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Eddie Albert, T.V. Star Boosts Park District Program

Fred de Ronde

Eddie Albert of Green Acres T.V. fame, plays an active part in promoting Champaign's pilot farm program. Pictured above, he encourages children to become active in the farm program AND ACTUALLY ASSISTS IN THE PLANTING.

THE EDDIE ALBERT FARM PROGRAM, a pilot program by the Champaign Park District, has proven to be a worthy learning experience for both adults, children and program leaders.

The purpose of the program is to provide recreational opportunities for Champaign residents to enjoy and learn about gardening, food production and environment protection. For the children the main emphasis of the program lessons was to give them an awareness of nature and their environment. With these objectives in mind the program is organized into three areas 1) gardening in individual plots for adults and children 2) special projects and learning experiences and 3) field trips and special events.

The program includes 25 adults and 60 children ranging in ages from 9-12 years.

Each of the adult members are given a 20 ft. x 20 ft. plot and each child or junior gardener is given a 10 ft. x 20 ft. plot. These are located in undeveloped park areas. Each person who joins the program is charged a fee for which they not only receive the plots but also all the tools, seeds and watering facilities. As well as these supplies the program is run under a trained director and 3 trained leaders.

In the spring months of April, May and June when the children are still in school, there is a 2 hour gardening session every Saturday for both children and adults. In these early sessions the leaders help the children in the selection and planting of seeds, the handling and care of tools, fertilizing, watering and general garden care.

During the three summer months there were 2 sessions weekly with the children. They were in the cooler part of the

Fred de Ronde is an NRPA Administrative Intern with the Champaign Park District from Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.

Illinois Parks and Recreation 10 January/February, 1972

Success of the Champaign Park District's pilot farm program is reflected in the faces of the children as they harvest their crops.

day and early evening from 6:30-8:30, at which time the gardeners are given lessons which emphasize learning as well as fun and at which time care is given to each person's garden. The gardens were supervised 2 additional times during the week.

The lessons given were ones in which everyone could actively participate while learning. These included the making of weather instruments, weed collections and identification, insect identification and the building of insect homes for anyone wishing to keep insects as "pets", dried flower arranging and vegetable displays and flower identification.

Included also in the summer program for children were field trips to conservation areas, the University of Illinois vegetable garden plots and dairy operations; to a local farm operation and Meadow Gold Dairy industries. The children were involved in a clean-up of cans, bottles and trash on a mile of country roadside as a part of the environmental awareness program.

For the adult participants, guest speakers from the Champaign County Farm Extension offices and the University of Illinois were asked to come and help the adults on such topics as insect and disease control, organic gardening, lawn care and the canning and freezing of vegetables.

There were several highlights to the program; one was a visit in the spring from Eddie Albert, star of the T.V. series "Green Acres". Mr. Albert who is himself an enthusiastic organic gardener visited with the children giving them hints and ideas about good garden growing. He spoke to adults and children on the importance of gardening and farming to both the individual and the nation. Mr. Albert was in contact with the program staff throughout the summer and he is keenly interested in the program as a model for similar projects throughout the nation.

The other highlights of the program included a family corn roast and picnic of all Farm Program members and their families and a Farm Fair Day. The Farm Fair Day was held with the cooperation of Champaign Park District's Children's Prairie Farm, a children's animal farm. An afternoon of games, hayrides, displays by both programs, and a demonstration on horseback riding and pony grooming was topped in the evening by a corn roast, homemade ice cream and other refreshments.

As a pilot program, like most pilot programs a number of unforseeable problems arose but these were quickly ironed out. With one year's experience and with the enthusiasm shown by the adult and children gardeners alike we feel that next year's program will be an even greater success.

Illinois Parks and Recreation 11 January/February, 1972

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