Friday, December 10, 2010

Trimble Middle Schoolers See Where Good Food Comes From

This article was published in the Athens Messenger on December 8, 2010.

By DANALINE McPHAIL BRYANT Messenger staff journalist

Thanks to two local organizations, 60 Trimble Middle School students traveled to an area organic farm, where they tasted new foods, learned about growing organic vegetables and had some fun encounters with farm animals.

The field trip was one of a series of activities sponsored by Rural Action and Community Food Initiatives (CFI).

Joe Brehm, environmental education coordinator for Rural Action, and Molly Jo Stanley, Edible Schoolyard coordinator with Community Food Initiatives, planned the trip as one of the activities they sponsor with Trimble Local School students. Rural Action is a nonprofit organization that aims to foster social, economic and environmental justice in Appalachian Ohio. CFI is an Athens-based nonprofit that works to increase food security.

In the spring and summer, Brehm and Stanley helped Trimble students create raised vegetable gardens, and, after the fall harvest was over, they helped the students get the beds ready for winter.

Recently, as an extension of this project, Brehm and Stanley contacted Mellisa Bailes, middle school activities coordinator, about taking a group of students to Starline Organics farm near Athens. Bailes selected 60 fifth-, sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders who traveled to the farm in two groups.

“They really enjoyed the trips,” Bailes said. “A lot of the kids had never seen goats, pigs or cows before, and they were totally taken away with the experience. It was a great trip, and they learned a lot about healthy eating. The kids just loved it.”

Brehm said the ultimate goal of activities like the trip to Starline Organics is to give area children knowlege of farming and healthy eating as a way of life.

“Our ultimate goal is to effectively raise this generation of Appalachian Ohioans’ knowledge of how they can make a living sustainably, and the trip to the organic farm was to show them the tools they need to be able to live where they grew up and to make a living here. Often they don’t see a lot of opportunities for jobs here, but showing them an organic farm and letting them see people like Matt and Angie Starline, who are using best practices of farming, can help them see the tools they need to become farmers.”

While at the farm, students sampled homemade puffed spelt, an all-natural product that tastes much like heavily processed, sweetened cereal. The product, which the farm sells at the Athens Farmers Market, has no additives or preservatives. It is made using only spelt, honey and coconut oil. Bailes said many students tried it for the first time and said they liked it much better than commercial pre-sweetened cereals.

Students also were served butternut squash soup made with organic vegetables grown on the farm. While some students didn’t like it, many did.

“When we got back, 15 kids asked me for the recipe,” Bailes said.

On Tuesday, several students talked about their day on the farm.

“I really liked it,” said Sarah Parker, 11. “I thought it was a good field trip, especially with the cows. The soup was good, and the spelt was good. It was an almost perfect field trip.”

“I liked the animals. The goats were funny,” said Robert Scott, 13.

“It was the best,” said Sharron Buchman, 11. “It was very fun. The cows licked our hands. I liked the goats, too. We saw their big dogs, too. They’re mountain dogs that are used for hunting.”

“It was cool. I liked the animals,” said Brandon Hammon, 11. When asked if he worked on the raised gardens at the school, Brandon said he did and enjoyed it.

“We put seeds in the garden and then waited for them to grow,” he said. Katie Riley, 12, said she, too, liked working in the garden. She said the school garden and the trip to Starline Organics gave her the chance to sample new foods.

“I tasted this green thing that tastes like celery. It was good,” she said. “I liked going to the farm. We saw a cow, sheep, dogs and lambs. I liked the cow licking my hand. It had a crazy tongue.”

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