By Jackie Fischer
Special To The Standard
Have you heard the term “Farm to School” and wondered what that actually looks like in the school setting? There are many vibrant dynamic Farm to School programs in WCSU area schools. Each has its own character (flavor, if you will!) but all involve children and young people learning about local food through hands on learning. A sampling of Farm to School activities is represented in a current project funded through OCP and partners: the Trek to Taste Farm to School mini-grant program. This week, OCP will award five mini-grants of $250 each to local Farm to School programs. The grants are made possible by funding from the Ottauquechee Health Foundation.
School will use the mini-grants to support student research on a particular farm or farm product and includes students making farm visits and conducting interviews with. Students will create a poster and presentation of their findings, for public presentation at the Trek to Taste on June 4th at March-Billings-Rockefeller National Park, an event that is open to the public. The mini-grants not only pay for the field trip, but are also used to purchase food from the farmer to develop taste tests. Taste tests, a regular feature of Farm to School programs, are a way to introduce new fresh foods to children in schools. But this taste test is a little different, because it’s for hundreds of people at the Trek to Taste!
Barnard Academy students will research edible roots from the Barnard Community Garden. The Woodstock Elementary School 5th and 6th grade “Farm Kids” will research the difference in how cattle are raised on small local farms in contrast to large commercially raised beef. They’ll conduct a blind taste test to compare the tastes from each. Upper Valley Waldorf School will be traveling to Fable Farm to gather spring greens and spinach and will learn how Community Sustained Agriculture (CSA) systems work. The students from Bridgewater Village School are making maple syrup by tapping trees at their school and boiling down the sap. They will travel to observe a small local producer, Alice Paglia, while she makes syrup on her farm. The students will make maple butter and homemade bread for the taste test at Trek to Taste.
The Pomfret Elementary 3rd and 4th grade class is communicating with farmers from Eastman Farm to learn about the workings of a local farm and what sustainability looks and feels like. Their focus is specifically on cattle; they are learning how meat comes to market and what measures are taken to ensure the continued fertility of the farm so that animals are fed only the highest grade food. Their learning will culminate with a field trip to the farm to see the farming techniques first-hand and to meet the farmers in person. The students will purchase their meat to make meatballs for the taste test at Trek to Taste.
Woodstock Union Middle and High School’s research will start this week, during the high school’s Earthfest celebration (April 4-7) where there will be a farmer panel and celebration of local food production. During the farmer panel the 7th grade classes will interview the farmers about production methods on their farms. They will also ask questions that will allow them to determine which vegetables will be in season in late May that can make good, perhaps unique, pizza toppings for the now famous wood-fired pizza at the Nordic Hut. These students will make recommendations to the Farm the School committee, and create informational displays for the Trek to Taste Nordic Hut local pizza taste test station.
June 4th will be a great time to experience Farm to School taste tests at the Trek to Taste, and to learn more about Farm to School programs in our local schools. If you are interested in volunteering with Farm to School programs, consider attending the April 12th Community Coalition meeting with a focus on Local Healthy Food, being held from 5-7 in the Woodstock Elementary School cafeteria.
This article first appeared in the April 7th print edition of the Vermont Standard, Woodstock VT.