by Jonathan Andrews
Hattiesburg American, Monday July 11
Seven Mississippi School for Math and Science students will spend the rest of the summer living closer than they might like.
However, the group’s cramped living quarters will be for a good cause.
The team will travel across the U.S. in a modified school bus championing the cause of sustainable farming practices.
The idea for the project came about from a brainstorming session in the dorms, said Daniel Eisler, one of the students working on the project.
“We wanted something that was cheap on food, cheap on gas and cheap on lodging,” said Eisler, an Ocean Springs native.
The idea took root when team member Robert Glenn talked with a former teacher from his hometown of Moss Point.
Daniel Doyle, who now works for the non-profit Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute of Mississippi, told the boys he had been considering making a “mobile farm” to showcase sustainable agriculture practices and serve as a children’s educational tool.
“Without (Daniel) most of these things wouldn’t have been possible,” said Tyler Crutcher, 18, of Ocean Springs.
He added the bus, a colorful farm mural on it, and two tanks that hold the vehicle’s vegetable oil fuel supply wouldn’t have been possible without Doyle.
“We’ve also just gotten a lot of outreach from people in Oxford as well as just generally traveling around the state,” he added.
They’ll need that support to reach a $12,000 fundraising goal to make the bus into “as much of a real farm as possible.”
Currently, the bus will serve as the students’ living quarters.
“We laid the carpet, built and designed the beds and set up the stuff we will use to charge our cellphones and laptops or whatever we need,” Eisler explained.
“It might be less pretty than what you might buy in a store, but I prefer it for the satisfaction of being able to say, ‘We did this.’ ”
The quarters are reminiscent of a dorm room. There are three bunk beds arranged in a “U”-shape at the rear of the bus. The boys also will store personal belongings in bins under their beds. They also have a monitor to play movies and video games.
“It’s rickety, but it has charm to it,” said MSMS senior Dylan Jones of Ocean Springs.
“I’m going to take videos and pictures as we go to our various stops to put together a documentary for the project,” said Jones, the group’s documentarian.
He said stops include many ecotourism spots where they hope to generate interest in the bus.
“The Grand Canyon and Yellowstone Park are a couple we’ve already got, and we’ll be camping there and in other places along the way,” he said.
In addition to raising awareness about the cause, the cross-country tour’s goal is to make the “Farm on Wheels” a reality.
In addition to the solar panel and the fuel tanks already attached to the bus, funds raised will be used to pay for the bus roof to be converted into a greenhouse roof, a portable chicken coop and compost and worm tea bins.
The group has pages on Kickstarter, a fundraising website, as well as Facebook and plan to update a blog as they tour.
Eisler said social media has allowed the group to reach an audience they probably wouldn’t have been able to reach otherwise.
“This kind of project wouldn’t have been possible 20 years ago, or even 10… there are so many possibilities for networking online that are fantastic,” Eisler said.
The guys aren’t in this just for a fun summer trip, but they feel as though they have ties to sustainability. They feel the same for everyone else in the world.
“Sustainable agriculture doesn’t get the spotlight it needs,” said Eisler. “It seems like we’re moving away from what’s good for the earth and good for the humans in farming.”