Farm to School

Farm to School is a nationwide movement bringing local fresh food to school cafeterias and generating excitement among children for eating well. These hands-on experiences--where students pull carrots out of the earth with our farmers, learn how to chiffonade collard greens with our chef, or work as a class on a collaborative painting with a local artist to hang in their school cafeteria--are transformative in creating positive attitudes towards nutritious food, in turn creating better health outcomes for our community.

Common Ground Farm works in collaboration with our community partners Beacon City School District and Hudson Valley Seed to feature a Harvest of the Month program throughout the school year. Every month, students learn about a different seasonal vegetable through programs in school and at the farm, and the vegetable is featured throughout the month in the school cafeterias. At the end of each month, the four elementary schools participate in a taste test, which is a chance for students to decide whether they like the dish with the featured vegetable! When possible, Common Ground Farm provides the vegetables for the in-school programming provided by Hudson Valley Seed and in the cafeteria for the taste tests.

Field trips to Common Ground Farm allow students to learn how food grows by visiting the farm and meeting our farmers. When children harvest broccoli rabe with their own hands, they are excited to try it! Students bring their harvests to our classroom where they work with a local chef to create a dish together. This experience allows students to participate in their local food system in a way that creates excitement to eat vegetables and engagement in their own nutritional needs. When students see lettuce growing in our fields and then see the same lettuce in their cafeteria, they connect those experiences and the excitement that they felt when tasting vegetables in our fields extends to their school day!

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Chef in the Classroom is an opportunity for students, from pre-k through 5th grade, to cook together with a chef working in our local food system to explore seasonal vegetables. Chef Key teaches students basic culinary skills while they explore the vegetable of the month that is featured in the dish prepared together. At the start of each workshop, Chef Key asks the students if they like the featured vegetable. At the end of the workshop, she asks them the same question. On average, 55% of participating students like the vegetable before the workshop, and 78% like it after learning about it and preparing a dish together with their class!

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The Fresh Food Mural Workshop is a unique program where 5th graders who have participated in Farm to School programming in their elementary years have an opportunity to share what they have learned with their school community in a cross-disciplinary workshop where they create murals for their school cafeterias. Participating students visit the farm with clipboards and pencils, sketching in the fields, in the barn, and in the classroom. They learn about public art, and its purpose in communicating with the public. 5th graders then brainstorm ideas, and democratically vote on a final design. They then learn how to create a collaged maquette, transfer their design onto tiles, and paint their mural! The finished work is installed in the cafeteria--helping school communities connect farms to schools in a unique and beautiful way!

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Educational programming is only meaningful if children have access to fresh food both at school and at home. In 2017, Common Ground Farm provided 2000 pounds of fresh vegetables to the Beacon City School District cafeterias, providing lettuce for salads, vegetables for the monthly taste tests, and fresh summer veggies for the free Summer Feeding Program, a partnership with Kids R Kids, a local non-profit. To learn more about produce procurement in the local schools visit the Farm to School page under the Farm tab.

Common Ground Farm is committed to creating avenues for food access throughout the school community. In addition to our food share and market programs, we work with the school communities to create greater access for families. Common Ground Farm partners with Hudson Valley Seed and the Beacon Recreation Department to offer Crop Shop, an after-school farm stand, where families can buy fresh produce while students learn how to operate a market. In 2018, Common Ground Farm worked in partnership with South Avenue and JV Forrestal schools, the South Avenue PTA, the JVF PTSO, partnering farms Dagele and Fishkill Farms, and with financial support from the United Way and the Poughkeepsie Journal to provide Thanksgiving shares to participants in the schools’ BackPack and pantry programs. This program provided a variety of vegetables, apples, and gift certificates to the local grocery store for 25 food-insecure families.

For more information about Farm to School programming, contact Sember at sember@commongroundfarm.org.