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Fictional goats and garden, real hard work

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"So you made a theoretical plan for raising theoretical goats for a theoretical cooperator?" asked Luke Braswell, Noble Research Institute photographer, one evening as we were doing a Rural Life Team photo shoot. Though the plan and goats may not have been real, the time, effort and lessons I learned this summer from the Rural Life Plan project were definitely real.

A couple of months ago, our team of four scholars began the process of developing a farm plan for a fictional cooperator. Although the cooperator may have been fictional, we were given a tangible 150-acre property owned by the Noble Research Institute to serve as our blank slate. The first weeks of the project were spent bouncing around all kinds of ideas to fit the cooperator's goals of having a livestock operation that didn't disturb wildlife habitat and made a profit. We also were given the task of designing a garden for the property that would feed a family of four, which appealed to me because of my background in horticulture. After brainstorming, we took our best ideas, which we believed accomplished the cooperator's goals, and began to develop a plan around them. Courtney and Alyssa tackled the livestock operation, while Helen and I took it upon ourselves to develop a plan for the garden.

Conner, Courtney, and Alyssa

After weighing our options, reworking budgets about a thousand times and putting it all in a PowerPoint presentation, we came up with something really great. Even though our plan is fictional, we all joked about quitting school and carrying out our plan because we were so proud of it. Our final day at the Noble Research Institute will be spent giving individual presentations about our summer at Noble, and we will present our Rural Life Plan. Spending long hours on this project brought me close to my team, and I can't think of a better way to end the summer than showing off all of our hard work to our families and the friends we made here at Noble.

Conner Carroll is a 2014 Lloyd Noble Scholar in Agriculture from Perkins, Oklahoma.