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Making education, recreation a part of sustainable agriculture

Staff writer

Educating herself and others about sustainable agriculture is one of the goals of Cara Martin’s grant-funded project, “Little Horses/Big World Sustainable Agriculture.”

The Marion Middle School eighth grader recently received one of the first youth grants provided through the Sustainable Agriculture and Research Education (SARE) program sponsored by U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Cara plans to use the $400 grant to assist Larry and Deana Olsen in enhancing their Tiny Trails business to make it more attractive and profitable while educating the public about nature and agriculture.

Cara and her grandmother, Cathy Martin, have provided voluntary help to the Olsens for several years. She now owns three miniature horses, Bob, Tulip, and Romeo, and participates every year in competitions at Kansas Coliseum, Kansas State Fair, and Fort Worth, Texas.

Cara learned about the grant program in the Marion County Record and was encouraged to apply.

“We never expected to get the grant, but we thought it didn’t hurt to try,” Cathy said.

Cara has an eight-point plan, including adding picnic tables and benches, labeling trees and wildflowers along the trail, and designing brochures to distribute to visitors. A six-foot-wide stock tank filled with corn for children to play in also is in the works.

Cara recently completed a large wire cage for trash collected on and around the trail. She will use the cage as a way to educate the public against littering. She also is designing birthday party packages in an attempt to draw more groups to the farm.

The ambitious teenager has developed “The Poop Theory,” a presentation she will give to visitors at the beginning of their trail walk. She originally gave the presentation to a 4-H group in February.

The talk is designed to make visitors aware of how a farm can be self-sustaining. The 170-acre Olsen farm produces corn, oats, wheat, soybeans, brome, and prairie hay, much of which is used to feed the miniature horses and cattle produced on the farm.

In turn, manure and old bedding from the animals is spread on fields to fertilize the soil and increase organic matter.

Cara has until the end of December to complete her project and issue a report. She is hoping to use the project as a means to earn the Girl Scouts Silver Award and a 4-H Leadership Award. She has enlisted the help of Girl Scouts, her 4-H club, and Boy Scouts in attaining her goals.

Cara plans to attend Kansas State University after high school graduation, and then pursue her love of raising and training miniature horses. She sees the grant as a step toward that end.

“I like going out there to the farm, and the grant is going to help them,” she said. “I’ll learn a lot about sustainable agriculture and the horses themselves.”

Last modified April 22, 2009

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