We had an amazing group of projects that were supported this year through our mini-grant program. Read below to see more details how these creative groups used their funds. Thank you to the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation’s Wellborn Ecology Fund for funding our work.
Tammie’s Day Care, Thetford Center, VT
Project: Where does our food come from?
The goal of our grant request was to teach the children in our care about all the types of foods that our local farmers grow, how they are grown and when it is harvested. The kids are now excited each day to see what new food item is going to be on their plates. They have become quite successful at identifying vegetables, fruits, grains, proteins, and dairy products on their own. We have eaten, garden turnips, a variety of radishes, strawberries, rhubarb, and asparagus, which the kids like to call trees! The kids have also been introduced to the word ”seasonal” and have even commented that we can grow cucumbers and tomatoes in Vermont but the ones that they were eating didn’t fall into the ”seasonal” category because they are still growing in our farmer’s fields.
Another goal was to encourage the kids to not only try new foods but to try them in a variety of ways. Our garden turnips have been eaten raw and cooked. We have made strawberry and rhubarb jam and eaten each plain. We only had one who liked plain rhubarb, but they all tried it! One child discovered that they didn’t like the top of the asparagus but liked everything else. I suspect that our trying foods prepared in different ways is what inspired this child to try a bite from another section of the stalk. Kids have a way of asking questions that inspires me and I am excited to see where this learning process takes us next.
Stoneledge Stables Norwich, VT
Project: Three Sisters Garden
During the spring of 2021, we expanded our Three Sisters Garden curriculum by finishing the plant life cycle that students participated in during the fall of 2020. During that period, students in our three-day farm school harvested corn and squash (beans were harvested early in the season without students, due to COVID). We also used the corn stalks for building and nature-based art on the farm. We were excited to donate over 20 lbs of squash to Willing Hands. Our goal as a classroom community is to triple our donation of food harvested by the fall of 2021. To accomplish this, we are expanding our garden footprint, buying curriculum supplies and soil. Stoneledge Stables strives to foster caring communities by laying a foundation within our youngest citizens that is necessary to work as both individuals and members of a greater circle, and we are excited to see how much we can produce in our expanded garden this season.
Child Care Center in Norwich. Norwich, VT
For years now, Hampshire Cooperative Nursery School has been fostering a love of farm and food in our classrooms. We include within our curriculum lessons the importance of diverse types of foods and how incredibly vital our farmers are to our communities. Further, we strive to teach our students the joy, pride, and science of growing their own food. In the spring we start seeds in the classroom and then transplant them in our small garden. We have found our garden space to be a barrier to this process and wish to both expand this learning and switch it up a bit. We have been building a multi-tiered raised bed structure There are a couple of motivations for this particular system. First, we have a wide range of heights within our student population and the tier structure allows us to designate space to age groups. Secondly, we have seen firsthand that little ones have a tough time not stepping on freshly planted rows and therefor raised beds offer an effective method of planting for this age group. Thirdly, while we are all about natural materials, we also see the value in this composite board system in that it will last much longer than rough sawn boards; we really want our/your investment to last as long as possible. We can’t wait to see what we can grow this year!
Samuel Morey Elementary School, Fairlee, VT
Project: Refurbishing Raised beds and developing a school compost program
We are excited to use our grant funds to hire a contractor to aid us in the planning and development of new raised garden beds along with helping us develop a new composting program for the school. Work on both these projects just started in the spring and will continue into the 21-22 school year. Our goal is for our school to have a vibrant garden and compost program like other schools in the Upper Valley, and the expertise of a professional will help us get started efficiently and create a sustainable system for maintaining gardens and composting.
Woodstock Union High School, Woodstock, VT
Project: Farm to Table at Woodstock Union High School
Our school garden has never been more prepared for the summer! Our Vital Communities grant allowed us to fully transition to a no-till garden at Woodstock Union Middle and High School. With our grant, students purchased a broadfork, which loosens and aerates the soil without disturbing the mychorrizal network. Plus, it’s a great workout! In addition, we converted half of our garden to permanent raised beds (that we can also use the broadfork in!), using lumber generously harvested and provided by Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. VC monies helped us purchase the necessary hardware. Finally, we are trying our hand at growing potatoes again this year after a long hiatus, and our grant made it possible for us to purchase floating row cover and metal hoops that we installed in the hopes of thwarting a big potato beetle infestation!
The Hooper Institute, Walpole Area Schools Walpole, NH
Project: From A(asparagus) to Z (zinnias) in the Walpole Area School Gardens
Vegetable seeds, plants, onion sets, potatoes, seed trays, water hoses, local compost, organic fertilizer, potting soil, a red wheelbarrow, and more seeds were happily purchased with the help of the Vital Communities Farm to School 2021 mini-grant grant to the Hooper Institute. All garden beds are planted and growing well. Everyone wins with a school gardening program throughout the grades (pre-K to 6th, this year) in the Walpole Area Schools. This program is loved by our school community. Thank you!
Quotes from students:
“My favorite Hooper class was the gardening unit. I loved the class because we got to plant things. I also love mending the garden beds and putting things into the dirt like minerals and manure. I wanted us to plant more often!”
“I loved finding a toad in the garden bed when we were doing a lot of garden work this spring.”
“I love planting the plants and putting manure in the gardens.”
“My favorite lessons were the gardening ones. I really enjoyed the planting lessons because I like flowers, fruits, and veggies. It is also very relaxing. I don’t get to do this at home, so when I do it at school, it is fun.”
“This week our fish migration class was followed by veggie harvesting. I harvested spinach, kale, arugula, and lettuce. My favorite was the kale. I made a delish garden salad (literally!) and it was a big hit at dinner.”
Upper Valley Waldorf School, Quechee, VT
Project: School Garden Bed Preparation + Plant Protection
Our 6th-grade class put lots of work in to getting the garden beds ready and planting the first bed with tomatillos and zucchini. We managed to get the woodchuck fence up in time to keep the plants safe. Two other beds are planted with tomatoes and peppers. They will need the woodchuck fence before the tomatoes ripen. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the fence up in time to save the bed that was planted with corn. That bed is now planted with onion starts. We have harvested two zucchinis already and have some very small green tomatoes starting. We will have our summer camp that starts in two weeks weed and pick and eat cherry tomatoes! We are excited to see what we have once fall rolls around. Thank you very much!
Hanover Street School, Lebanon, NH
Project: Hanover Street School Garden Raised Bed Expansion
Hanover Street Elementary School has had an active school garden for the past 5 five years, involving students in grades K-4 in lessons ranging from plant life cycles, vegetable production, to the importance of pollinator friendly habit creation and maintenance. For the 2020 season, with the help of primarily 4th graders, the garden, comprised of 8 raised beds, produced 60 lbs of potatoes, 25 lbs of carrots and an abundance of kale, basil, cherry tomatoes, and lettuce. Due to the pandemic shutting down school in March, the root crops were donated to Listen Food Pantry. In prior years, our cafeteria has integrated school garden produce into lunch menus.
This year, Hanover Street School Garden team has added several raised beds to our garden area, with the intent of increasing root crop yield to be donated to Listen Food Pantry and used in our summer food delivery program. These partnerships will help keep our students fed over the summer, during a time when many families are experiencing new or worsening food insecurity. Additionally, two of the beds are being used to relocate and expand our sensory garden, which, in its first-year last year, was a big hit among our intensive and special needs population in particular.
Sharon Elementary School, Sharon, VT
Project: Raising More Veggies with Raised Beds
Sharon Elementary School was one of the pilot schools in 2005 for the farm-to-school program FEED (Food Education Every Day). It has been part of our curriculum since. Each class (grades K-6) currently has a raised bed, and the entire school has a large garden – planted and tended by students and their families. Our food service manager incorporates the garden harvest into our breakfast and lunch menus. We used our funds to upgrade our garden tools that included various size shovels, clippers, water cans, and hammers. We got two years’ worth of compost. We also purchased seeds and starter plants. The whole school has benefitted from this by helping to plant the garden during our Farm and Field Day. They used the tools to prep the garden and continue to maintain our plants. We also bought some lumber to repair a few raised beds.