Growing Relationships at Fozzie's Farm

Updated: Dec 19, 2019

In conservation, things rarely go according to plan.

When Montezuma Land Conservancy (MLC) first devised the Agriculture Immersion Program for youth, the goal was to provide hands-on farm and ranch experiences at Fozzie’s Farm, which is owned and managed by MLC for education and outreach. It seemed like a great way to introduce young people to jobs in the outdoors and begin to instill in them a sense of why land conservation matters. Thankfully, we were not so focused that we missed a much larger, more valuable opportunity.

Marissa Moore is a student at Southwest Open School (SWOS) in Cortez, an alternative charter school that offers students experiential learning and a real sense of community. In the first year of the summer Agriculture Immersion Program, Marissa struck me as someone ready to participate and learn. Several weeks into the six-week program, she and I were walking across a pasture en route to adjust the irrigation water. Out of curiosity I asked her how she came to be a SWOS-ian. Her story and her quiet, thoughtful leadership style impressed me.

In the following weeks MLC staff began formulating a plan with Marissa to expand opportunities for her. She shared her passion for education and improving the lives of tribal youth on the Ute Mountain Ute reservation. Though an enrolled member of the Northern Cheyenne and Missouri-Otoe tribes, her time spent in Towoac, the only town on the reservation, created a desire to instill hope in youth there. Working closely with SWOS staff, we settled on a plan for a part-time internship for Marissa that helped her meet graduation requirements, pursue her interests, and provided MLC with brand new perspectives on our youth programs.

Thanks to Marissa’s input and the culture of SWOS that emphasizes social/emotional skills and character development, our focus for the summer Ag Immersion Program has changed dramatically. Yes, we still provide youth with job skills, exposure to careers in science and agriculture, and teach the value of conservation. But now our goal is to build relationships, discover hidden potential, and foster personal growth. The farming and connecting with the land are important parts of our work, but it’s not the priority. When young people have the chance to take on a challenge with a supportive team and caring adults, amazing things happen, especially when caring for the land is involved.

After working with Marissa and the other youth from SWOS, we found our original plan wasn’t big enough. We’ve since learned to dream big, to focus on relationships, and to always be ready to listen. Sometimes plans get tossed out the window, and that’s okay.

1320 Youth Impacted

Through our educational programs, we have been able to work with the community to educate the next generation about stewardship, agriculture and conservation. In addition, our programs have provided local youth with opportunities, passion and purpose.

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