Farm to School programs blooming in area classrooms

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October is National Farm to School Month and Bennington County has been doing its part to celebrate the power of food education, nutrition and community engagement around local food systems.

Here is a sampling of some of the events and projects taking place at our schools, farms and community supported agricultural venues.

Bennington: Molly Stark Elementary School is off and running with its newly expanded Farm to School program. In addition to farm visits and field trips, a school garden was planted last spring and students are about to harvest sweet potatoes, November's harvest of the month. First graders learned about sweets and planted 15 slips in June, which were donated by Laughing Child Farm in Pawlet. The plants were cared for over the summer by volunteers and now the yield is ready to harvest for taste testing.

Danby: Currier Memorial School just held its second annual Harvest Open House to celebrate local farming's partnership with the school community. Yoder Farm brought carrots which were sampled with freshly made hummus provided by BRSU's new food service manager, Kelly Foster. Fisk-Haines Farm brought honey harvesting equipment for students to check out as well as goodies made with honey instead of sugar. Popcorn from Williams Farm was a hit and Smokey House Center shared beautiful spaghetti squashes with families. Sixth graders baked pumpkin bread to celebrate Harvest of the Month. Making rhubarb juice is a new Currier must-do!

Dorset: The United States Department of Agriculture recently funded NOFA - VT to roll out a "School to Farm: Know Your Farmer, Know Your School" project, which will build relationships, skills, and capacity between students, educators and farmers. This two year project directly involves over 200 fourth grade students across the state, as part of their Vermont History curriculum. Through a series of in-depth farm visits, Dorset School fourth graders will spend time at Yoder Farm in Danby and Someday Farm in East Dorset. This work branches into Dorset School's cafeteria through taste tests and local foods featured in their meals!

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Manchester: The Dene Farm program, a collaboration between Hildene and Burr and Burton Academy, offers place-based, experiential learning opportunities for BBA students. Students learn the sciences through a food systems lens and grow produce for the cafeteria, including microgreens and root vegetables. Studying topics like plant and soil health and supplying fresh food for BBA food service help both institutions move towards their local and global sustainability goals. Dene Farm students are creating projects for their third annual harvest showcase event, scheduled for next month.

North Bennington: Village School in North Bennington has been busy this fall! Children have been making pickles, bread, salsa, soup, herbal teas and pesto, harvesting, pressing cider, and enjoying time together while learning gardening skills. The fifth and sixth grades did a fantastic job running a successful farmers market after school two days a week. As the program gets put to bed for winter, there has been a lot of pulling and mulching as well as planting greens in cold frames to see if the season can be stretched just a bit longer. The classes are looking ahead to spring, as a garlic crop got put in!

Sunderland: Sunderland Elementary School continues to develop its Farm to School program with field trips and taste tests. They launched into a robust apple inquiry this month, complete with a trip to Hildene to press cider and learn about the history and the science behind this classic Vermont staple. Sunderland Elementary faculty are using next generation science standards to build math and science literacy through farm and food curriculum.

Throughout the year, Northshire Grows' Newsletters will highlight how land-based learning is taking root in our region's schools. Many thanks to VAAFM and to VT-FEED for their partnership in this work.

Liz Ruffa is part of the board of directors of Northshire Grows, a nonprofit organization that focuses on community engagement around food, land based economic development, and Farm to School programming.


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