|CEHSP student Stephen Nelson|
Stephen Nelson is earning a degree in environmental and outdoor education, but it’s been through his work at the UMD Farm that he’s discovered a path he’d never considered before. Now he wants to see the world – one farm at a time.
The Proctor native served in the U.S. Army for four years, doing tours of duty in Kuwait and Iraq. “I went into the Army to build my skills and develop myself as an individual,” he said with a laugh, noting that the Army is not known for instilling individualism. Yet it taught him a lot. “Being prepared, being on time. Be at the right place at the right time and, of course, teamwork.” In addition to being a full-time UMD student, he is a cook in the Minnesota Army National Guard.
Recently he became the first recipient of the UMD Heroes Scholarship, awarded to undergraduates who are veterans, active service members, and active Reservists and National Guard members. "I'm very appreciative and thankful for receiving the scholarship," Stephen said.
The UMD Heroes Scholarship was established by two individuals who wish to remain anonymous who are not veterans, but whose fathers, uncles, and cousins were veterans, and who, in the words of one, said, "I don't think we do enough for the vets. We are very grateful for our freedoms. Everything we have, we owe to the veterans." The scholarship committee is made up of individuals who are veterans and non-veterans, while the selection subcommittee consists of all veterans. Anyone wishing to contribute to the scholarship may contact Bob Sherman, College of Education and Human Service Professions (CEHSP) development officer, 218-726-6692.
Housed in UMD’s College of Education and Human Service Professions (CEHSP), the environmental and outdoor education program prepares students thoroughly and provides them with access to a wide variety of opportunities in order for them to hone their teaching skills with a range of pupils. “The program is really good about getting us into local programs,” Stephen noted. He has volunteered at the YMCA, Great Lakes Aquarium, Hawk Ridge, and in the Duluth schools.
He also completed an environmental education internship at Hartley Nature Center where he worked with children of all ages. “A lot of kids don’t think of going into the woods, that that can be fun. You have to make it fun with games that help them learn about insects or the animals in and around the pond.” He enjoys working with little children, ages 4 and 5. "To them, everything is new, everything is fun. Getting into their perspective is great."
Stephen's first exposure to the UMD Farm, to farming at all, started through UMD’s Sustainable Agriculture Program and growing plants in their greenhouse. Next he helped transplant the tiny sprouts into the ground at the UMD Farm. Then, when a lot of people’s attention might have been waning, he discovered he even enjoyed weeding.
“I got to see the whole process. It was really cool. I was gone for two weeks in August. When I got back, I could see how it had grown.” He helped with harvesting the produce, much of which is used by UMD Dining Services, then continued on to composting plants, tilling the soil under, and planting a cover crop.
Farming speaks to his soul. “Working as a team is a nice experience, but being out there by yourself is really relaxing and rewarding. It’s great to be in the field early in the morning as the sun is going up.”
After graduating, he would like to take part in World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF), volunteering on farms around the world in exchange for food, lodging, and incredible experiences.
Those who can, grow their own dreams.
Written by Kathleen McQuillan-Hofmann, Dec. 2013