We are in the business of food at Holly Hill Farm: we grow food to sell to the public, we teach others how to grow food in a sustainable fashion in their backyards, we serve food at “Farm to Table” dinners, we teach about the role of healthy soil in growing food, we teach school children how to grow food at the farm and in their school gardens, we share recipes for interesting and usual foods that farm stand customers may not know how to prepare (can you say “kohlrabi?”), we donate food to our local food pantries and encourage others to do so as well, and we teach about and engage in sustainable agricultural practices so there will be a healthy environment for all of us to live in while we’re eating all this delicious food we are growing and teaching about! Since we eat food every day, it might seem odd that there is an official “Food Day.” But there is, in fact, a “Food Day” and the 3rd annual “Food Day” just happened on October 24th. “Food Day” is the brainchild Michael Jacobson, director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington. He created “Food Day” as a nationwide celebration and movement for healthy and affordable and sustainable food. This year there were 4,500 events in 50 states, ranging from vegetable taste testing to harvesting and planting. We didn’t host a public event at Holly Hill Farm or in any of the schools we work with, but we harvested lots of wonderful food to sell at the farm stand, to serve at our most recent “Farm to Table” dinner, and in school gardens where we teach around the South Shore.
October was Massachusetts Farm to School Month. During this month of harvest at local farms around the state, farm to school coordinators work to supply school cafeterias with fresh, local produce for school lunch. There is one week in particular which has been designated “Harvest For Students Week,” an annual celebration of Massachusetts agriculture sponsored by the Massachusetts Farm to School Project. According to Kim Smyth, Food Service Director for the Hingham Public Schools, fresh fruits and vegetables are provided to the schools by Guaranteed Fresh, a food vendor who sources locally grown produce to be served at the schools. But at Plymouth River School (PRS) in Hingham during that special week, two of the menu items served at lunch were hyper local – from the gardens behind the school. For the 7th year in a row now, students have enjoyed roasted potatoes for lunch that were harvested from their school garden and garlic bread made with garlic grown in the school garden. Each of these food items began their journey into the cafeteria as part of a 2nd grade “science in the garden” curriculum lesson where students learned about the importance of compost to enrich the soil prior to planting several months before they were consumed. The potatoes were planted in the spring of 2013 and harvested by those same children in September of this year when they were new 3rd graders. PRS’ Food Service manager Cheryl Lyons and her assistant Barbara Kelley washed and chopped over 20 pounds of potatoes to serve to these children for lunch.
In the case of the garlic – 2nd graders at PRS planted the garlic way back in November 2012. A group of students and one teacher joined me in the garden on a hot July evening when we pulled the garlic out of the ground – what a fun and dirty mess that was!
The garlic was dried and cured for storage for a few months in the barn at Holly Hill Farm. In October, 5th grade parent Nancy MacDonald smashed 25 – yes 25 – heads of garlic, mixed that fragrant mush with butter to be spread over many loaves of bread. A dedicated team of volunteer moms served the garlic bread to all 458 students at PRS during lunch one day. This one time event at one school does not make a food revolution – but it’s a start. We think that any time you get kids excited about eating the food they helped plant and grow, that’s a great thing!
Plymouth River is one of many schools around the South Shore where members of the Friends of Holly Hill Farm education team – which has now grown to 5 paid staff – fan out to teach botany, soil science, life cycles of plants, and more to children in grades k-12. This is in addition to our work at the farm where we lead field trips, girl scout groups, afterschool programs, summer camps, and so much more. As we enter November, the month of Thanksgiving, I know I speak for the entire education team (Jonny, Sally, Dorothy, Pam and me) as well as the farmers – Deanna and Phil – about how grateful we are for all of our Food Days and for the opportunity to do such great work on the farm and with kids around the South Shore in their school gardens.
© 2013, Janice McPhillips. All rights reserved. Friends of Holly Hill Farm