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His Farm Has Evolved Into School For Teens
After decades of entertaining families with children, touring school groups and employing young people, a Wisconsin farmer is dedicating his farm to education. The School at Altenburg’s Farm is a dream come true for 84-year old owner Harold Altenburg.
  “I’ve seen firsthand the positive impact that farm experiences can have on young people, particularly teens,” says Altenburg. “I envision the farm school to be a place for kids to grow through fun, hands-on learning that will enable them to value and appreciate the role of agriculture in their lives, possibly as a career.”
  For 50 years, Altenburg’s 42-acre farm has provided fruits, vegetables and entertainment to the central Wisconsin community of Wisconsin Rapids. It is the place to go pick strawberries in the early summer and to get pumpkins, Indian corn, squash and more in the fall.
  When Incourage, a local Wisconsin Community Foundation, first sponsored a community picnic, Altenburg showed up with 1,000 ears of sweet corn. This past summer he donated 4,000 ears. Now the foundation is paying him back by helping make his farm school a reality.
  “He came to us with his vision,” says Gus Mancuso, Incourage. “We knew it wouldn’t happen unless the community wanted the farm to continue.”
  Initially the foundation tried to find a lead farmer and develop a plan. This past winter they sponsored a series of public meetings to discuss the idea and encourage community involvement.
  The first meeting attracted 135 people. The foundation shared Altenburg’s hope to provide a place for students to learn by doing and get credit for what they learned. They also invited members of the community to join an advisory board, help find prospects to manage the farm, and volunteer in other ways.
  “One piece of the effort was fundraising to cover input costs, insurance etc.,” says Mancuso. “Our foundation is putting up $25,000 as a matching grant for other contributors. We are also reviewing finalists for a farm/school manager and developing a lease.”
  Mancuso acknowledges that this is just the beginning. Phase two will include developing a school agenda and work curriculum. Altenburg and his family aren’t simply signing over the farm to the foundation. They will continue to be involved through a mechanism that will maintain the lease as long as Harold’s vision is maintained.
  While Incourage is only active in the local community, Mancuso is eager to share what they are doing, should others be interested in a similar effort. Contributions to School at Altenburg’s Farm are also welcome.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Incourage, 478 East Grand Ave., Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. 54494 (ph 715 423-3863; hello@incouragecf.org; www.incouragecf.org).

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2017 - Volume #41, Issue #5