Last month at Rocklands Farm in Poolesville MD, we convened 30 farm-based educators from across the region, both rural and urban, to network, share ideas, and learn from the expert farm-based educators at Shelburne Farms in VT and Soilful City in DC.
Why is a field trip to a local farm important for students in DC? Farm field trips are not just about nutrition, plant science, or environmental stewardship; they are about self-reliance, social justice and access to land. On farm field trips, students learn to unpack the layers that have contributed to the construction of our unjust food system and begin to imagine what a just one might look like.
DC is a city that supports food education at the highest levels, including grants to support farm field trips and setting up school gardens. Since 2012, our Farm to School Approved Program ensures that teachers have the support they need to choose rigorous farm field trips and helps farms market their programs to teachers. Now, our annual Farm-Based Educator Workshop has a created a network for these farmers to connect and have access to best practices from across the region and country as they develop strong education programs that explore all the issues plaguing our food system today.
We are thrilled to see so many farmers stepping up to the plate to not only grow the food that feeds us, but teach the future decision makers and consumers about how to support the growth of a healthy, more just food system.
is the FoodCorps service member at Mundo Verde Public Charter School. In her role, she runs their garden-based programming including the school garden market, family garden workdays, garden club, garden therapy, and more. This month we asked her, “When was your Farm to School ‘aha’ moment?” Here’s her reply:
I have loved my role with FoodCorps and the opportunity to engage students with experiential learning around food. One of my first projects at Mundo Verde was to organize a Fall Garden Workday for families. My “aha” moment came during this workday, when a student who was harvesting beans exclaimed, “this is more fun than playing!” Over the past several months, I have seen students come alive and get so excited about learning when they are outside in the garden. Being able to work in the dirt with their hands engages students’ bodies and minds and allows them to experience how food grows for themselves. I look forward to continuing hands-on lessons with students in the garden and watching them come to their “aha” moments.
Kaamilah Mitchell is the FoodCorps service member at Friendship International Public Charter School: Woodridge Elementary. In her role, she helps run Friendship’s School Garden Market and leads farm to school programming for students. This month we asked her, “When was your Farm to School ‘aha’ moment?” Here’s her reply:
My two years of working with FoodCorps in D.C have been amazing, to say the least. I’ve had the pleasure of working with different students of all ages and taste buds. My ‘aha’ moment came at the end of last school year. Throughout the year we had tried an array of different fruits and vegetables. Most kids were hesitant to try all of these unfamiliar and different foods, but by the end of the year, they were excited to try diverse things. During our last lesson and meal together one student proudly exclaimed: “This taste better than McDonald’s!” It was then I realized food education and access is a marathon, not a sprint. With constant support and resources, we can transform students thinking about food. With programs like DC Greens School Garden Market, students are not only able to grow and try fruits and vegetables in school, but they are then able to buy and take these foods home to create a healthy meal.
Jordan Carter is the Education Coordinator for DC Greens and point of contact for DC Greens’ School Garden Market program. In his role, he co-manages 20 Market Champions, and coordinates SGM logistics with the 14 participating SGM Managers, and the Common Market. This month we asked him, “When was your Farm to School ‘aha moment?” Here’s his reply:
Cultivating a school garden is a very special thing. Students, teachers, administrators, and parents alike are brought together to reap the fruits of their labor, or bliss of what their child or student was able to grow and harvest. While implementing an 8-week nutrition intervention with 90 fourth grade students in Whittier, California the students and I were able to transition an eye sore into a green space for the school community. While this intervention got many of students to think about the food growth process, nutrition, and connected them and their families to farmers in the region, I wish I could have given the students so much more.
As the Education Coordinator with DC Greens, I’ve been able to champion the School Garden Market program logistics with SGM Managers and the Common Market to ensure students can deepen their connection to healthy food via a student run farmers’ market. Interacting with SGM managers and students during site visits to SGM’s and school cafeterias across the district has enabled me to continue the work I discovered in California, and support change makers of all ages. I’m thrilled this Fall 2017 SGM season is off to a great start, and that students across the district are gaining hands on experiences growing, procuring, and selling healthy food to their school communities.
Last week, we kicked off our 8th season of the School Garden Market program at 17 schools across the city including 9 new schools. This means nearly 200 students will be actively engaged in running a School Garden Market at their school this Fall!
For those unfamiliar, a School Garden Market is a student run farm stand, stocked with produce from their garden, and supplemented with offerings from DC Greens’ K Street Farm and the Common Market, a Pennsylvania-based food hub missioned to connect communities with good food from sustainable family farms. This weekly program turns schools into healthy food access points within low-income communities, and transforms students into ambassadors for local and sustainably-grown fruits and vegetables. All the while, students gain hands-on math and marketing skills, raise money for their school garden program, and create connections between local farms and their school community. Learn more about the program HERE.
Our Fall 2017 orientation boasted several speakers covering a range of topics including:
- Nony Dutton from FRESHFARM Markets gave a marketing 101 presentation and shared their resources to enable SNAP purchases at schools’ markets.
- Maddie Morales from the Common Market spoke about produce selection, pricing, farmer profiles and other ways to extend schools’ market season through Common Market partnerships.
- Leo Horrigan from Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future presented on their FoodSpan Curriculum and ways to deepen educational opportunities through School Garden Markets.
- Malka Roth from City Blossoms shared their new Garden Gastronomy curriculum and ideas for value add products and taste tests.
This Fall you can expect to see a wide variety of delicious produce at School Garden Markets including root vegetables, winter squash, mushrooms, dark leafy greens, onions, herbs, apples, pears and more! To find a market near you, click here! For more information or to start a School Garden Market at your school, email Jordan@dcgreens.org!