Growing Rural is an innovative program designed to create rural leaders for tomorrow. Because of its popularity in both rural and urban communities, Growing Rural was co-branded Growing Rural/Growing SMART (GR/GS) in 2014. GR/GS uses service-learning activities that build skills in critical thinking and problem-solving, collaboration, innovation, character development, leadership, employment preparation, and youth philanthropy. The program encourages youth and adult mentors to work with rural youth to solve rural problems. Branding the Growing Rural program to align with their agricultural roots, CROPS’ founders created a rural development model with six steps:
• Field Analysis, strengths and passion-based problem solving
• Soil Preparation, leadership development and grant writing for teens
• Seed Planting, project based learning with Science, Math, Art, Research and Technology
• Plant Nourishment, photography, videography, book publishing, video production
• Crop Harvesting, measure community and youth development outcomes
• Land Enrichment, evaluation and continuous improvement processes
The Growing Rural/Growing SMART program guides teens through a six step problem-solving process to identify issues in their communities that they care about. The GR/GS curriculum was improved in 2014 to integrate a passion- and strengths-based approach adapted from Reiner Lomb’s book The Boomerang Approach. GR/GS has been tested and refined with funding from the Ball Brothers Foundation (Muncie, Indiana) and CHS Foundation (Minneapolis, Minnesota) and has produced preliminary research-based results demonstrating significant youth development outcomes and rural community satisfaction.
Our past work in rural communities has led to systemic solutions: increases in youth volunteerism, adult mentorship, private donors, grant awards, collaborators, town meetings, products, and services. CROPS can customize Growing Rural to focus on health care, environmental sustainability, youth entrepreneurship, and various other areas of rural needs.