Where does our food come from? Where is it grown and how does it get to our plate? Are some foods healthier than others? What does it take to become a farmer?
Akron students from Findley CLC spent three days with us investigating the answers to these questions. With visits to Greenfield Berry Farm, Hale Farm & Village, and our own hoop house, students got their hands messy, digging (literally and figuratively) into soil, farming, and sustainable food systems.
One of the first classes the students completed examined the differences between whole vs. processed foods. Using nutrition labels and graphing, students compared amounts of calories, carbohydrates, sodium, and fat in oranges vs. orange juice, corn vs. corn flakes, potatoes vs. potato chips, and tomatoes vs. tomato soup. Students discovered that whole foods tend to be the healthier choice.
During a visit to Greenfield Berry Farm, students learned about how farms interact with nature. Farmer Daniel Greenfield gave a tour of his chickens, his barn, his berry fields, and his bee boxes. And, after a fun-filled competition of who could pick up the most black walnuts off the ground, Farmer Greenfield took the students on hayride through the fields. As this was a very first hayride for many of the students, seeing their faces filled with laughter was definitely an unforgettable experience.
During the class titled, “Where Does Food Come From?” students explored the concept of local vs. global foods. The kids had the opportunity to plant and harvest veggies from our CVEEC hoop house, make salsa from farm fresh ingredients, and build a container garden to take home. We learned about healthy soil, energy required for food transportation, and why local foods are often a more environmentally friendly choice.
Another afternoon was spent working with the animals at Hale Farm & Village. While visiting the chickens, pigs, sheep, and oxen, the kids learned about the valuable products we receive from each animal. Sheep provide wool; pigs provide ham, bacon, and pepperoni; while chickens provide meat, eggs, and feathers. After learning about each of the four animals, the kids completed chores for one. We collected eggs, ground corn to feed the pigs and chickens, and even scooped up some oxen pies! By the end of the session, kids definitely realized that farming requires hard work.
In the evenings, after dinner, we took a break from farming and had some classic camp experiences; Night Hike and Arts in the Park. Though apprehensive at first about walking through the dark woods at night, many kids overcame their fears and said the night hike was the highlight of the week. Songs and stories at the campfire were also a favorite. For Arts in the Park, students participated in drawing, theater, music, and movement performances. A good time was had by all.
On the final morning, students reflected on their experiences through the week to complete the culminating “Healthy Plate Challenge.” While thinking about where foods come from (global vs. local) and how they are prepared (whole vs. processed), students designed a menu of their choice that fulfilled the requirements of a healthy plate. Vegetables, whole grains, fruits, and healthy protein were a must. Everyone rose to the challenge and completed informational posters to take back to school.
Though it was hard to say goodbye to our new friends at the end of the week, we hope the students will take their newly learned knowledge of farming back to share with others. Thank you to all involved in this year’s Farm School program. And, especially to GAR Foundation; this program was made possible thanks to their generous support. Overall, it was a fun, educational, and rewarding experience.