Do you ever wonder what farmers do in the winter months? Nine hundred students in Vermont had the opportunity to find out last winter through the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT) Farm to School Correspondence Program. Farmer pen-pals corresponded with classrooms across the state to share the events on the farm, from using draft horses in Marshfield, to training a working farm dog. Last year 75 farmers participated reaching over 80 classrooms of students!
The regional NOFA-VT Farm to Community mentors match classrooms with farmers based on students' interests and grade levels. Every subject matter taught in school can be explored through agriculture and by corresponding with a farmer. Farmers commit to writing four letters during the winter months. By spring students have learned about our Vermont food system, and have developed a strong relationship with a farmer. Last year, through NOFA mini-grants, several teachers even took their classes to meet their farmer pen pal.
In Caledonia, Northern Orleans and Essex counties, 16 matches have been made which greatly increases the number of students participating in our region. Pre-kindergarten to high school students are participating. Marcia Gauvin, a St. Johnsbury School teacher, is excited to connect her students with and draft horses. Another middle school teacher in Gillman, Carl Johnson will also be exploring energy in the form of farm inputs and outputs with Samantha Russo of Auburn Star Farm. High school students at the LEARN school will be exploring agriculture as a career with farmer Bill Half of Harvest Hill Farm. And even the youngest of students in the St. Johnsbury pre-K class will be hearing about life on an animal farm from farmer Penny Lowe of Second Chance Farm.
NOFA's Farm to Community Members facilitate links between farmers, educators and other community members. They create and expand opportunities for food and farm education throughout Vermont. Activities include: on-farm education with field trips, open farm days and educational tours; service learning projects where community members plant, harvest and glean local food, distribute local produce to institutions, and integrate agriculture studies into their academic programs.
To find out more about any of these projects, call or email local Farm to Community mentor, Melissa Bridges at Melissa@stjfoodcoop.com, 802-748-8742 or at the St. J. Food Co-op 802-748-949 or the NOFA-VT office (802-434-4122).