Twelve Upper Valley schools and early childcare centers 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.
Applications for 2024 Farm to School mini-grants will be open in October, and can be found on the Upper Valley Farm to School Network’s mini-grant page.
Here are reports from nine of the 12!
Claremont Christian Academy, Claremont, NH
Project: CCA Elementary Vertical Garden
This truly was a cross-curricular and multi-age project. Each class discussed different types of plants that could be grown, learning more about each as they discussed the feasibility. Students learned about the parts of plants that we eat. For example, one class learned that potatoes grow underground therefore would not have room in our shallow “growing steps”. Students considered how big each type of plant would grow, too. During production, students learned about woodworking, used hand and power sanders, and painted the structure.
During the planting phase, each class was able to line their “step” with landscaping fabric, fill it with soil, plant seeds or seedlings, and water them in. Throughout the summer kids were able to visit and see the progress. We have yummy tomatoes and peppers as I write. However, the resident chipmunk seems to have absconded with the strawberries. A hard lesson to learn is, don’t plant the strawberries in the bottom row! The lettuce, cucumbers, peppers, and carrots are coming nicely. I note that some lettuces have bolted with all this wet, hot weather so we may need to replant later. I pray that the growth will continue so kids can enjoy the harvest and learn about eating garden grown vegetables and fruits when we come back in the fall.
Thanks for this opportunity to share my love of gardening with my students and to create a school-wide project that unifies our grades in a positive way.
Kendal at Hanover Early Learning Center, Hanover, NH
Project: Kendal at Hanover Intergenerational Gardening
This gardening project has allowed Kendal at Hanover to develop and bring back our intergenerational program involving our Early Learning Center students, and Kendal at Hanover residents. In May, our infant program took a field trip to Cedar Circle Farm in Thetford. Babies and parents were able to explore the greenhouses and pick out different starter plants for our gardens. Once we had our plants picked out, we came back to our center and planted them across 12 different raised beds. We planted everything from veggies, to fruit, to flowers. We planted two raised beds with herbs in our memory care unit on campus, giving residents and children the opportunity to feel and smell different herbs. We harvested strawberries, leaf lettuce, and red lettuce that children had the opportunity to taste.
Children enjoyed digging holes in the soil to plant the starters and watering the gardens every day. We enjoyed taking measurements to see what plants were growing the tallest. Some challenges were fighting off root rot from all the rain we have had, and some of the outside lettuce leaves began to turn brown and get soggy. We enjoyed the opportunity to grow our own vegetables and learn how to prepare them for a snack. This experience has been enriching in so many ways, and it warms my heart that we have been able to bring together our residents and children to do something such as growing our own vegetables and flowers.
Lyme Nursery School, Lyme, NH
Project: LNS Garden
The children turned the soil in our three raised beds in April, getting soil ready for May planting. At the end of May, the children planted pumpkins, mini gourds, carrots, watermelons, beets, brussels sprouts, herbs, and a few flowers. One bed is an established strawberry bed, which the children absolutely love. They will harvest the pumpkins, gourds, veggies, and herbs in the fall when returning to school. They will make herb breads, herb butters, pizza, and vegetable soup that is always a hit with the children!
Green Mountain Children’s Center, Claremont, NH
Project: Fostering a Love for Gardening
Our goal was for the children in our care to learn about gardening, to include them in the process starting from seeds, to enjoy the produce we were able to grow together, and to create natural playscapes for the children to use. The children were involved in the planning process right from the start. We were able to purchase seed mats and trays to watch as our seeds grew in our classroom and a small greenhouse to put on our playground. We used child-sized garden tools to turn our old garden bed soil as well as fill 10 tires with new garden bed soil. We created a border around our bike track with these tires and planted a variety of herbs and flowers and two blueberry bushes.
We wanted children to use all their senses in the garden. The children loved how the chives were a little spicy, were surprised that lemon balm didn’t grow any lemons, and enjoyed eating nasturtium flowers and discovering that scented geraniums smelled like bug spray. The children learned about different plant life cycles, beneficial bugs we can see in our garden, how compost helps the garden, what we can make with different types of produce, and how to have patience, since gardening takes time. The children really gained a better understanding of where their food comes from and shone with pride about their school garden.
Rainbow Playschool, Woodstock, VT
Project: Garden Expansion
When we applied for the Farm to School mini-grant we had a goal of doubling the amount of garden space we had on our playground. With additional help from the Woodstock Garden Club and Rainbow families, we far exceeded that goal! Funding from Vital Communities allowed us to purchase four new raised beds, soil and compost for the beds, a new garden hose, tomato cages, and children-sized gardening tools. One of the raised beds is now home to perennial thornless berries, while the other three beds hold annual summer vegetables and flowers; this year we chose to grow tomatoes, peppers, and marigolds. We used a technique that involves layering of organic materials called “Lasagna Gardening” to fill our garden beds before we planted, and the children helped in all steps of the process! We wanted to have beautiful flowers on our playground for years to come, so we arranged painted tires around our playground climbing structure and planted perennial flowers in them. With some extra soil we received from a donation, we planted a variety of squash and melons in our playground as well. The children helped nurture the herbs we already had grown in a raised box; these continue to be a lovely sensory experience for the children to smell, touch, and taste! We are excited to use the food we grow as part of our snacks! We have plans this week to use our fresh basil from our herb garden for a pesto on tomatoes.
White River Valley Elementary School, Bethel, VT
Project: Schoolyard Chickens
Through the support of the Upper Valley Farm to School Mini Grant we were able to further fortify our chickens at school program! This spring we purchased hatching eggs and related supplies and hatched out several new members for our laying hen flock! The preschool played host to the incubator and hatchlings, making daily observations and keeping track of embryo development with an illustrated calendar. Once hatched, the chicks moved to the fifth-grade classroom where supplies were housed to care for the baby chicks until they could move into their space in the outside coop. The funding we received ensured that we could continue to grow, feed, and nurture our school flock. Plans have been drawn up to install more shaded space for the hens in their fenced yard with hopes of building it before winter. Through the support of our school’s Nutrition Director, we have made plans to supply the school kitchen will fresh eggs to ensure all students reap the benefits of their hard work in raising and caring for the school chickens!
Rabbit Track Early Learning Academy, Bradford, VT
Project: Cooking Healthy with Local Foods in Season with Young Children
With our grant, the children helped make many healthy farm-fresh side dishes for our meals, such as fruit salad, grated carrot & raisin salad, cucumber salad, green salad, fried rice, and more. Every meal for the children includes at least one vegetable or fruit and organic milk from Root 5 Farm. The CSA share supplemented the fruits and vegetables grown in our raised garden beds. We recently harvested strawberries and cherry tomatoes. The children have been more willing to try the things from the CSA share or those they have picked out of our garden. Later this summer, we will be having a culminating family event with dishes made from fresh vegetables and fruits from our CSA share and our garden. The children will make some of their favorite dishes for their families. We will share the printed recipes with each family so they can make them at home.
The children also participated in a blind taste test of store-bought cucumbers vs. local, organic farm-grown cucumbers. Three of us chose the locally grown, and the two others liked the store-bought cucumbers. The families did the taste test too. The grand total for everyone was six for locally grown to two for store-bought. Afterward, we discussed why they thought more people liked the locally grown cucumbers best. One school-age child said the farm-raised cucumber tasted best because it was raised on a farm. Another child said it was yum, yummy. Thank you for this amazing grant!
Grantham Village School, Grantham, NH
Project: Tasty Tuesdays
Students and staff enjoyed trying and learning about new foods each Tuesday. We sampled and learned about dragon fruit, jicama, plantains, sweet peas, watermelon with mint, and kumquats. Students were proud to show off their “I tried it” sticker. It was challenging to find locally grown food during the school year, so I sourced from local businesses and my own garden. Parents enjoyed having an opportunity to volunteer at the school to help prepare samples and educate students. Due to popular demand, we plan to continue this program next school year and source locally as much as possible. Thank you for this opportunity!
Happy Valley Homeschool Academy, White River Junction, VT
Project: Feed Your Neighbors
Trial and error is the name of the game with Mother Nature this year. We created a four-phase composting system and made labels and charts to monitor pH balances in the soil and how these related to optimal growing in our environment. The system that we created was used to test the growth in multiple garden plots. We took into consideration the amount of rain and sun, the garden location. and the time in which the decomposition has taken place. Mother Nature’s rain forecast has flooded one garden plot, but because of the work we did, we are beginning to see the garden’s bounty.
Composting and sustainability are linked, and we were able to show other kids and families in the neighborhood the importance of sustainability and how scraps can produce food to put on the table.
The biggest lesson for all the kids is that sustainability can be done on a large scale or very small scale. This project is still in the beginning stages in terms of making sustainability a mainstay for families and starting with our own neighborhood. Education in place is important to showing how we can contribute to our community. The hands-on education this project has presented is what will make the future of sustainability possible even if on the smallest scale.