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National Farm to School Network

News

Farm to School in the Every Student Succeeds Act

NFSN Staff Wednesday, March 08, 2017
By Ariel Bernstein, Farm to School and Education Fellow

Farm to school is a multifaceted movement with many intersecting components. As stakeholders continue to engage in policy levers for farm to school, a large piece of education legislation, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), comes into the conversation. To help you stay aware of and take advantage of the opportunities this legislation provides, the National Farm to School Network has created a toolkit outlining how farm to school engages with ESSA. As the farm to school movement continues to grow, it is imperative to seek new opportunities where farm to school can impact students and families. ESSA is one of them.

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) has been one of the most important education policies to shape the way states and districts interact with their most vulnerable students and lowest performing schools. It has provided opportunities for low-income, migrants and native students, as well as outlined Title I funding, data reporting and many forms of enrichment education. In December of 2015, Every Student Succeeds Act was signed into legislation, reauthorizing ESEA and replacing its predecessor, No Child Left Behind (NCLB). ESSA has taken a different approach than NCLB did, shifting more decision making authority to states, opposed to having power concentrated at the federal level. Under the new legislation, State Education Agencies (SEAs) and Local Education Agencies (LEAs) design their own education plans, giving them leverage to choose how federal funding is used. ESSA also has a heavy focus on non-academic factors that contribute to improving education. Aspects such as school climate, health and wellness, and family engagement are being pulled into conversations about student success, creating a more holistic and well-rounded educational environment for students.

These themes provide great potential for farm to school and early care and education (ECE) to interact with this legislation. There are opportunities for the inclusion of farm to school and ECE in the design and implementation of state and local plans for ESSA. Farm to school can improve educational outcomes through methods such as social and emotional learning, health and food education, family and community engagement, and healthier school climate, just to name a few. ESSA’s focus on well rounded education is a great connection point for farm to school, and one that should be taken advantage of by educators, school health professionals, parents advocates and all other farm to school stakeholders.

With education as one of the three core elements of farm to school, it is key that we stay engaged with this legislation and the opportunities it provides. This new toolkit is designed for educators, advocates, parents and farm to school and ECE stakeholders to understand and act upon the opportunities ESSA offers, and to continue to expand the reach of farm to school and ECE in our communities. 


Ready to learn more? Join us on March 21, 3-4pm ET, for a Q&A style webinar about farm to school in ESSA. Register here. Or, contact Ariel Bernstein, National Farm to School Network Farm to School and Education Fellow, at ariel@farmtoschool.org

Reducing student food waste with farm to school in Arkansas

NFSN Staff Thursday, October 27, 2016
By Melissa Terry, MPA Candidate specializing in Food Policy, University of Arkansas Fulbright College of Arts & Sciences, and Emily English, Arkansas State Lead, National Farm to School Network. Terry and English are co-Chairs of the Arkansas Coalition for Obesity Prevention’s Access to Healthy Foods Workgroup


Photos courtesy of Melissa Terry
Each state faces its own food security challenges, but Arkansas’s children find themselves particularly in the crosshairs of childhood obesity and childhood hunger statistics. In 2014, Arkansas was ranked as one of the top 5 states with the highest rates of food-insecure children, and approximately 1 in 5 children are obese. When combined, these two factors can be early indicators of long-term health risks, but also, an opportunity for community leaders to cultivate an environment where the healthy choice is the easy choice. 

Washington Elementary School in Fayetteville, Ark., offers a shining example of how farm to school strategies can help cultivate healthy learning environments and positively impact the health and wellness of children. A garden-based learning program is used to engage all 325 kindergarten through 4th grade students in a variety of experiential academic lessons tied to grade-level benchmark standards – including activities inside classrooms, in the lunchroom, and in the school’s three gardens. 

Classroom lessons include interactive activities like making Rainbow Wraps with kindergarten students, pouring over the latest issue of ChopChop Magazine with 1st graders, learning about pollinators by creating Monarch butterfly nurseries in 2nd grade classrooms, facilitating Math in the Garden lessons with 3rd graders, and exploring USDA Garden Detective curriculum with 4th graders. After school programs include Washington’s robust Gardening Club, which is filled to capacity with 30 students. Additionally, each grade level participates in a farm to school field trip to a local farm.  

“Washington Elementary School’s garden-based initiatives are making a difference in our school and have enriched student learning experiences. The Fayetteville School District’s Farm to School program benefits all students regardless of the demographic background,” says Ms. Ashley McLarty, Washington Elementary Principal. 

Cafeteria lessons include a rotating “School Lunch in the Garden” initiative where one class each week visits the school garden for a lunch tray picnic. Activities also include data collection of Harvest of the Month taste test result, and participation in food waste reduction incentives. According to Washington’s Garden-Based Learning Coordinator, Melissa Terry, “The unsung hero of classrooms and learning environments is the school cafeteria. What the students learn there, whether intentional or incidental, shapes the way they perceive healthy food choices for the rest of their lives.” 

One of the school’s most innovate farm to school initiatives has been piloting a student food plate waste audit in early 2015, in partnership with the Washington County Environmental Affairs Department, the EPA, the USDA, and four other county schools. In this pilot, students engaged in a five day plate waste audit that measured plate waste by categories, including fruit/vegetables, all other food waste, milk waste, other liquid waste and unopened items. 

Results from the audit reflected an opportunity for Washington to make changes to help students reduce their food waste, including the introduction of 8 oz water cups next to the water fountain and the installation of a share table for unopened items, such as milk cartons, fruits and packaged food. Over the course of the 2015-2016 school year students reduced their milk waste by 20% and shared various unopened lunch meal items (e.g. milks, apples, oranges, etc.) as afternoon snacks with other students.   

To further its food waste reduction efforts, the school also launched an innovative “Farm to Store to School” partnership with Natural Grocers. Initiated in 2015, the store donates its surplus produce to the Washington Elementary twice a week, where it is used to make fresh, healthy snacks for students in afterschool programs. Produce picked up during holidays and during the summer break is delivered to the local Salvation Army kitchen, where meals are served twice daily and often include Washington Elementary students and their families. 

Arkansas Farm to School seeks to support schools and communities as they strive to fully engage students in their food system and cultivate emerging leaders empowered to participate in their food choices. And these efforts support the local economy, too. According to the 2015 USDA Farm to School Census, local and regional procurement practices have resulted in $1,255,960 of direct financial impact for Arkansas' food producers. Emily English, National Farm to School Network Arkansas State Lead, says, “As we support schools and communities like Washington Elementary in Fayetteville and share successes and best practices across the state, we build a network of change agents young and old – students, parents, school staff, growers and community members - united in our efforts.”

For more information about Washington Elementary School’s farm to school activities, check out this Prezi featuring different types of student engagement, and this recording of a USDA webinar featuring Washington’s school-based food recovery partnerships.  

Growing youth leaders in Philly

NFSN Staff Tuesday, October 25, 2016
By Aunnalea Grove, Get HYPE Philly! Program Manager, The Food Trust



For the Get HYPE Philly! initiative, 10 nonprofit partners, led by The Food Trust, have come together to empower 1,000 youth leaders to improve the health of their schools and communities with a goal of reaching over 50,000 Philadelphia youth in 100 schools by January 2018. Through urban agriculture, physical fitness, nutrition education and work readiness, Get HYPE Philly! is helping to ensure that Philadelphia’s young people play a key role in building healthier communities and creating a healthier generation. This has created a true movement, with young people at the forefront as agents for healthy change in their communities.

Many of Get HYPE Philly!’s youth leaders are actively involved in improving access to local, fresh foods in their schools and communities. Students involved in the school wellness clubs known as  HYPE (Healthy You. Positive Energy.) have the opportunity to visit local farms, start school gardens and advocate for healthy food sales in their schools. Youth leaders also support farm to school efforts by encouraging their peers to try local foods through marketing and taste tests in their schools. As one student said, “I joined HYPE because I wanted to help my friends make healthy food choices.”  Youth leaders take lessons about healthy eating home to their families, too.  HYPE student Priscilla says she has been able to influence her family with “more water, no soda in my refrigerator, whole wheat bread. My sister is a soda lover, so at first she was upset - but now she loves water.”  After several visits to urban farms and farmers markets, Priscilla wants to continue to see change in her community: “We need at least one farmers market around my community.”



Through Get HYPE Philly! partners The Village of Arts and Humanities, Norris Square Neighborhood Project and Greener Partners, young people are learning about urban agriculture by growing their own fruits and vegetables and using them to teach peers how to cook healthy meals.  Youth leaders run neighborhood farm stands, increasing access to healthy foods in low-income neighborhoods in North Philadelphia.  They also donate the food they grow by running a free, CSA-style delivery program for senior community members and lead a community cooking classes at a local shelter.   
In addition to working within their own schools and neighborhoods, Get HYPE Philly! has a Youth Leadership Council made up of a cohort of students from across the city whose goal is to promote healthy living and the development of sustainably healthy communities.  These students advise on Get HYPE Philly! Collective programming, serve as youth philanthropists and advocate for policy change.  In Get HYPE Philly!’s first year, the Youth Leadership Council chose to focus on urban gardening and healthy food access, and with funding from GSK, had the opportunity to  award 18 local nonprofit organizations with a total of $51,000 in mini grants, many of which went toward supporting other youth-led urban farming programs.  

Get HYPE Philly! brings people and organizations together to reach a common goal, empowering young people to lead healthier lives.  For more information on Get HYPE Philly! or how to get involved, visit www.gethypephilly.org, and follow us on Instagram and Twitter @hypephilly.  

Learning garden grows food, curiosity and creativity

NFSN Staff Wednesday, October 05, 2016
By Ariel Bernstein, Farm to School and Education Fellow
 


The idea to grow a school garden at Shaker Heights High School in Shaker Heights, Ohio, was first sprouted in Stacey Steggert’s special education class. Inspired by a book about a diverse cast of characters cultivating a community garden, her students were the first advocates of turning school grounds into an edible landscape. They began with potted plants in the classroom, which quickly turned into two raised beds in the school’s courtyard. As the first crops grew, so did students’ enthusiasm, and soon their small garden plot began to expand and capture the entire school’s attention. Now in its fourth year, the Audrey Stout Learning Garden is growing more than just plants; it’s nourishing academic engagement, inspiring creativity and sprouting young community leaders. 

Covering all 6,400 square feet of the high school’s center courtyard, the Audrey Stout Learning Garden is designed with multidisciplinary education in mind. The space is divided into four geographically-inspired sections: Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas, each growing crops, herbs and flowers that can be found on these continents. In the Europe section, the German class grows cabbage and learns to make sauerkraut. On the Americas side, there’s a salsa garden with tomatoes, peppers and tomatillos for Spanish classes to explore cultural flavors. The African garden includes a patch of Arundo Donax, better known as African Reed Cane, that students harvest and transform into handmade paper. Plum trees, shiitake mushrooms and Chinese red noodle beans grow in the Asia garden. And to top it off, nine espaliered apple and pear trees grow in the garden, adding to the uniqueness of this beautiful and lush courtyard.

Throughout the space, the creative handiwork of art students can be seen in handcrafted tile benches and innovative wire sculptures. A Shakespeare class made connections to the garden by planting an “Ophelia garden” with rosemary, columbine, and daisies after reading Shakespeare's Hamlet.  Math classes use the garden to practice calculating area and put algebraic equations into real-life application. The SEEDS (Service, Environmental Education, Diversity, Sustainability) student club turns garden produce into canned goods that have won multiple ribbons at the country fair. And all students get to benefit from the garden’s fresh, healthy harvests, which occasionally are featured in school meals. 
The garden’s connection to healthy eating is one that’s especially important to Paula Damm, Shaker Heights High School nurse and co-leader of the Audrey Stout Learning Garden. “Health promotion is key in my role as school nurse, and promoting the garden promotes health,” she says. She’s seen first hand that when  students are excited about growing fresh food, they’re excited to eat it. “One students was particularly excited about the peas, which she helped grow in the spring. While looking at the full grown pea pods on the trellis, she said to me, ‘I feel like these are my peas! I feel like I created them!’ And she did! She continued to talk about her love for those peas well after they were harvested.” 
The Shaker Heights community is extremely diverse, and there are many areas in the city where healthy food access is a challenge. As students learn to grow food, they become educated about the role urban gardening can have in building healthy communities, and how young people can make a difference in the wider food system. Steggert and Damm tell the story of one student who, after participating in a vocational training program at a grocery store, was especially struck by the differences in produce selections between stores in wealthier and lower income communities. “Why don’t they think poor people like nice food?” he reflected. His gardening experiences at Shaker Heights High gave him the tools to make connections and observations about the food system, and has empowered him to become an advocate for healthy food in his own community. 
In the Audrey Stout Learning Garden, learning has no limits. This garden space provides students with unparalleled opportunities to experiment, to take risks, to make unexpected connections and to grow as leaders. As Steggert and Damm say, “It’s a learning garden!” There are no mistakes or failures, only opportunities to try new approaches and, well, learn! From planting to growing, from to eating to leading, the lessons taught in this school garden are more than just academic. These students are being shaped into well-rounded, reflective, and goal-oriented people who, throughout the process, are eating healthy!


Learn more about the Audrey Stout Learning Garden on Facebook and Tumblr

Beet Hummus Bravery

NFSN Staff Tuesday, October 04, 2016
By Zack Silver, FoodCorps Service Member serving at the United Way of Passaic County in Paterson, New Jersey


Photo Credit: FoodCorps
Judah hated food. Well, that isn’t entirely true - he did eat some things. Cheerios in the morning if they didn’t touch any milk and he didn’t have to see nearby bowls of fruit. Plain pasta for lunch with no protein, veggies, or sauce. Snacks, but only crackers. On the days that the Center for Family Resources (CFFR) in Wayne, N.J., offered other meal options like yogurt or stir fry, Judah didn’t complain or bawl like some of his 4-year old classmates, or ask for alternatives. He simply sat in silence and watched his classmates eat. If I tried to put banana on his plate or serve steamed broccoli, that’s when the waterworks would begin.

However, as I started showing up often to CFFR to teach farm to school classes, presenting students with locally grown apples or inviting them to lay fresh compost on our garden’s raised beds, Judah became more trusting of me. When he watched his classmates cook new fruits and vegetables, from school-grown kale to exotic pomegranate and kiwi, he became reluctantly intrigued by these foods. A few months into the year, he progressed to allowing new food on his plate although he assured me he wouldn’t taste it, but would instead prod it with his fork and fingers when I asked him to, so he could feel the mushiness of a raspberry or the hardness of a rainbow chard stalk. These gestures were the first of many small steps Judah would take on his journey towards nutritional enlightenment.

Unfortunately for Judah, the final unraveling of his stubbornness was my blender. I brought it to class to make smoothies, salsa, and dip and its arrival was heralded with cheers from my preschoolers that would make a football stadium shake - it became the harbinger of fun and symbol for tasty produce. During classes, students would go in a circle to measure and add ingredients to blend, then line up for the coveted job of pressing the button and feeling the vibration under their fingers while classmates screamed in joy. Judah loved pressing the blender button. He reveled in his classmates’ yelps and stood triumphant as he made healthy treats.

Although Judah tried to resist, it was impossible to harvest a vegetable from his own garden, clean it tenderly, blend it with other ingredients, and still not want to taste it. And finally, one day in late spring, Judah succumbed. Our homemade beet hummus lay resplendent on his plate made from chickpeas, olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, and beets that he had pulled from the soil minutes before and chopped with a plastic knife. Judah gingerly dipped a pita chip into the magenta mass and brought it up to his lips where he stuck out his tongue and dabbed it with what was microscopically the smallest amount of food that could be considered “tasting.” He took another chip and a larger dab. I felt like I was at the top of a roller coaster, climbing inch by inch - I didn’t know when it was going to drop.

Five minutes later, I was spooning second helpings of beet hummus onto Judah’ plate, as he told me that “it tastes like raw candy!” To a preschooler that might be a standard compliment; to me, it was the highest praise I’ve ever received. The techniques that charmed Judah’s palate are helpful for kids at all levels of fruit and vegetable familiarity - they applaud courage, encourage taking just the smallest of steps, and help children find a new “yum” they never thought they could have.


FoodCorps is a national service organization that recruits, trains, and places AmeriCorps members to serve in high-need schools to connect kids to healthy food in school. Serving alongside educators and community leaders in 18 states, corps members focus on delivering hands-on lessons in gardening, cooking, and tasting healthy food; improving school meals; and encouraging a schoolwide culture of health.

From farm to food truck, special needs students take Berry Good Farms “On the Go”

NFSN Staff Wednesday, September 14, 2016
By Ariel Bernstein, Farm to School and Education Fellow

Photo credit: Berry Good Farms, North Florida School of Special Education 
Farm to school's educational opportunities are undeniably important, for the knowledge, skills and experiences that come from learning about local, fresh and healthy food are universally valued. This aspect of farm to school is especially important in specialized learning environments. North Florida School of Special Education (NFSSE) goes above and beyond for the education, growth and empowerment of their students, ranging from 6 years old to adults in their 40s. Berry Good Farms, the school’s farm and horticulture program, offers hands-on learning experiences in growing, harvesting and cooking healthy food, as well as developing unique and useful skillsets in the agricultural and business sectors. Through its many programs, Berry Good Farms empowers students to be self-sufficient and caring individuals against the toughest of odds.
Students at NFSSE face a large variety of intellectual and behavioral challenges, such as autism spectrum disorder, Asperger’s syndrome, down syndrome, and other mild to moderate intellectual disabilities. Berry Good Farms serves as an outlet for these students to be immersed in horticulture education as a means for holistic and applied learning, and thus has a variety of programs for students to participate in. Students learn horticulture on the farm, make and sell dog biscuits as part of the Barkin’ Biscuit program, and learn to cook fresh, healthy food in the culinary arts program. All of these programs utilize produce from the farm and teach students a variety of useful skillsets, enabling them to make connections between their knowledge, their work and their futures. 
The newest program at Berry Good Farms is Berry Good Farms On the Go, a food truck that roams Jacksonville, Fla., procuring, preparing, cooking and selling food from the school farm to the community. After graduating from the culinary arts program, advanced students have the opportunity to work in the food truck as part of a post-grad employment opportunity. Under the helm of Food Truck/Catering Events Manager and Chef Brett Swearingen, three to four students design a seasonal menu, prepare food in a commercial kitchen, and head out into the community for a great lunch hour of selling food in business parks, state agency offices, and wherever else the truck decides to plant itself. Seasonal menu items include a grilled turkey and brie sandwich served with locally made bread, a signature salad with fresh greens from Berry Good Farms, and a refreshing pineapple mojito smoothie.
The truck caters to skills and experiences that specifically pertain to students with special needs and intellectual challenges. Many of these students do well with food prep tasks that require repetitive activities. The students cherish physically applying a specific skill set that they've learned, especially in the context of the food truck business.
The truck, as well as a the farm program as a whole, promotes healthy eating and fresh produce. This is extremely important, considering the high rate of obesity that exists in the special needs community, and provides local, healthy food to the Jacksonville community in the process. In addition, the tasks learned on the truck are useful well beyond the school; these skills and lessons are empowering students to be self-reliant. They can cook healthy meals, interact with the greater community, and utilize their learned business skills in the workforce. Experience on the food truck makes for a great addition to resumes, too!
Berry Good Farms On the Go is much more than a food truck. It is a space that fosters professional, as well as personal, growth for students who have many different intellectual and learning conditions. Students utilize their culinary skills in the context of a commercial kitchen, and they learn to interact with co-workers, as well as customers. It also give students an opportunity to practice managing potentially stressful situations in a positive manner. The kitchen is far from a perfect space, and as Brett says to his students, “It’s okay to mess up. I have been working in a kitchen for 15 years and I still mess up.” Even when the truck is off schedule and customer orders are backed up, Brett teaches his students how to deal with the stress in the moment, and then how to move forward from mistakes, using them as a learning experience and even a silly memory, not a set back.
Berry Good Farms On the Go has not only been a successful addition to NFSSE, but it’s also proven to benefit the entire community. People around Jacksonville see students working in a kitchen and selling food, challenging preconceived notions of people with special needs. The community is extremely supportive of the food truck, creating a positive and inspirational environment for students as they drive through town. As Brett says, “These are incredible young people that can always put you in a happy mood. It is an incredible place.”
Learn more about the North Florida School of Special Education, Berry Good Farms, and Berry Good Farms on the Go by visiting northfloridaschool.org. Contact Ellen Hiser, Director of Berry Good Farms or Brett Swearingen, Food Truck/Catering Events Manager with questions.

Developing young entrepreneurs in school gardens

NFSN Staff Thursday, June 16, 2016
 Photo credit: DC Greens
When schools let out for summer, many garden coordinators look for creative ways to keep school gardens thriving. Tapping into the enthusiasm, creativity and efforts of high schoolers can be a great way to maintain gardens when classes are out, and summer programs are an opportunity for students to gain valuable professional and entrepreneurial experience. From leadership to marketing and accounting to customer service, programs that hire students to tend school gardens offer countless benefits – for garden plants and young adults, both! 

Gather inspiration from this roundup of media stories highlighting several models of youth entrepreneurship programs in school gardens: 

Fellowship of the farm: Teens tend school garden through summer
The Spartan Urban Farm Fellowship pays high school students a stipend to work in the Corvallis High School garden three days a week during the summer. Produce grown in the garden is sold at a weekly farmers market hosted at a local elementary school. (Corvallis Gazette-Times, Oregon) 

Program takes school gardening to new level: entrepreneurship

A program at San Francisco’s June Jordan School For Equity is taking traditional school gardens to a new level, where the green isn’t only in the dirt or student diets, but also in their wallets. Students earn $10 an hour learning how to plant, harvest, cook and sell vegetables at a local farmer’s market. (SFGate, California) 

Youth In Agriculture Growing Beyond Farms 
Cleveland Botanical Gardens’ Green Corps hires high school youth to work 20 hours per week during summer months, where they learn about sustainable agriculture and community engagement by working on one of six urban farms. The youth education component of the program is an important element to agriculture in the city, as many of the students taking part have little-to-no outside growing experience. (Growing Produce, Ohio)

Healthy Eaters, Strong Minds: What School Gardens Teach Kids 
City Blossoms employs high school youth in Washington, D.C., to tend to gardens at schools and community centers with low access to fresh, healthy foods. Students then sell produce grown in the gardens at farmers markets, learning valuable business and money skills. (NRP, Washington, D.C.)

Alameda Students Bring Two School Gardens Back to Life
Thanks to high school students, gardens around Alameda, Calif., are springing back to life. Project Eat’s “Get Fresh! Eat Healthy!” internship hires about a dozen high school students in the summer to revitalize school gardens and develop skills that can translate into work opportunities later. (Alameda Patch, California)

Are youth helping to keep your school garden thriving this summer? Are you a high school student working on a school garden or farm this summer? Tell us about it! Use our story form to share how farm to school activities like school gardens are benefiting your community. 

Learn more about farm to school in summer by exploring resources in our Resource Library

Urban farms help city kids bring field to tray

NFSN Staff Wednesday, October 14, 2015
This week’s Farm to School Month blogs are sponsored by Organic Valley, a farmer-owned cooperative representing more than 1,800 organic farmers across the United States. Committed to fostering health and wellness in the youth of America, Organic Valley is proud to support the National Farm to School Network.

   Photo Credit: Illinois Farm to School Network
By Lydia Mills, Illinois Farm to School Network 

Illinois may be corn country, but with 65 percent of the state’s population living in the Chicago area, many students have little experience with agriculture. When city kids think of farms, they typically imagine acres of pasture and red barns filled with cows. So as farm to school grows in Illinois, so do our efforts to connect students with agricultural experience in their own back yards. With farm to school field trips and lessons in the school garden, students are learning what it takes to get food from field to plate. 

Urban farms in Chicago, Springfield, and other cities in Illinois are booming, and many value community involvement as much as profits and sales. With specialties from aquaponics to livestock, and apiaries to orchards, these farms provide an opportunity for students to learn about food production and agricultural career options without leaving the city.  

Recently, I accompanied a group of elementary students from the south side of Chicago to one of these urban farms – a total distance of 5.5 miles away. Windy City Harvest Youth Farm is a small vegetable operation with high tunnels in the heart of Chicago. The farm hosts a dynamic youth development program, employing up to 90 teens from low-income communities to learn about growing food sustainably, healthy eating, and food justice advocacy. Youth Farm students not only grow good, healthy food for their neighbors – they’re proving to be the next generation of food leaders: 93 percent graduate from high school, 53 percent enroll in college, and many continue their work in Chicago’s growing urban agriculture sector. 

On our tour of this farm, the elementary students were open to experiences and opportunities they had never had before. They picked and ate mizuna greens in the high tunnels and declared them a new favorite (they also dubbed them “mizu-ka” greens!). In the raised garden beds, turnips stuck out, and the students were excited for the opportunity to harvest them – which they did with great enthusiasm. The apiary was the only section of the farm where the students held back, a bit afraid of being stung. However, they asked the farmer lots of questions, and were able to learn a great lesson about pollination. 

After this field trip, the students were noticeably more engaged in their garden at school. They were excited to spend time tending to the vegetable they were growing, and even more so when it was time to harvest. The garden was both a learning tool and an eating tool! 

Farm visits are valuable in every type of educational setting – from K-12 classes to afterschool and child care programs – and there are dozens of resources for aligning classroom curriculum with these educational tours. In Illinois, farms like Angelic Organics Learning Farm have created standards-aligned programming so that farm visits enhance classroom learning, and organizations like Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom offer numerous curriculum materials. Seven Generations Ahead distributes a free, standards-based curriculum for year round school garden education, called Sow and Grow. When field trips aren’t an option, educators are using the Adopt a Farmer Program to connect students with farmers through pen-pal style photos, letters and classroom visits.   

Farm to school programs teach students many things, including where food comes from and how to appreciate the process that it takes for food to get to our plates. Meeting farmers, whether urban or rural, and seeing their work to bring food from field to plate is just as vital as tasting new foods. This farmer-student connect is also a proven method for encouraging kids to try new food. Kids who know their food, eat their food. Visit a farm during Farm to School Month and see what your students learn! 

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