Crops by Kids...A Rich History - A Healthy Future
While you're on our Crops by Kids page, check out this great video from Video Vision Productions, featuring interviews, pictures, and information on how we use the garden at our school. A must see for families, teachers, the community, and other schools who want to start a garden of their own. Enjoy!
About Crops by Kids
The Crops by Kids project began with the school Health Committee's revamping of the school's nutrition policy. It became clear that in order to teach the children about healthy food choices it was also necessary to give them a clear understanding from where whole, natural foods come. To that end, the school began a monthly "taste testing" program, whereby a healthy food is tasted both in its natural state in the classroom and then in a recipe in the lunchroom. The taste testing has been a great success and the students at Barre Town have tried everything from purple cabbage to an ancient whole grain called quinoa.
A children's garden was a natural offshoot of these efforts. In the Spring of 2005 a bunch of teachers, parents and students went out and built some raised beds. From there, little by little, a beautiful outdoor learning center has been set into motion across the street from the Barre Town School. A fence surrounds the beds and the entry boasts a wooden arbor on which climbing flowers grow. There is a tool shed, water bins and benches for resting. Many of these things were built by the older students. The Barre Town Fire Department comes along whenever there hasn't been enough rain to fill the water bins.
The garden project applied for and received funds from the National Gardening Association, Home Depot, Lowe's, and other organizations. We also have regular fundraisers selling seconds from the American Flatbread Company in Waitsfield. We hold an annual "Antiques Roadshow" each Spring, where an expert appraiser entertains and gives interesting information about the artifacts brought by participants. All the money we raise goes towards compost, seeds, mulch, garden gloves, classroom plant lights and other improvements.
What We're Doing Now
The school has started composting all the food refuse from the cafeteria and classroom snacks. In the first year, we diverted tens of tons of compost from landfill -- instead it goes to the Vermont Compost Company to be transformed into usable compost. That compost comes right back to the school and gets put into the garden! This way, the students see the entire plant cycle first hand, from their lunch trays all the way to a garden full of fruits and vegetables. They also learn about stewardship and responsibility for our environment.
We're proud of how our teachers have connected their classroom work with the garden, making it truly a teaching tool. They've used it to teach math, life science, and physical education, along with Vermont history and other subjects. Often times, the kids who plant a bed will harvest it in the fall when they come back to school. This gives them the joy of reaping what they sow and seeing the end result of what they did months before.
Many families and teachers participate in the critical summer maintenance. The importance of regular irrigation is stressed and each member of this core group assign themselves certain days or weeks. On these days, each gardener and their children agree to perform whatever watering, weeding, and bug patrol might be required on their dates. One of the benefits of summer work, along with fun and exercise, is taking home some of the plants that are already ready to harvest.
Fall Harvest and Celebration
The start of School in Fall is the most rewarding time to be in the children's garden. Teachers, kids and parents work together with scissors, cutting down the tomato vines, making piles of colorful gourds, stuffing paper bags with assorted herbs, and filling cardboard boxes with tomatoes. The green leaves are piled onto the garden compost bins or are eventually turned into the soil itself. The food is used to create pizza sauce, pumpkin bread and other recipes in the school, brought home by gardeners, or brought to the food bank.
Crops by Kids garden always begins "growing" long before spring. We begin in the winter months by seeking funding sources, generating interest, and discussing improvements. A map is laid out and the beds are divvied up between the grades, so that everyone knows what they'll be planting in the classrooms and where it will go in the garden. We've built cold frames, which lengthen our growing season. Through our efforts and planning our next year will always be better - and we will all grow, along with our garden.
This overview cannot be ended without extending sincere and heartfelt thanks to all those who have lent their hands in whatever way they were able; thanks to those who faced the daunting initial planning process, those who strained their backs in the building process, kids and grownups who work and sweat to ready the garden and plant it, those who faithfully tend the garden all summer long, those who come out to harvest and all those who witness and celebrate the bounty of Crops by Kids!