Voss Organics: O Soleil!
Emily Hayne

CS15 students are currently developing their semester Taking Action Project for Environmental Stewardship and exploring ways they can advocate for environmental and social growth in their families, schools, and communities. The project is structured so that students can practice stewardship and act as leaders after their semester at Conserve School. As an example of stewardship and leadership in practice, we invited Mark Voss, a resident of Madison, Wisconsin, to share how his company has made an impact on his local community.

Voss Organic produces 10,000 seedlings a year in greenhouses and Mark, his family, workers and volunteers sell produce from tomato terraces and strawbale gardens. The produce is sold to customers at local farmers markets and food co-ops allowing Mark to have face-to-face connection with community members. This business is an opportunity to develop relationships with neighbors and the community and support their mission to grow and eat locally.

After spending time on farms in Togo, West Africa for the Peace Corps, Mark pursued other experiences in Japan and the United States to learn about natural and biodynamic farming. Mark emphasized to CS15 students the importance of participating in programs such as internships to gain skills and volunteer to give back to communities. Another suggestion he made to students was they should make connections to people by networking and doing research on how other people have made an impact in their community.

For the remainder of the semester students will explore practices, such as sustainable farming, to grow their understanding of environmental stewardship and advocacy. Mark's presentation showed how impactful careful planning, teamwork, and leadership can impact a community. This semester students have many opportunities to give back to local communities and Conserve School. For example, next Wednesday October 18th, students will be working in groups to implement a class project during our Stewardship Activity Day. Students are going through the process of identifying key players, looking into resources they will need, identifying challenges and how to overcome barriers. Students are working with their Environmental Stewardship teachers and other staff to learn more about how their project ideas can fit in with the mission and give back to the Conserve School community.

Conserve School Alums

After a semester, we want students to feel confident as environmental stewards and share with other communities what they learned at Conserve School. Two alums, Augie Voss (CS13) and Bailey Sargent (CS14) visited campus to share their post-Conserve School experiences promoting conservation. Both students have taken steps to further their practice of environmental stewardship abroad and in their local communities.

Augie spent four weeks abroad in Costa Rica, a country rich in biodiversity, to observe and record sea turtle populations. Augie, traveling with other Conserve School semester alums, worked on a conservation project measuring sea turtles and counting eggs in nests. His first time counting was during an arribada, a mass movement of thousands of sea turtles on the beach. Augie found this to be a rewarding experience and learned more about wildlife conservation.

Bailey shared his CS14 Taking Action Project to develop a presentation on outdoor ethics for Madison elementary schools. Using the Yahara River and Cherokee Marsh as a case study, Bailey wants to reach out to fourth grade students and have them learn about biodiversity and how wildlife is altered downstream. Bailey is working with teachers in the school district for support and guidance to develop a presentation that will be meaningful to younger students and help them feel connected to their local ecosystems.

It was a pleasure hosting our alums, learning about what they've accomplished since their semester at Conserve School, and having them interact with current students. Staff look forward to supporting students this semester to grow as environmental stewards and feel confident that they can make a difference after their semester at Conserve School.

Story by: Emily Hayne, Wilderness Stewardship Fellow