BY TARA BURKE AGRICULTURE TEACHER AND FFA ADVISOR, TRI-VALLEY CENTRAL SCHOOL Changing with the Times FarmTo School
Rebecca Coombe and Alaor Carey meet with a reporter from the Sullivan County Demo- crat explaining the importance of supporting local farms. Coombe has grown up on Thun- der View Registered Angus Farm and Carey lives on Maple Woods Horse Farm. Students harvesting garlic for donations in Spring of 2021
Burke and Wightman showing off the tomato harvest from the community garden in the fall of 2020.
The Tri-Valley Agriculture Department – teachers Tara Berescik (Burke) and Ashley Kent (Wightman) - was extremely excited to be selected to participate in the 2019 Farm to School Program and worked with administration, the school cafeteria, and our local farm community to develop a plan to promote local agricultural resources and develop student interest in health eating. It was going great. We recognized eight local farms with the Cream of the Crop Award for giving back to the Tri-Valley Central School system. We encouraged and educated youth to buy local foods like apples, honey and maple and set up displays at local events to promote the Farm to School initiatives and local producers who needed out help. We were developing a school saladprogramto get local products into the school cafeteria – including those grown by students on our own school campus. Our FFA chapter was helping to fill backpacks for those in need in the community and we had provided nutritious foods and recipes for children and parents in the community through our outreach efforts. When March, 2020 started we were on-a-roll to break ground for the season in our 39 raised bed community garden, had developed plans to restart hydroponic and aquaponics growing in our greenhouses and were working to start growing berry bushes to add to our small working orchard on campus. Then everything shut down. We were not allowed to meet with students. We were not allowed to enter the school building. Our cafeteria would not accept anything we grew or which was not purchased from a major company. Moreover, people in our community were starting to suffer – emotionally, financially, and nutritionally. Therefore, we changed our plans and stepped up to meet the needs of those we could help in our Farm to School to Community endeavor. Just because COVID started and the school building closed did mean that people were not still in need. As a department, Ms. Kent (now Wightman) and Ms. Berescik (now Burke) decided to use their time and
keep the school based community garden running. During the summer and fall of 2020, more than 300 flats of produce was grown and donated through the Single Bite Program to families in need in the community. The program also donated food to local veterans, local food pantries, and to anyone in the school community who needed assistance. Recipes were provided for anyone who wanted to learn new ways to prepare squash, zucchini, tomatoes, and more as well. It did not stop there. To get students engaged, these teachers bagged seeds, containers, and soil and made deliveries to hundreds of students to help them start gardens at home. They also worked with community members and members of the FFA program to preserve what was made in the garden. Froma distance, students learned how tomake pickles, salsa, tomato sauce, applesauce, apple pie filling and more. The ingredients were donated by the FFA and all of the jars came from community members. As locally grown products were harvested, drop off/pick up points were determined so that fresh produce could be transformed into less perishable canned items. These were then collected back to be used as resources for the 2020—2021 school backpack program. Local farmers also stepped up to help those in need through the Single Bite Program. It was amazing, that even though the school was physically closed – teachers, students, administrators, cafeteria workers and the community were still able to feed a community in need. The efforts have continued through the pandemic and we are working this summer to continue to donate to the food banks and to anyone in need. I hope that in the fall we will be able to give back to the school cafeteria so that students can once again enjoy locally grown products directly from the school. However, regardless of the future the Tri-Valley Agricultural Education Department, the FFA and the local farming community will continue to work together so that no child at Tri-Valley goes hungry!
We had signs all over town to promote Farm to School and to share how generous our local farmers were!
To provide local foods, the FFA chapter sought donations from local farmers to teach healthy eating habits and to develop recipes to encourage people to eat more whole foods and fewer preservatives. We received a donation of local potatoes, bagged them, provided recipes and cooking instructions and provided them to families in place of instant mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving.
To get elementary school youth involved the agricul- tural education students hosted plant-and-sip parties. We would invite classes of 1st-4th graders to the Ag room and would teach the kids how to plant seeds and plugs. They were given simplified instructions to start their own mini-home gardens and were provided with seeds to grow what they wanted to at home. The seeds were all donated from local stores and included both vegetables and flowers. We also encouraged the planting of flowers and discussed the importance of pollinators to agriculture with the older students.
Here, Amy Carey is recog- nized by Tara Burke with the Cream of the Crop Award. The cutting board plaques were designed by students in the FFA chapter and were made and engraved by students in the word processing classes in the school.
To engage the public and promote local farms we set up displays at different community events (this is homecoming). We gave out agri- cultural ABC coloring books with crayons, free local apples, maple candies and honey sticks and quizzed people on this Agricultural IQ. We also had a nominate-a-farmer flier to gain additional contact information and to see who was actively involved in the community and deserved Cream of the Crop Recognition.
Community table for anyone in need set-up weekly at the fairgrounds during the summer of 2020.
Student volunteering working in the garden in the summer of 2021.
Canned items ready for backpacks
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