UNITY — The Unity College campus recently begin an initiative to raise free-range chickens as part of an ongoing hunger relief effort. According to a press release, the endeavor was made possible by a grant from the Food for All program of the Future Farmers of America. High school FFA students from Waldo County Technical Center will also be involved and receive funds from the collaborative grant. The Volunteer Regional Food Pantry and the Belfast Soup Kitchen will be recipients of the meat and distribute it to their clients.

The grant provides Unity College with the opportunity to expand its extensive ongoing hunger relief efforts which are provided primary through the Veggies for All program of Waldo County.

Van Leer sought to develop public speaking and project management skills, while other students with less agricultural experience learned basic animal care. Over the past year, Leer raised broilers on campus that were donated to the Belfast Soup Kitchen and Unity Area Volunteer Regional Food Pantry. In December 2012, he offered a public presentation on the project at the Unity College Student Conference, a conference held each semester to showcase the best student research and creative projects. Leer received the Sustainability Award for his public presentation of the project, Pastured Poultry for Food Security.

Frequently students pursue other agricultural projects as part of their internship during the growing the growing season. In addition to laying the groundwork for the grant, Leer has pursued development of a pasture raised chicken enterprise at a diversified, grass fed beef farm in New Jersey. In September, he will leave for an assignment with the Peace Corps, likely either in South America or Africa.