Oregon’s North Coast has an abundance of agricultural heritage that keeps our local food system thriving, from land to sea. Our Farm to School program works to connect students to local food and the producers who grow it to create long-term, healthy changes. We provide hands-on learning opportunities for students in the classroom, at school gardens, through farm field trips and family engagement events and through local food tastings.
At Nestucca Valley Elementary School (NVES), students are back in the classroom, so we are back in the garden! After conducting all of last year through virtual learning, the students (and our team members) were excited to get their hands dirty and enjoy the new garden space. Parent and NVSD staff member, Tana Higdon was instrumental in getting the garden site ready for students this summer and fall!
The new garden has several raised outdoor garden beds and also inside the hoop house. There are a variety of veggies planted; students joyfully discovered scarlet runner beans. The hummingbirds are enjoying the flowers of these bean plants as well. Last week we explored the garden through an exciting scavenger hunt where students located a variety of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and garden vocabulary. These findings led to deeper curiosity and discoveries in their new garden space!
We are still enjoying a bountiful harvest, and have harvesting lessons planned out for both NVES and Tillamook Junior High School (TJHS). At NVES we are harvesting cucumbers, kohlrabi and ground cherries, and at TJHS we are harvesting tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, basil, Asian pears, apples. Since school closures due to COVID, we have been donating our harvest to the TJHS Food Pantry. Just in the last two months, Joy Harpham, the Family Resource Coordinator for the Tillamook School District (and former Food Roots Office Coordinator!) has helped organize the distribution of over 100 pounds of vegetables from this school garden site!
“Currently, the TJHS food pantry is incredibly fortunate to have as much fresh produce as we do from not only week old excess produce from the storefront, but fresh produce harvested from the greenhouse that Food Roots provided and helps plant/harvest each year. In the future I believe the garden and food pantry could be multiple students' senior projects where they could help harvest as well as assist in the weekly food pantry operation. Additionally, due to the amount of apples and Asian pears the fruit trees produce each year, I think there are further opportunities to discuss collaboratively.”
The best part about Farm to School month is celebrating local food! Later this month we are joining hundreds of other schools nationwide for the BIG CRUNCH! Crunch events are an easy way to create a unifying experience and a sense of comradery amongst National Farm to School Month celebrators. All we need are students with an appetite and a crunchy local food. On October 26th, we are inviting the “Intro to Ag” class for a taste comparison featuring a local food with the shortest radius we could find- apples and Asian pears from our own orchard! At Nestucca Valley Early Center we are also celebrating with local food. Food Roods is excited to partner with NVELC to have a tasting of roasted pumpkin from Old House Dahlias.
For more information about Farm to School Month, volunteering with school gardens, or anything at all related to farm to school in Tillamook, please contact Carol Parks, Food Roots’ Programs Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org