Local, organic agriculture. Environmental education.

Salad Selfie

There is not a Whole Foods market with organic food in every South Shore town. There are only small, organic sections of produce and chips in most grocery stores. And though the trend of farmers markets is growing, there is still not yet a farmers market in every town.  Without these options available to all, lots of folks think this whole organic movement is expensive and not of their world. But there are increased numbers of backyard farmers and local growers who use sustainable practices.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere is a slow return of people converting fallow or unused land for growing purposes, even responsible stewardship of the land.  There is even a significant amount of young people either coming out of college or switching careers to hoe, till, turn, sift and sow seeds or make cheese.  However, primarily at Holly Hill Farm and at schools in neighboring towns, it is the young tweens, teens and students who may be the most unaware of organic food and the role it could and perhaps ought to play in their lives. Is there an organic app (application on a cell and/or smart phone) for growing tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, garlic and kohlrabi? Because aren’t kids today clamoring for kohlrabi?

Recently, there were two groups of high schoolers at the Farm for a summer school field trip. Most of the incoming freshman were quiet and did not know too much about how plants grow, especially organically.  The rising seniors were equally ignorant when asked to give examples of sustainability. Through no fault of their own, these two groups, who were led on back-to-back Farm tours in the early height of the growing season, did not have many opportunities to share the secrets of compost, the joys of seaweed and the benefits of crop rotation and succession planting.  Most had never partook.  Some of the seniors had mucked their share of stables and one even knew that cow manure could lead to rich, nutrient dense compost. A classmate was then also able to see the financial gain of selling such a product. The soon to be 9th graders certainly enjoyed the last of the sugar snap peas we pulled, as they searched the tilting vines for any remaining camouflaged treats.  The goats though, as per usual, took the cake (and the weeds too) as they were pet and admired by all the students. Goats trump garlic in most cases, from most kids’ perspective.
After the tour, these students were then brought to the Cohasset Farmers Market, held every Thursday on the common with a wide, exciting variety of farmers, soap makers, sweet honey gatherers, grass fed animal purveyors, juice smoothie shakers, gluten free, whole wheat bakers and meal makers. The students were asked to break into small groups, armed with a questionaire and the task of asking the vendors about organic practices and sustainable methods.
Young Farmers HHFAt the Holly Hill Farm Stand, the farmer turned the question What does sustainable mean? back to the students who posed the question.  And as a blow to this teacher’s heart, the students collectively did not know.  Had the words, examples and teaching a mere two hours earlier not yet sunk in?  Is all this variety of crops, from arugula and beets to yarrow and zucchini and making of compost not as exciting and riveting as petting a goat or even just plain as fun as a day away from the classroom? Are the next group of kids growing up in miles and miles of suburban sprawl going to be able to cultivate a plant, much less without the aid of MiracleGro (spelling infraction to say the least!) and know what to do with sun chokes, kale and parsnips?
school garden 3The teaching we do and education we provide at Holly Hill Farm is happening at quite a clip, as we do travel to many schools, mostly working with elementary aged kids, but also teaching as many high school kids as we can. Leave no growing chard behind in trying to extol the virtues of good tasting, healthy food. You can indeed make a great tasting variety of baba g’noush with chard. What a great snack that would be to have in a high school salad bar.
I do not carry a cell phone, but since most everyone else does, how can we insert tantalizing information about companion planting?  Can a hipster blog and post a tweet for fast growing radish, and retweet it after the harvest? Can the farmer place her camera phone back towards fresh cut salad mix and declare it a selfie?  How smart that farmer and phone would be! How about if more schools step outside the box, as as they did last week and try a field trip to a local, organic farm.
Pick some organic beans, slice some cucumber that sustains us and eat those veggies too.

© 2014, Jon Belber. All rights reserved. Friends of Holly Hill Farm

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