Tag Archives: education

Farm Across Curriculum

The 2013 NOFA Winter Conference held a series of seminars throughout the weekend long event in February. One of these seminars entitled, “Farm in School” functioned to teach educators the link between school gardens and service learning/curriculum.

The seminar began with an explanation that, contrary to popular belief, school gardens are not just to teach students how to cultivate and yield their own crops. The education extends far beyond the greenhouse/garden and into the classroom.

Steve Colangeli, the head of the Middlebury High School Garden Project explained to a room full of educators that school gardens can be beneficial in all subject area. This idea of “farm across the curriculum” makes school gardens more appealing to school budgeting. Colangeli provided attendees with a list of subject areas and how they are related to school gardens.

-Biology: cells and reproduction
-Ecology: food chains, energy and limiting factors
-Environmental Science: Sustainable agriculture
-English: journal writing, farm to school letter writing
-Math: Financial Literacy/ Business, Algebra and Geometry
-Art: sketch diaries and painting
-Social Studies: New World/Old World Foods

In additional to curriculum inclusion, Colangeli discussed the link between school gardens and service learning. For those of you who don’t know service learning is a method of teaching that combines formal instruction with a related service in the community.

School gardens allow students to fully immerse themselves in their school’s community. For example students can supply their cafeterias with local greens while learning how to run sustainable businesses. Colangeli explained that at certain times during the school year Middlebury High School is able to source 100% of their cafeterias salad bar from their garden. The service learning aspect can be taken a step further in that high school students are doing field trips to middle and elementary schools to teach the students the importance of sustainability.

“In the end,” Colangeli concluded, “it is all about teaching these students to be better community members”. This activity in the community is what service learning is all about, it teaches students how to apply the skills they learn in the classroom to real life scenarios and if you ask me that experience is invaluable and something few high school students get to experience.

Guest blogger: Ally Gravina

Small Farm Marketing at the NOFA Winter Conference

Most would think that the actual planting, growing, and harvesting process is the hardest part for many small local farmers. However, that seems to be the easier part when it comes to trying to distribute and sell these fresh, local products. There seems to be a slight disconnect between the farmers, their products, and the consumers who want and love these locally produced goods.

This problem was recognized and addressed at the recently held Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont winter conference. In a classroom setting farmers were able to gather valuable information from a professional on how to most effectively market their farm products to consumers. One issue that seemed to be a major problem from the consumer side was not realizing that ‘organic’ and ‘local’ do not mean the same thing. Consumers just assume that if something was grown local than that must mean it is organic. This leaves consumers wondering why they are paying so much more for ‘organic’ so they choose to not support local. This was a big point that the farmers should really take the time and educate their customers on the difference.

Another big talking point at the workshop was the understanding of whom the farmers are selling to and what are their average customer’s demographics. For example, the main motivator for parents when buying organic food is they are trying to provide healthy options for their family as much as possible. It was discussed that this could be a great selling point and some farmers did admit that once they started posting recipes using the food they were selling either at a farmers market or food stand it had a positive impact on sales.

As a non-farmer in a room full of farmers I began to realize that they were unaware of how great their product actually was, they almost took the high quality of their products for granted. Consumers are not used to buying the freshest products from a place like price chopper however once the realization is made that fresh food is at their fingertips I think the conversion would be a easy one to make for the consumer.

Guest blogger: Jackson Diebold