Sept. 27, 2003 – "If you can't learn, you can't earn," Elton George says, recalling the motto drilled into his head this summer at the Learn and Earn Summer Training Program sponsored by the St. Thomas Livestock Association.
The six-week program taught students ages 13 to 18 that agriculture is more than just digging in the soil, Sheila Schulterbrandt, program supervisor and instructor, says.
"You must learn, be a leader and don't follow," Schulterbrandt says, still grilling George about what he learned. The students raised Jumbo Cornish Hens hatched from eggs that were imported from Ohio in a brooder at the Livestock Association great house.
It took two weeks for the birds to hatch. Students were at the camp from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and were responsible for giving the baby chicks food and water, and for keeping their pen clean. They also measured the chicks to monitor their development. Schulterbrandt had hoped to demonstrate how chickens are prepared for market, but because of a delay in the shipment of the eggs, the birds were not ready by the end of the summer.
Since George is an 18-year-old graduate of Charlotte Amalie High School who has not yet begun college, Schulterbrandt taught him how to slaughter a bird, remove the feathers, open the vents, pull out the intestines, and package them for sale. The birds are "natural and organic," Schulterbrandt says — they eat grower feed and material from the tan-tan tree for protein and receive no growth hormones.
In the program, the students also learned how to plant lemongrass, thyme, balsam and sweet peppers. They also were introduced to making charcoal using the wood of the ketch-'n'-keep tree and to agricultural aspects of forestry, tourism and science.
Guest speakers and field trips provided special leaning opportunities. Dale Morton and Louis Petersen of the University of the Virgin Islands Cooperative Extension Service demonstrated aspects of soil identification and planting. Herbalist Irene Donovan shared her knowledge of the use of herbs for the treatment of headaches and other pain.
The youths also learned about landscaping and feed charts. And they visited the botanical garden once known at the Orchidarium and stopped by the farm of Mary Alexander to sample her teas and learn which plants have medicinal properties and what the uses are of other plants.
Schulterbrandt had wanted to have the students interact with local veterinarians, too, but there wasn't enought time, she says.
Overall, though, the summer was an introduction for the students to many fields of agriculture, she says. And next year, she plans to offer the program again with new eggs, a fresh pen and another group of young people.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name, and the city and state/country or island where you reside.
Publisher's note : Like the St. Thomas Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice … click here.