From Learning in the Garden to Learning at the Farm

Learning from the Garden

Last spring the fifth and sixth grade science classes at Folsom school studied root vegetables as part of a project on plant growth and scientific experiments. At the end of the unit, they decorated three raised beds in the school garden and planted carrots, beets, and potatoes with South Hero Land Trust. The third and forth grade learned about pollinators and planted a salad garden with us.

The vegetables harvested in the summer were donated to Food for Thought, a program of the South Hero Congregational Church that provides boxes of healthy food to low income families during school vacations. The vegetables harvested by the students in the fall- boxes of tomatoes, peppers, and basil- were used by the school meal program.

South Hero Land Trust staff and teachers at the school are excited to use this community garden as a learning space as well as a food production space. Students do math while building beds and planting seeds, they learn about the role of pollinators by watching the bees and other insects, and they learn history and geography from planting vegetables from around the world.

Beyond the Garden

Weeding strawberries in the Folsom School & Community Garden

Weeding strawberries in the Folsom School & Community Garden

The garden is not the only way South Hero students are learning from the land and community. They participate in field trips to local farms and natural areas, often hosted in partnership with South Hero Land Trust. From maple sugar walks at Crescent Bay Farm, to visiting the dairy barns at Islandacres Farm, to harvesting apples at Hackett’s Orchard and Allenholm Farm- students are learning real world skills from local community members. All of these activities are part of Farm to School, a national movement to incorporate local food, farms, and community into our schools.

What is Farm to School Anyway?

As the National Farm to School Network puts it, “farm to school enriches the connection communities have with fresh, healthy food and local food producers by changing food purchasing and education practices at schools.” Students at schools with strong programs have increased access to healthy, local foods as well as learning opportunities through school gardens, cooking lessons, field trips, and more. Each school program is a little different, but in Vermont, schools are working in three areas. In the cafeteria we are increasing purchases of local foods and supporting healthy meal choices. In the classroom we are using farms, gardens, and other outside spaces to enhance education. And in the community we are building connections to local farmers and community members who can help teach our kids.

A New Partnership in Farm to School

South Hero Land Trust is excited to be expanding our Farm to School program in the upcoming year through our partnership with the Healthy Roots Collaborative. The Collaborative has been doing farm to school work with several Franklin County Schools, and by working together we hope to reach more schools across Grand Isle and Franklin County.

We will be working with schools across our two counties to get more local foods into the cafeterias, engage students in taste tests and cooking lessons, plan farm field trips, plant school gardens, set up farm mentor programs, develop lesson plans based on using the farm and natural resources in each community, and more. We’ll also provide training for teachers, staff, and community volunteers.

This new partnership will allow us to reach more schools and more students, to support more local farms, and to support strong school-community connections in our region.

If you are excited about Farm to School in your community, please get in touch. We’d love to help you become a volunteer!

Emily Alger