GLOVER -- Lisa Dunlavey's first-grade class trudged up the hill from Glover Community School recently to their school garden. It was planting day and the students soon got their hands dirty planting tomatoes, squash and root crops.
"I planted onions, and I had the tiniest one!" first-grader Michael Davsoin said, pointing to his onion seedling. With the help of classes from all grades, the Glover school garden was planted with vegetables that will be incorporated into school lunches this coming fall. Glover Elementary is one of 23 schools that have benefited from a school garden and farm-based education program orchestrated by the organization Green Mountain Farm-to-School (GMFTS).
"The students do a lot of academics during the day, so the school garden is a new environment to practice working together" said para educator Mrs. LeBlanc, as she watched pairs of students measure distances between tomato plants. The school gardens function as outdoor classrooms, where students not only learn about growing vegetables and flowers, but engage with the natural world at an intimate level. "I think it's nice to plant stuff. It helps us believe that we do like nature. I like that," said first-grader Villy Trevits.
The students will return again in the fall just in time to harvest the gardens, experiencing their food from seed to fruit. "It's great to have the students be a part of the planting because they gain ownership of the garden," said Dunlavey. Volunteers from the community tend the garden during the summer, another initiative organized by GMFTS. Any and all are welcome to help maintain the school gardens. you can sign up for a time and location by contacting GMFTS at email@example.com.
In the coming year, Green Mountain Farm-to-School is expanding to build new gardens at five schools in Franklin and Lamoille counties. "More and more, communities across Vermont are looking to combat childhood obesity through school gardens and nutrition education. We're eager to help schools do this important work in whatever way we can," says Katherine Sims, GMFTS executive director. "We hope to see a garden at every school in Vermont." Green Mountain Farm-to-School's programming also includes a year-round agriculture and nutrition curriculum, through a combination of in-class workshops and farm field trips. By engaging students in activities that focus on the diversity of Vermont's food and agriculture, GMFTS is working to connect classrooms to the local community.
After a hard day's work of planting, staff and students at Glover Community School met at the garden to celebrate the growing season. Students sang their plants a harvest song, and everyone sent a blessing of rain, sun, bees and love to the little plot of land overlooking their schoolyard.
Green Mountain Farm-to-School is a nonprofit organization based in Newport whose mission is to restore and strengthen local food systems in Vermont by promoting positive economic and educational relationships between schools, farms and communities. Founded in 2008, Green Mountain Farm-to-School's currently serves 25 schools, providing food, nutrition, and agriculture education to over 5,000 students in northern Vermont. GMFTS also functions as a regional food distributer through their Farm Direct program. For more information, visit www.greenmountainfarmtoschool.org, call 802-334-2044, or stop by the office at 194 Main Street, Suite 301, Newport.