October is Farm to School Month!
Don’t the sights and smells of fall bring you back to your childhood?
They do for me. In fact, being a native New Englander, autumn carved its magical presence into my youth. So as we wrap up fall harvest here in the mountains, I reflect not only on the season’s colors, but also on its bounty …
This year is particularly special since I’ve taken on the role of Farm and Garden Chair at Tetonia Elementary School in Tetonia, ID. Working side by side with children allowed me to experience—all over again—the wonders of being a kid in the fall. It reintroduced me to the excitement children feel when basking in a prolific harvest that they helped grow. Each tomato picked, each potato uncovered, as if it were a sunken treasure, and each new taste encountered unveiled the fascination kids have with our earth.
Now, as I freeze and can my winter provisions and turn down the beds in the school’s greenhouse, I praise the knowledge I gained in this role and the pleasure I had introducing school children to healthy choices.
Did you know … farm to school programs not only benefit students, parents, and schools, but they also benefit local communities and food producers?
Let’s break it down. Teaching children how food is grown helps influence healthy eating behaviors. School gardens enhance the local economy by creating jobs and by linking cafeteria workers to their neighboring farms. Children are given the opportunity to learn outside of the traditional classroom environment and engage in hands-on practices that relate back to their studies. And the sustainable ethics promoted through a garden program fosters resourceful take-home practices in students, faculty, and teachers. What more could you ask for?
Start a garden program at your school!
It may seem overwhelming at first, but starting small yields BIG results! Here are some tips for breaking ground:
- First, attend your school’s next PTO/PTA meeting. Pitch your garden idea to the crew and start a farm committee. The committee is crucial to the success of the program and it alleviates the burnout factor. Remember, “it takes a village!”
- Research funding through local grants, national grants (USDA Farm to School), or private donations. Many communities have enrichment grants available. And don’t go it alone! Recruit the help of a local farm-and-garden nonprofit (we worked closely with Full Circle Education in Teton Valley).
- Devise a plan. Start small—maybe two raised beds at first? Plot out a mission and a budget, then select a grant writer from your committee to draft grant applications. (Don’t get overwhelmed by lack of funds. You can get your project rolling without them. Collect supplies, via donation, from local hardware stores, groceries, and nurseries.).
- Select committee volunteers to head up operations such as building the garden infrastructure, being a curriculum liaison with teachers, organizing a watering and tending crew, and planning a summer garden club.
- Use your “village” of parents, volunteers, students, and teachers to plant, maintain, and teach in your garden.
- In the fall, plan a school harvest day and lunch. Celebrate the fruit or your labor through tasting, cooking, and sharing. Continue to educate the children about healthy choices and sustainable practices throughout the year.
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