Twelve Upper Valley schools and day care facilities were awarded mini-grants to support Farm to School projects this year! These grants are designed to help schools, early childhood centers, afterschool programs, or school-related wellness programs with projects related to farms, our agricultural heritage, farm products, food production, or local food consumption at the school. Thank you to the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation’s Wellborn Ecology Fund for funding our work.
Here are reports from 10 of the 12!
Bradford Elementary School, Bradford, VT
Project: School Orchard
Our goal was to begin to implement edible landscapes in public spaces in the Town of Bradford. We worked in conjunction with the Town of Bradford’s Food and Farm resiliency task force to come up with the plan. The 4th grade students planted 4 apple trees in late May with the guidance of arborist and Town Tree Warden, Ben Rubinfeld. We planted two Macintosh trees and two Jonagold trees. We also purchased mulch, compost, watering bags, and pruning tools.
This project was a wonderful community partnership! The 4th grade students at Bradford Elementary School had many learning opportunities and were enthusiastic about the project. Ben Rubinfeld, the local tree warden, did a fantastic job of teaching students about the process of planting the trees. He discussed proper planting techniques including depth and root care, how and why we amend the soil, proper mulching techniques, and how to care for a young tree. Students had to dig deep to find their grit as we dug holes deep enough for the trees. They persevered even when they came across several rocks along the way. Thank you so much for your support. Without it, this wonderful community project wouldn’t have been possible.
Brookhaven Treatment and Learning Center, Chelsea, VT
Project: Pantry Garden and Food Education
This was the second year of the garden at Brookhaven. We used some of the funds to cover the costs of adding cow manure to the garden to help increase the
nutrients and fertility of the soil. Students learned about how beneficial composted cow manure could be for the garden and were mind blown at the thought of it. Seeds costs were another use of the funds.
This year the students wanted more colorful vegetables in the garden and went with varieties such as rainbow chard, watermelon radishes, purple potatoes, and a rainbow of different colored carrots just to name a few. The rest of the funds will be used for prepping the garden late this fall for winter. The students will vote and decide on a cover crop to plant and will learn more about soil health and benefits of cover crops even on a small scale.
Creative Preschool Program, Strafford, VT
Project: Preschoolers in the Garden
With the funding support from Vital Communities’ Upper Valley Farm to School mini grant, were able to renovate and revitalize our 15-year-old garden space. Over the course of the spring, teachers incorporated each step of this project into the preschool curriculum. In this way, children and their families were deeply involved in each step of the garden project.
Removing and Excavating – Children and teachers removed old raised beds using improvised levers and screw drivers. Using our newly purchased metal shovels, many children spent hours removing the soil from the old beds. Progress was intentionally paced so children could participate in the excavation and explore soil, soil organisms, roots, and other treasures found in the ground.
Building and filling- As the truck from Bethel Mills delivered the lumber, children clung to the fence to watch the lumber slide off the dump truck. A preschool father organized the building of the raised bed boxes. The boxes were bigger and deeper than our old beds. The new design allowed for more access for children that have limited mobility. To add nutrients to the garden beds, a dad that works at Strafford Organic Creamery drove a trailer of organic, composted manure to the garden. Teachers and community farmers unloaded the manure and the children got to explore the farm truck and trailer.
Planting and Nurturing- Nearing the end of the school year, the garden beds were ready for planting! Children helped prepare the soil and make signs for the plants. With children’s help (and teacher’s gardening knowledge) we decided to plant a rainbow sensory garden with annuals and perennials, popping corn, watermelon, beans, carrots, and sunflowers. In small groups every child helped plant the seeds and transplants. All throughout the summer we have families that have volunteered to water and weed our new gardens.
A powerful part of this project was the deep involvement from children and their families. The Creative Preschool is filled with gratitude for this revitalized garden space.
Hooper Institute, Walpole, NH
Project: Bees, Beds, and Butternut Squash
In Walpole, NH we have three schools and in each schoolyard the Hooper Institute educators have raised garden beds (34 total) growing vegetables, soft fruit,
flowers, and herbs for the school kitchen and for the lessons we teach weekly in grades pre K – 7th. The students and teachers have worked side by side with the Hooper educators to plan and plant the gardens, spread compost, repair the bed frames, sow seeds, weed, mulch, and water. Our produce is organically grown for both a local food shelf and the school kitchen. Last year we delivered 72 lbs. of butternut squash to the kitchen in one day. The head cook requested spaghetti squash so we planted that variety as well as the butternut. This year we hope to break the squash ceiling!
The 2022 season also brought us a new garden problem due to locals finding Asian jumping worms in their soil. As a precaution, we decided not to have manure compost delivered from a local dairy farm but to compost entirely with bagged compost and organic fertilizer. Thanks to your grant, we purchased materials from a variety of companies, trying to stay as local and regional as possible. The results have been amazing. All of the vegetables and flowers that we planted and transplanted are thriving, even in the current droughty conditions. The best news is that we have not discovered any beds with the jumping worms!
The beds are retaining moisture, the squash is growing and thriving promising an excellent crop this fall and the pollinators are oh so happy with all of the flowers and the volunteer sunflowers, dill and cilantro that we let grow, this year to new heights, due to the healthy soil.
Little Feet Children’s Center, East Thetford, VT
Project: New Raised Beds for School Garden
The children enjoy eating many of the crops we grow, especially cucumbers, carrots, garlic chives & cherry tomatoes. We make yummy pesto each year with all the basil we grow, which is then sent home for a delicious pasta dinner. And we always try to grow extra crops, which can then be sent home with families or given to our community food shelf, as we feel you are never too young to learn about and participate in some sort of community service.
Our wooden raised beds which had served us well for the last 7+growing seasons had seen better days and were now in need of replacement. This grant award allowed us to purchase 4 galvanized metal containers, which we turned into our new garden planting beds.
Lyme Nursery School, Lyme, NH
Project: School Garden
From Lyme Hardware we purchased twenty-two bags of Moo Doo compost and soil to replenish our three garden bed soils. The children helped spread and
level it out. We also purchased six additional child size garden tools and watering cans, and seeds and plants from Frost Gardens and Cedar Circle.
As we are a school year program, we plant items that the children will be able to harvest in September. We planted Brussel sprouts, carrots, beets, one tomato plant, small pumpkins, sunflowers, flowers, and lots of herbs. The children have learned how to rub their hands gently on the herbs and smell the different scents. They are also doing some taste testing and like some of the new tastes. Our everlasting strawberries are loaded, and we have had many ripe ones to pick & eat.
The children are part of the daily watering and care. They are learning about which plants are root crops and how they grow versus others they can see, like the Brussels sprouts. From the germination rate we will have a great crop of carrots and beets that will be used for snacks in the fall as well as donating any surplus to Lyme’s VegiCare Program. We will cook many yummy items with the herbs as well as doing some crafts with them.
Thank you for the grant for our little preschool!
Maple Avenue Elementary School, Claremont, NH
Project: Schoolyard Habitat
No photos from grant recipient
The 2021-2022 Farm-to-School mini grant that Maple Avenue Elementary School received was put to use by purchasing gravel, pvc pipe, cement, and hardware to assemble a new greenhouse. We also rented a two-man auger to drill foundation piers for the greenhouse. To maintain and improve our schoolyard habitat project we purchased raised garden beds, soil, vegetable seeds, bird feeders, a garden hose hanger, fairy garden objects, and a rolling composter.
The hands-on learning the students did on our schoolyard habitat project proved to be uplifting, educational, and energizing. The students assembled the raised beds, painted them with a watershield, used shovels and wheelbarrows to move a cubic yard of soil into the beds and to improve the flower gardens, weeded and planted seeds, and moved gardening equipment and materials into the new greenhouse and organized it.
Thank you for the opportunity to do this important learning with all of our kindergarten through fifth grade students.
Thetford Academy, Thetford Center, VT
Project: Accessible Raised Beds
This spring, students in two departments at Thetford Academy built raised beds that promote place-based learning, accessibility, and hands-on instruction related to our blossoming school garden program. Two students from our Design & Technology class built a simple raised bed model as an additional final project in their class. They researched various models of raised beds and ADA recommendations. They determined a raised garden bed on legs would be a good beginner-level design. They measured, cut, sanded, stained, and assembled the bed and set it out in our courtyard space. This bed will remain in our Arts & Sciences courtyard near the greenhouse to facilitate hands on demonstrations that are easily accessible. Because of the smaller size of this structure, it is also easily moveable with a few volunteers and/or our campus tractor at any time.
The second raised bed was designed by a student with the help of Design/Technology instructor, Chris Schmidt, for a capstone project in Aiden’s Outdoor Education & Environmental Science course. This garden bed was much larger with a keyhole design for the potential of a wheelchair to comfortably fit under the bed. Aiden altered the design to also make it easier for a student to rotate a wheelchair for full-bed accessibility. The bed was built at the school garden with an emphasis on encouraging a more inclusive garden space. This student researched and selected herbs that are both edible and medicinal to be installed in the bed including chamomile, calendula, rosemary, and more!
Toddler’s Morning Out, White River Junction, VT
Project: New Roots: Teaching Gardens for Toddlers
This was our first school year in our Vermont location and we have been thrilled to embrace outdoor learning with our young toddlers. The support of the Vital
Communities Mini-Grant could not have come at a better time as we settle into this new space. Through this farm-to-school grant, we were able to purchase three raised beds, watering cans for little hands, child-size gardening tools, and a resource guide, “Gardening With Young Children” for our teachers. Our children are now learning that everyone has a role to play in keeping our garden and our world healthy and happy. The feel of rich, dark soil, the smell of leaves and flowers and seeing growth in front of your eyes is truly magnetic for young children. Already, our daily observations mirror academic research describing the benefits of learning outdoors—improved communication, better attention, positive mood, an understanding of how to work together with peers, and especially for our young toddlers, engagement of all the senses.
Upper Valley Waldorf School, Quechee, VT
Project: Expansion of Garden Beds and Compost
The Upper Valley Waldorf School’s grade 2/3 class tackled planting four garden beds in the front of our school. We began the project in earnest by weeding the beds at the end of May. We turned the soil, noting that there were not many worms. The soil needed amendments. We purchased over 30 bags of compost/manure to improve the quality of the soil. We partnered with Edgewater Farm in Plainfield, NH to procure the bags of compost. They also provided us with an amazing variety of flower, herb and vegetable seedlings. In early June, we mixed in the compost and planted the garden beds. We enjoyed learning about the plants and sampling the leaves of many of the edible plants. The children were involved in deciding what was planted where and there were even enough seedlings for all students to take home a plant or two.
Other grant recipients, reports not yet received: The Hanover Street School, Village Early Learning Center