration Awards

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October 4, 2002

Local Youth Youngest Ever to Receive Dept of Agriculture Grant

Jessica Powell, 10-year-old daughter of Allen and Tauna Powell, rural Laclede, MO was awarded a Missouri Sustainable Agriculture Award this past winter. Jessica's grant application was entitled, "Backyard Sustainable Food Production System." Her project will address "growing food without using chemicals and using God-given resources such as collected rainwater, sunlight, and wind to help grow the plants." She is "using her backyard and developing it into a productive family farm. A natural mulch will be used to encourage earthworms for better soil and using plants that help each other grow." Jessica is adamant about not using plants that are the product of gene-manipulation (genetically-modified organisms) and has selected primarily traditional varieties and heirloom fruits, herbs, and vegetables as part of her grant project. A homebuilt eggmobile will provide a home for pastured laying hens for use as weed and insect control in the garden, orchard, and pasture as well as for egg production. A major goal is using under-utilized resources and minimizing input costs. Jessica hopes to develop a market for her eggs this fall as well as for any excess produce she might have. As part of her grant requirements, Jessica, will be sharing her experiences with school and other youth groups and is a scheduled speaker at the 2002 Farmer's Forum to be held Oct 31-Nov 2 in Columbia, MO. The Farmer's Forum is part of the National Small Farm Trade Show and Conference sponsored by Small Farm Today magazine.

Though, according to 2 Peter 3, the earth was never intended to be permanent, Jessica believes that God intends that we should be good stewards of the gifts He has given to us while we are here and that is the focus of her agricultural practices, which will hopefully not only sustain but enhance the soil and animal health and subsequently provide highly nutritional food for healthier people.

Jessica's interest in agriculture began at an early age, when, in pre-school, she drew her first management-intensive grazing plan for cattle. Last August, she and a good friend from Texas attended the three-day beginner's grazing school at the Forage Systems Research Centre near Linneus, MO. Her growing interest in producing food for her family and others that is raised without growth hormones or chemicals in a natural environment is in harmony with her family's goals in raising and marketing grass-finished beef.

Though this year's garden didn't yield as well as expected, plans for expansion in the garden and orchard are already underway, and if egg sales go well she will begin designing and collecting materials for a 250-300 hen eggmobile to be built this winter.

Jessica is a member of Laclede Methodist Church and Green Hills Farm Project.

The Missouri Sustainable Agriculture Award is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Agriculture and is awarded annually. This program provides grants to Missouri farmers to help them test, evaluate, and adopt sustainable agriculture practices on their farms. Projects must be designed to reduce dependency on nonrenewable resources such as minerals and petroleum, and protect and conserve natural resources such as soil, air, and water. The demonstration award program began in 1995. Since then, 23 grants of up to $3,000 each have been awarded each year. A funding increase made it possible to award 30 grants of $4,500 each in 2001, but state budget withholdings reduced the amounts available for 2002 to 23 grants of $3,000 each. For a list of grant recipients, more information about the grant application and other sustainable agriculture information click on: Or e-mail Joan Benjamin at or call her at (573) 522-8616 or (573)-751-5505.

Jessica Powell, Laclede, is shown caring for her 100 laying hens in the portable eggmobile she and her mom built this past winter. The natural diet of the hens, primarily bugs and grass, causes the eggs to be naturally high in CLA, Omega-3 fatty acids, and beta-carotenes. The yolks also are firmer and hold together much better than eggs produced by confined hens. Research has shown that cholesterol and calories of eggs produced by pastured hens are also reduced. These free-range hens often range up to 200 yards from the eggmobile as they work at reducing flies and other pests in the pastures, eliminating chemical pesticides for use on the cattle.

The Community Food Systems and Sustainable Agriculture Program is a University Outreach and Extension program, administered jointly by the University of Missouri System and Lincoln University, in collaboration with the College of Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and with support from the Bonnie Clark Fund for Sustainable Agriculture.

Questions? Comments? Please contact Joan Benjamin at: