High school students enrolled in Lake Shore Compact's urban agriculture career tech program wrapped up their school year by holding an outdoor farmer's market to sell their produce.
The market was run May 26-27 at Euclid's old Memorial Park Elementary School, located at 22800 Fox Avenue. Memorial has been closed for several years, but the site now serves as the home of the urban agriculture program's farm.
In addition to spinach, swiss chard and jam, the students also sold handmade soap and candles, and fresh eggs from the chickens they care for on site.
The compact features students from Mentor, Euclid and Wickliffe high schools. The two-year agriculture program, led by Dr. Joshua Stephens, teaches juniors and seniors how to grow and cultivate their own crops, manage and care for livestock, and learn about agriculture as a business.
"The urban agriculture career tech program came out of my desire to promote the local food economy in Euclid and Northeast Ohio," Stephens said. "The students focus on food and fiber production. We are one of the only urban farming programs in the state, and we are the only one in this part of Northeast Ohio.
"And we're the only one that runs a full-scale farm with livestock and crop production and other products as well."
Stephens added that the goal is to prepare students for a successful career in agriculture through internships and partnerships with local farms or farm-related companies.
"The kids work on developing skills related to plant and animal science, as well as entrepreneurship, marketing, communication, things like that," Stephens said. "They graduate with credentials to get them into jobs right out of high school, or send them into different colleges of their choosing."
Euclid student Chiana Whitmore said she plans on continuing to pursue a career in the field after graduating from the program.
"It helped me figure out more what I wanted to do, cause I really didn't know what I was going to do — what to go to college for or anything," she said. "So I guess it opened my eyes more to the opportunities in agricultural careers."
The urban agriculture program will only be heading into its third year of operation in the fall, but it already has developed aspects that make it unique. Stephens said that their program is the "only Angora rabbitry in a school in the United States."
Angora rabbit wool is extremely soft, and often used in scarves, sweaters or other winter attire. Stephens said that the students learn how to clip down the rabbits early in the program, and they typically get shaved about four times a year.
For Mentor student Alisa Corp, who wants to be a zookeeper, the animals were one of the main draws of applying to the urban agriculture program.
"We came here, and we saw all the bunnies and the goats, and we wanted to take care of them," Corp said, "He (Stephens) let us trim the rabbits the first time we came to see them."