Tag Archives: farm to school

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

School Gardens for Every Budget

Greenhouse at Middlebury Union High School
Before attending the seminar “Farm in School” at the 2013 NOFA Winter Conference, I assumed that only fancy private schools could afford school gardens. I figured that, in a time where arts and physical education were being cut from budgets school gardens were a last priority.

At this event I learned that yes, school greenhouses can cost upwards of $60,000 but they can also be as “cheap” as $7,000. I also learned that for schools just starting out and unwilling to use thousands of dollars of school budgeting for a new project there are alternatives to greenhouses.

One alternative is outdoor seed beds. Creating your own low tunnels or row covers with remay or plastic mimics a cost efficient greenhouse effect. For example, this overlay creates an environment for seeds similar to 500 miles south of wherever the garden is planted.

Another option I didn’t know about before attending the conference was the Lowes Toolbox for Education Grant which has given over $25 million to 5,000 schools in only six years for projects like school gardens and greenhouses.

This seminar taught me and educators throughout the state that “we don’t have it in our budget” is no longer an excuse for why every school shouldn’t have a school garden or greenhouse. These gardens and the experiences students gain from them are invaluable and well worth the school budgeting. No matter how big or how small.

Guest blogger: Ally Gravina

WC Speakers: Joe Bossen of Vermont Bean Crafter’s Company

Joe Bossen, founder of VT Bean Crafter's
Joe Bossen, founder of VT Bean Crafter’s
Six years ago, after attending a NOFA conference, Joe Bossen was inspired with a new idea. He wanted to start a business that was not so much profit driven, as it was a “nourishing experience”. That’s where Vermont Bean Crafters Company came into play. This time, at the 2013 NOFA Winter Conference, Bossen was the one providing in the inspiration in his TED style speech, where he explained how Vermont Bean Crafters Co. is the combination of passion and innovation working together to fill a void in Vermont’s agricultural community. At VBC, they choose what products to create based on a) what’s being consumed, b) what’s being poorly executed, and c) what’s available locally. From this framework, they’ve developed tasty, local products, including veggie burgers, refried beans and falafels.

In addition to increasing the availability of local products to the community, Bossen believes that the schools are also in need of more nutritious, local foods. So in spring of 2012, Bean Crafters teamed up with Burlington High School and created Falafel Fest, where they provided white bean and chickpea falafel samples to the students, which was a major hit.

“You can’t just put new inputs into a broken system,” Bossen explain. “You have to get kids excited about it”. This idea can resonate throughout the entire Vermont food system – providing a local option isn’t enough to make a change, you have to motivate people to be on board. Bean Crafters, and other local agriculture businesses have the responsibility to “be activists and create this type of culture,” where we “re-imagine daily reality”. Bossen stresses the amount of untapped potential in agriculture, reminding us how much we can do with just one simple product, like Bean Crafter’s does with beans, in order to create this new food revolution. He reminds us to “think about inputs over outputs, and quality over quality,” and continuously strive to innovate and grow both as individuals and as a community.

Guest blogger: Kristy Ryan