One of our favorite things about Farm to School Month is October’s abundance of farm-fresh foods, many in a rainbow of colors that children don’t often associate with food. Apples in colors other than red; carrots in colors other than orange; white, yellow—even blue!—potatoes fresh from the soil. And nothing beats the flavor of vine-ripened, heirloom tomatoes in hues of red, orange, yellow and purple.
Schools that source local foods are providing an educational experience for our children that goes way beyond the classroom. Not only are the varied colors of unique, local foods beautiful, each color represents vital nutrients for growing bodies. Best of all, a rainbow-colored plate supports local farmers whose kids may be in your own child’s class. Schools that go one step further to source local and organic are also supporting a way of farming that reduces the use of chemicals on our food, our land and, therefore, in our children’s vulnerable bodies.
Here are a few more of our favorite ways you can participate in Farm to School Month in your homes and communities!
Harvest the season’s bounty. Visit a local apple orchard or pumpkin patch and pick your own. Many children today don’t connect that their food comes from the soil or animals rather than the store shelf. Teach them this valuable lesson with a fun and colorful fall experience!
Know your farmer. Meet a farmer at the farmers market and learn the story behind your food. Ask them questions: Where is your farm? What’s your favorite part of your job? What can my family do to support you and other local farmers? Is your farmers market closed for the season? Look into fall and winter “community supported agriculture” (CSA) shares to get local foods nearly year-round. Find a CSA farm new you at www.localharvest.org.
Get your hands in the dirt. Get involved with your local community or school garden. Many states have organizations that help install gardens, and schools can get free curriculum to connect science, nutrition, health and physical education classes with their gardens. here are a couple resources from Organic Valley’s home state of Wisconsin, which any state could use to get started:
- The Got Dirt? Gardening Initiative provides a toolkit with step-by-step plans for starting a community, school or childcare garden. To bring the classroom to the garden, the program also created the Got Veggies? Garden Based Nutrition Curriculum, which is a free download. Download both toolkits here.
- The Whole Plate Real Food Curriculum has four units: What is food?; Nourishment for People and Planet; Why Organic?; and The Spice of Life.
- For additional curricular resources, visit the National Farm to School Network website.
Grow your own! Start small with a window herb garden, a manageable space in the backyard, or even vegetables that are suited for pots on the porch. A great kids’ activity! Offer to visit your local school to help students plant their own classroom herb garden.
Cook together. Cooking can be a great learning experience. Encourage lots of colors for balanced nutrition, and talk about where the foods came from – does your child know that butter comes from cream, which is part of milk, which came from a cow? Talk about it while making your own butter!
Farm to School Month is a great time to engage with your child’s classrooms and encourage teachers to work in food and farming education. It’s so important to help our children learn to appreciate where our food comes from and the hard work it takes to bring that food to our tables.
Organic Valley is happy to support the Farm to School Network in its efforts to support family farming and teach children about where our food comes from.