Wednesday, July 9, 2014

FoodCorps Attends the MT School Nutrition Association's Annual Conference!

In mid-June, FoodCorps service members from across Montana had the privilege of attending the annual Montana School Nutrition Association Conference in Great Falls. The theme of the conference was “Good Nutrition Makes Cents,” and indeed, not only were there workshops about cooking with lentils and new strategies for using whole grains, but there were also multiple sessions on procuring local food. Nicki Jimenez, Camille McGoven and Zoe Tucker were fortunate to have a chance to present a workshop on “Classroom and Cafeteria Connections” to a room full of dedicated food service staff who wanted to know how to get kids to eat healthier foods. 

Sometimes some adults think (mistakenly) that kids just naturally don’t like fruits and vegetables. This has even been brought up as a reason to scale back the requirements for fruits and vegetables in schools--of course it’s a waste for school food services to see food they’ve bought and prepared get scraped off trays into garbage cans (or into compost buckets). But as service member Leah Kroger recently wrote, it’s a fallacy that kids are somehow instinctively sugar- and junk food-craving maniacs. To the contrary, an astronomical amount of marketing dollars is spent on getting kids to like junk food, while very little is spent on marketing vegetables (except for some fabulous and creative recent efforts like this one).

With this problem in mind, Nicki, Camille and I wanted to share our “marketing” strategies for fruits and vegetables with school food service staff. Sure, these strategies are a lot lower budget and smaller scale, but at the grassroots level, they absolutely work. Here are a few tactics we discussed that you, too, can use in your school meal programs:

Outside of the School Day: creatively use more flexible food programs and school events for showcasing local food.
  • Summer Feeding Programs -- If you live in a cold place like we do, summer feeding programs are a great outlet for local and even school garden produce during the height of the season! This is also a great opportunity for involving kids in fun activities such as growing and harvesting produce for the summer feeding programs, farmer or rancher visits, and farm field trips.
  • Concessions -- Since concession stands often have higher budgets, they can be a great opportunity for things like local beef (Red Lodge Schools have experimented with this!).
  • Family open houses- A great way to showcase the school lunch program by providing a meal or taste test for families.
  • Field trips and farmer visits- Want one of the most effective ways for connecting kids to where their food comes from? Meeting the actual human who grew, tended, and harvested their veggies.

In the classroom: kids who learn about new foods will more likely try and love them!
  • Snack Facts -- With the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, other snack programs, or even menu items, food service staff or volunteers can make and distribute snack fact sheets that say 1. What a food is 2. Why it’s good for you and, if it’s local, 3. Where it comes from and why eating local can be a good choice. Here you can find a trove of her amazing snack fact sheets that you can adapt for your own school or use as inspiration!
  • “Snacktivities”-- Movement-based activities that Nicki and other service members use to get kids thrilled about eating healthy, Montana-grown foods like lentils, butternut squash, and beets. (Nicki even led workshop participants in a snacktivity that acted out growing and preparing butternut squash. “And CHOP! And CHOP! And CHOP! And CHOP! . . .”). As a food service worker, you can send these activities to classroom teachers along with the snack of the day.

In the cafeteria: start small and celebrate each victory by throwing yourself a big party!
  • [Insert your State] Meal Day -- In your state--Montana, for example--try serving all Montana-made food for just one meal a year. Invite parents, make signs, make a day of it! This brings great attention to your program and can increase participation. It’s a totally manageable way to introduce local food into your school budget in an exciting way.
  • Harvest of the Month/Monthly Menu Items -- It’s one step up from once a year but it can still stay within your budget: try featuring ONE local item a month. It can be a sample, an entree, or a weekly feature, but when you have one item it’s super easy and fun to make a big hullabaloo around it with activities, taste tests or even lessons.
  • Taste tests -- Want to introduce a new food to your lunch menu, or give kids a chance to re-acquaint themselves with something you already serve? Try a taste test in the cafeteria--on the line, at a table, or bringing it to the kids with a tray. Take a poll to gather the kids’ opinion, which makes them feel respected and can also help you make menu decisions. Giving kids the power to help choose something that could be served at lunch can subtly nudge them to try -- and like! -- things you might think they wouldn’t touch.

We also knew that the workshop participants would have a lot more experience in this area than we would, as they had spent years and years in school kitchens cooking and baking with incredible dedication to their students. Hoping to give the participants an opportunity to learn from each other, we facilitated a discussion group around each of the three topics in our presentation, where we got to share our hurdles and tricks for getting over them. The discussion groups created a perfect cafeteria-like environment for modeling a taste test! As food service staff shared, Kirsten Gerbatsch, our fearless FoodCorps Fellow, brought around Kalispell Public Schools’ Local Squash-Lentil Hummus. Everyone took a taste and chose a “tried it,” “liked it,” or “loved it!” ballot to cast.

When the votes were tallied, the group overwhelmingly “loved” Montana-grown lentils and squash. Hooray! (Though we can’t say we were surprised. . .) In the end, it seemed like everyone, including us, walked away with at least one new strategy they’re excited about implementing in their school. Thanks to the Montana School Nutrition Association for letting us participate in this year’s conference!

This post was written by Zoe Tucker, Camille McGoven and Nicki Jimenez - the three inspiring FoodCorps members who presented at the MT SNA Conference in Great Falls in June 2014.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Digging Into Healthy Habits in School Gardens

FoodCorps service member Erin Jackson was recently asked to speak on Montana Public Radio for the Alternative Energy Resources Organization (AERO) to share her experience as a school garden educator and her ability to connect kids to real food through hands-on gardening activities. 

AERO is a grassroots membership organization serving as Montana’s hub for sustainable communities: inspiring change, connecting local leaders, and building capacity for success across the state for 40 years. If you'd like to get involved, check them out at

Erin's talk, which aired on MTPR on June 19, 2014, is called "Schools Can Build Real Relationships with Real Food" and the transcript is here below:

How many times have you heard a parent say, “I can’t get my kids to eat vegetables!” While this is, unfortunately, sometimes true, over the last two years as a FoodCorps service member at Hyalite Elementary School in Bozeman, I’ve heard AND experienced the exact opposite. Just last week, I had to ask a kindergartner to STOP eating spinach. He was picking it from the school gardens and shoving it into his mouth so fast that I feared he would strip every plant of its leaves, leaving none for others to try. What a quandary—having to ask a child to stop eating his vegetables!

Every day, I have the privilege of helping youth form enduring relationships with real food – through lessons in the school gardens, cooking classes, field trips to local farms, or taste-tests paired with nutrition education. I’ve come to believe that connecting kids to where their food comes from, in a hands-on, engaging outdoor environment, can be a key to creating healthy, sustainable communities. When a kindergartner plants the spinach seed, waters it, watches it sprout and grow, and finally, harvests it straight from the ground, he or she has a personal connection to the leafy green and is therefore more likely to try it – and even devour it – as I have witnessed many times.

Watching kids shove this calcium- and vitamin-rich super-food into their mouths, then ask for seconds or thirds, has convinced me of the power of school gardens to foster lifelong healthy eating habits. The students say it best: “You just made me love spinach! I used to hate it, but this is the BEST spinach I’ve ever had!”

And it’s not just spinach. One parent asked me, “Are you the one planting with the students? My son wouldn’t TOUCH vegetables and now he’s raving about radishes!” After the students made a salad using kale from the gardens, another parent told me that her son wouldn’t eat anything green before this but now he likes kale so much that he wants it every day! 

Our hands-on approach to growing, preparing, and tasting vegetables has translated to the school lunch program as well. Teachers report that their students choose a wider variety of fruits and vegetables and are more willing to try unfamiliar foods than they were a year ago. Given the chance, kids can be much more adventurous tasters than we give them credit for!

In addition to encouraging kids to embrace fruits and vegetables, our school gardens help foster an understanding and appreciation of the natural world. Sitting beneath the towering sunflowers in this outdoor classroom, we feel the rough potato leaves and the smooth flower petals, listen to bees pollinating our flowers, hunt for bugs with magnifying glasses, smell mint, sage, and thyme, and taste crisp, spicy rainbow radishes. Learning is brought to life as every sense is engaged.

Caring for plants in the school garden also instills the principles of environmental stewardship. It’s delightful to watch as third graders take ownership of their cabbage plants by naming them, checking on them at every recess, and proudly showing them to their parents. These cabbages were part of a math lesson in which students measured their plant’s height and diameter every week—just one example of garden integration with the Common Core Curriculum Standards.

Here in Montana, a challenge with our garden program is that the school year doesn’t overlap with the main growing season. In an effort to continue garden learning over the summer, I teach a Junior Master Gardener program for third through fifth graders. Following a farm to school theme, the students learn basic gardening skills and how to harvest and prepare meals with the fresh produce. We also visit local farms and help harvest the Gallatin Valley Food Bank’s gardens, which make it possible for everyone in the community to enjoy fresh food. Besides being fun and useful, the Junior Master Gardener program undoubtedly lessens what teachers call “summer learning loss” – the students stay engaged in the science of the growing cycle, practice their math skills while converting recipes, and improve their writing by keeping a garden journal.

And next month, we’ll be building a greenhouse at Hyalite Elementary to extend learning opportunities into the school year. This project is a collaboration between our 4th and 5th grade Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or STEM, club and many local organizations. Plans are underway to use the greenhouse to continue to integrate lessons with our state and national core curriculum standards.

My time with FoodCorps at Hyalite Elementary has reinforced my belief in the value of outdoor, experiential learning. If it were up to me, every school in Montana--and across the country--would have a program like this!

Friday, June 13, 2014

It’s a bird, It’s a plane, It’s a …. Lentil?

Lentils are the new superheroes at West Elementary School in Butte Montana. Throughout the month of May students got to learn about lentils, our May “Harvest of the Month” item. In December, the Butte School District started serving one local item each month for our new Harvest of the Month program. It has been a great way to teach food and nutrition to kids one item at a time and to get kids really excited about trying new fruits, vegetables, whole grains and proteins. Starting a program like this one is also a great way for schools to begin buying local foods to prepare and serve for lunch. I have learned a lot from piloting our program this year, especially during this last lentil month.

As part of my FoodCorps service I am working with the Butte Director of Central Services, Mark Harrison. He runs the entire school food program, which is a huge job I’ve realized. We started Harvest of the Month in December as a way to commit to buying local food throughout the year, and so far Mark has purchased local butternut squash, apples, potatoes, whole grain rolls, beef, and lentils.

I have taught classes about these items and done some cafeteria events in order to get students interested and excited to try these new foods on the lunch menu. I myself am learning about these food items as I prepare lessons for the students. Did you know that grains come from the seed part of grass plants and that whole grains use the entire seed? To teach this concept to the students, a parent and I brought wheat shafts, wheat berries, whole wheat flour and dough into the cafeteria and showed the kids how whole grain bread is made.

I realized after the whole grain roll cafeteria event that most students, parents, and teachers had no idea that the Butte Pubic School District was serving local food. My lonely posters in the cafeterias just weren’t enough to spread the word. Being a new program, it seemed like we were scrambling to decide on and purchase our local item last minute, leaving little time to teach classes about it. So in March our Farm to School Committee decided to focus on creating educational activities and promotion for May’s Harvest of the Month as a sort of test run at West Elementary School.

One of our committee members suggested that students guess the number of lentils in a jar to win a prize. I counted out around 17,600 lentils and put them in a small mason jar (ok, I counted 800 in a Tablespoon and estimated from there). Throughout May, the school librarian had the students guess the number in the jar. This competition got students excited to try this new mystery food! I also did a lesson with all of the 2nd grade classes. We sang “The Lentil Song” and talked about all the activities we do with our bodies that require protein. To familiarize students with the variety of lentils that are grown in Montana, we also looked at six different kinds of lentils and matched the lentils with their names, like Black Beluga and Petit Crimson.

The day before my class with the 2nd graders, I happened to read an article about the “Farm to Table” movement, which argued that in order for the movement to truly support local, sustainable agriculture we need to support not just the popular crops like tomatoes, but also the crops that help improve soil health, like nitrogen-fixing legumes. This article inspired me to include the benefits of legumes in my lesson, and at first I was stumped at how to teach 2nd graders about nitrogen fixing but then decided to have the students act out a skit. The parts included nitrogen in the air, nitrogen in the soil, tomato and carrot plants, and lentils. The lentils helped capture the nitrogen in the air and brought it down to the soil to help the tomato and carrot plants grow, giving the lentils their superhero status! The students loved the play and they were asking when the cafeteria would be serving these superhero lentils that helped them grow strong and helped the soil.

 The students were thrilled to finally get to try the lentils last Tuesday. We did a taste test with the Kindergarten, first and second grades. The results from the taste test were mixed, with about half of the Kindergarteners and first graders liking the lentils and more than half of the second graders liked the lentils. I have learned a lot from our six months of working to source and serve local food in the public school system. I have learned about the importance of planning ahead and communicating clearly with producers and food service staff, which gives us time to expand the education around the items we are serving. We have already set out our Harvest of the Month schedule for next year starting with summer squash in September!

I also have learned that I can’t make Harvest of the Month a reality all on my own and need to enlist the help of enthusiastic parents, teachers, principals and community members to educate students and spread the word.

The most important lesson I’ve learned lately, though, is that when I can turn a fruit, vegetable, grain or protein into a “superhero,” it greatly increases the chance of kids trying it in the cafeteria!

This post was written by Andi Giddings, the FoodCorps service member in Butte, America. Andi will be serving with FoodCorps Montana for another year, and we are so exited to see the Harvest of the Month program develop in Butte Public Schools!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Farm to Knife

On a Thursday morning in early May, I informed the principal of Bigfork School, Matt Jensen, that two local sushi chefs were coming in to teach knife skills to seventh and eighth graders. Mr. Jensen was a little taken aback, but he rolled with it and requested only that I not let any of the kids lose any fingers. I had been leading bimonthly healthy cooking projects for Mary Ahnert’s health classes throughout the year, and this would be the first time we would use an entire session to focus on knife skills. Tiffany Newman and Drake Doepke, the co-owners of a popular Bigfork sushi restaurant called Sake To Me, had generously offered to visit Mrs. Ahnert’s classes to share their precise cutting techniques with the students.

The former Home Economics room in Bigfork Middle School has four kitchens and throughout the year I’ve led cooking projects that can be assembled from four components so that every kitchen has a distinct job. Our health classes have assembled a salad bar with beets, pickled red onions, and two kinds of homemade dressings; we’ve whipped up healthy squash hummus and red pepper dips with homemade pita chips; we’ve made whole-wheat pretzels, tacos, and vegetable stir-fries; and we’ve capped off the trimesters with a pizza day (to the occasional dismay of the students, we don’t just mean cheese and pepperoni. See a sample recipe below). This time, we were experimenting with healthy spring rolls, which are raw bundles of vegetables, tofu or seafood, herbs and even fruits rolled in a rice or tapioca flour wrapper.

Prior to this Thursday, Tiffany, who also has a certificate in Holistic Nutrition, had planned and taught this rainbow spring roll lesson with me for elementary classes grades 1-4. To begin each class, Tiffany and I would give an introductory explanation on “eating the rainbow,” explaining that colors in fruits and vegetables often correspond to a variety of nutrients. We then let the students pick from a buffet of fruits and veggies from all the colors of the rainbow, taught them how to soak their rice wrappers, assemble their filling, and roll it all together. Students crunched into their gorgeous, rainbow-colored spring rolls, and they loved them (even though the texture of the sticky rice wrappers was foreign to most of the kids). With the middle school cooking classes, Tiffany figured, we could take it a step further and teach the students how to do the prep work for the spring roll fillings themselves. 

So on this Thursday, Drake accompanied Tiffany with his portable set of sushi knives, and they both went to work in the classroom. They began by emphasizing safety and demonstrated “the claw” or a safe way to grip the vegetable with your non-cutting hand. They then taught the students three basic cuts: the julienne, for carrots and peppers; the shave, for scallions and cabbage; and the mince, for cilantro. And then we cut! Drake and Tiffany watched every single student carefully, correcting form and mostly managing to avoid injury. Piles of slender, julienned peppers and carrots accumulated as the kids practiced their knife control until--with no lost fingers--the seventh and eighth graders had prepped neat piles of vegetables for our spring rolls, learning control and care in the process.
From the beginning of the year, Mrs. Ahnert and I had agreed that we wanted to empower the students with basic prepping skills in the kitchen--peeling garlic, trimming onions, and other ways that we make fruits and vegetables available and enjoyable for us to eat.  Though this was our first lesson totally devoted to knife skills, all of our cooking projects involved a variety of vegetables, and so some type of prep was constantly being learned. We would often notice a seventh grader attempting to dice an onion with its papery skin still on and realize that we should probably intervene. Dish by dish, we showed them basic tricks of the kitchen that I myself only learned when living and cooking in a co-operative house in college. So even if they don’t go home and start julienning kohlrabi for their families immediately, Mrs. Ahnert and I hope that these skills will stick with the students in some way as they grow up.

At the end of trimesters or special visits to classes, I often receive very sweet, if mandatory, thank-you notes. One message from a fifth grader that stuck with me read, “Thank you for letting us use knives in class,” adding, “I didn’t think you’d trust us.” It had not been an intention of mine to teach or emphasize knives in that class, but still it stuck with at least one ten-year-old girl as the most notable part of the session. That note and watching the middle schoolers improve at cutting has made me realize that beyond just being a part of eating healthy foods, teaching knife skills can also be an act of trust and respect, as important as trusting kids to try growing their own food in gardens. 

Mrs. Ahnert added a question to the end of her last health quiz this trimester: “Have you developed any healthy habits this year? Yes / No. If so, what?” Out of her 30 students, 20 said they had been “eating healthier” since being in health class, and 5 of those specifically mentioned eating more vegetables. Teaching students how to use a knife bridges one significant part of the gap between that whole, healthy, and maybe even locally grown vegetable, and a kid’s ability to eat and enjoy it.

Zoe Tucker is the author of this blog post and is the FoodCorps member serving with Somers, Cayuse Prairie, and Bigfork schools.

The Harvest Pizza
Crust: Whole wheat crust from Tassajara found on Google Books here.

Butternut Squash, cubed and roasted
Dried Cranberries
Onion, sliced into half-rings (bonus points for caramelizing onion before baking)
Olive oil

1. Spread olive oil over crust.
2. Arrange onion and squash on pizza. (NO tomato sauce necessary!)
3. Sprinkle mozzarella over pizza.
4. Bake at 500 and set the timer for 8-10 minutes. Check it at about 6 minutes.
5. Sprinkle dried cranberries on top AFTER pizza comes out of oven. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The First School Garden Build (Adventures in Learning and Leadership)

How does an inexperienced gardener from New York City build a new school garden in Montana in three hours? No, this isn’t a riddle or the lead up to a punchline, it’s the question I asked myself with some trepidation earlier this spring, as I prepared to lead my first school garden build in Kalispell.

I worked for weeks to secure all the details for the build—raising grant money, coordinating delivery of lumber, topsoil, and mulch, recruiting volunteers, getting clearance from the school board, principal, and necessary municipalities, designing the beds—but on April 1st, the day of the build, I felt like I had earthworms in my stomach.

Before my service term with FoodCorps, I volunteered on a few organic farms and had done a bit of backyard weeding and windowsill herb growing. (I have also killed my fair share of house plants and seriously questioned the greenness of my thumb.) In all my experiences on farms and in gardens I was carefully supervised and instructed—plant this there, pull this weed, water here. My gardening knowledge was also primarily gained in northern California and central Virginia, warm climes with lush, unhurried growing seasons and fertile, forgiving soil.

Now, I was charged with transforming a patch of sod in the front yard of the historic Cornelius Hedges elementary school into a fully functional school garden. On the morning of the build, I stood in the midst of 30 volunteers, all looking to me for instruction. Did they know this was my first time building a garden and my first year navigating Montana’s 90 day (if you’re lucky) growing season? Could everyone tell how nervous I was? 

Despite my nerves, I laid out our garden plan, helped measure the plots, directed wheelbarrows, and answered any question needing answering as best I could.

I quickly realized that though I was technically “in charge,” the garden was a project that belonged to the entire community. I wasn’t even the conductor, as much as an admiring audience member, while all the volunteers seamlessly performed their roles.

Natalie Miller, the enthusiastic principal at Hedges, was instrumental in getting the project green-lighted with the school community and grounds manager, and in her general support of the project. Meredith Whitney and Montana Conservation Corps crew members pulled up in a caravan of white Suburbans with brightly colored wheelbarrows strapped to the roof and all the tools, construction knowledge, and enthusiasm we needed to fashion our bed frames. Jeremy Reed, a super helpful PTO member and Hedges parent volunteered his time, truck, and expertise, and church members, community volunteers, Center for Restorative Youth Justice participants, students, parents, and friends all pitched in their skills and best effort.

There were a few unexpected hiccups, of course. The woodchips and topsoil were wet and clung to the raised delivery beds (we climbed up and shoveled it all down-see picture), I hadn’t thought out where to put the sod we pulled up (a neighbor walked by and claimed it), and we ran out of snacks more quickly than anticipated.

But three hours later, Hedges had six brand-new raised beds. A few weeks later, there stands a fenced in outdoor classroom with radishes, sweet peas, kale, and carrot seeds slowly growing in the rich soil, all planted by children and teachers.

Luckily, school gardens are not about perfection, nor solitude and self-reliance.  The beauty of a school garden is the hundreds of helping hands you are supplied with from day one—the congregation of students, teachers, and parents—all working for the shared goal of connecting the school community to the source of their food.

I find that the challenge, and the real fun, of my work as a FoodCorps member is the diversity and breadth of the projects that I am privileged to work on in my district. Each service member does a bit of everything—we teach nutrition, lead field trips and summer camps, serve lunch, explore the science of compost, write grants, network with school administrators, dig in the dirt, and cook with kids and teachers in the kitchen. Our past roles vary from professional chef, to political activist, licensed educator, and clinical nutritionist, to professional farmer and engineer.

We have unique and varied skills and comfort zones, and not one of us has mastered every facet of all the three pillars of FoodCorps service. Instead, we use our particular skillset to connect and educate our students every school day, and we can turn to our amazing network of service members, fellows, supervisors, and shared resources to find help when needed.

My service year has been as filled with my own education as it has been with teaching. I have learned how to manage a classroom of kindergartners, develop a healthy recipe that will please the palate of a picky eight-year-old, and I am learning how to grow in soil I had never stepped foot on before this September. I also re-learned what a cotyledon is, knowledge I had lost some time after ninth grade…

The Hedges school garden stands as the result of tremendous community effort and support, and I hope that it will continue into future years under the care and creativity of students and teachers long after I serve in Kalispell.

So how does an inexperienced gardener from New York City build a new school garden in Montana in three hours? The answer, I found, is you don’t do anything alone. Ask a lot of questions, know who to call for help, and with a little luck (and a little chutzpah) your garden will seem to build itself.

This piece was written by Jessica Manly, the FoodCorps member serving in Kalispell, MT. She's excited to share photos and updates with us when students and teachers start growing delicious veggies at the Hedges School Garden this summer and next school year!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

When I Grow Up...

When I was in elementary school, my dream jobs oscillated seamlessly and indiscriminately between fiction and reality. One day, being a professional mermaid was the obvious answer, because being able to breathe under water and swim like a fish were definitely admirable skills. Other days, I was an explorer, an astronaut, or a teacher. Or I was everything all at once- and that was the best.

Today, I have a clearer vision of what I want to do when I grow up (even though some days being a mermaid still seems pretty awesome) because I'm doing it. Luckily, some of my childhood dreams are woven into my FoodCorps service, from feeling like an explorer, discovering my path and place in the Farm to School movement, to stepping in as a teacher and bringing students on a farm adventure for hands-on Montana agricultural education.

So, when I was in the dusty Glory Farm goat barn with a group of squirrely third grade students and overheard a "When I grow up..." conversation my ears perked up:

"When I grow up I'm going to be a goat farmer!"

"Well, when I grow up I'm going to be a farmer right here on this farm!"

"Well, I'm gonna be a goat farmer on this farm too!"

These two third grade girls were discussing their future farming careers after Gay Eyman, vegetable grower, chicken and goat raiser, and farmer extraordinaire of Glory Farm in Helena, MT taught them how to milk her sweet goat, Cinnamon.

A far cry from the clean, structured class time that these ladies are used to, the farm is a beautiful, refreshing mess of chickens happily sprinting around their run, curious goats snuffling third grade fingers, and the distinct, wonderful fragrance of garden soil in the spring. And if you've ever met a guinea hen, you'll understand the students' glee at watching this expressive animal act as a watch dog over the other chickens!

During the month of April, students in Kindergarten through third grade excitedly trekked forty minutes to spend an afternoon at Glory Farm.  Here they had the opportunity to plant their own pumpkin to take back to the school greenhouse, visit the chickens and chicks, and meet (and if they were brave enough milk) the friendly goats.  

Prior to the farm field trip, Farmer Eyman, along with her two interns, came to each classroom to talk to the students about what farming is like, and taught them about different plants she grows and animals she raises. Having the farmer visit prior to our field trip proved to be a great idea, not only to give students an introduction to her farm, but to illustrate to them that farmers are not the same! Most notably, a first grade student announced to his class that he "Didn't know there could be LADY farmers!!" Good thing Farmer Eyman was there to correct his misperception!

I had wanted to take students to a local farm since I began my service in August 2012, but things hadn't fallen into place until this spring, after Farmer Eyman and I had connected about our passions for giving children hands-on educational food and farming experiences.  My original goal for the field trip had been to give students a firsthand experience with farming, connecting the dots between what we talk about in class and what it looks like in real life. Then, by taking a little piece of the farm with them, in the form of both pumpkin seeds and those intangible memories, students could feel empowered to continue their learning experience back at home and in the classroom.  

What I hadn't anticipated was that I was planting the seeds for future dream jobs as well.  Perhaps this farm field trip was more than just an educational experience; maybe I opened new doors of possibility and hopefully inspired students to realize that farming is not only something they can do when they grow up, but a passion they can participate in today. Farming, ranching, gardening- these are more than dream jobs, they are real jobs that need more "When I grow up..." support.  

So many children are far removed from the soil, the animals and the plants that nourish their bodies. By letting students explore and participate in the food system, we are allowing them to form knowledgeable opinions and ask smart, critical questions about today's food and agricultural system. And, maybe, we will even support the dreams of the future goat farmers out there, too!

This post was written by Camille McGoven, a second year FoodCorps member in Boulder, Montana, who is living her dream job.