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From Farm to School and Back Again

By Sam Taggart

How do we teach our children to eat healthfully, support and appreciate farmers, and grow their own food? With a couple of chickens, a basket full of seed packets, and a schoolyard garden, you’re off to a great start!

This month, as the nation celebrates Farm to School Month, the City Schoolyard Gardens 8(CSG) are especially hopping with students, teachers, and, yes, chickens to celebrate the wonderful and pivotal work of our nation’s farmers and connect our children to local farms and food producers. Kicking off Virginia Farm to School Week the first week of October, the City Schoolyard Gardens have been a nonstop hub of Farm to School related lessons, planting days, chicken visits, and lots more! I have been lucky enough to participate in many of these activities and have seen up close how exciting it is to watch a child meet a barnyard animal for the first time and make a connection between their schoolyard garden and the larger agricultural landscape.

Students at Burnley-Moran Elementary School harvesting potatoes/carrots. The students then tasted a vegetable soup made with the ingredients they harvested that morning!

It takes organizations like City Schoolyard Garden and the Local Food Hub along with partnerships and support from the local school system to connect students to fresh, healthy, and locally sourced food. Moreover, it takes a state and federal government invested in feeding our children healthy, local food and willing to support initiatives that are trying to do just that.

My AMI Senior Fellowship with City Schoolyard Garden has been rich and rewarding in so many different ways. I have been able to experience firsthand how partnerships are formed between non-profits, businesses, and institutions to help create positive change in a community and to reach common goals. It really does take a village – the whole village – to affect change. My yearlong fellowship position with CSG has put me in a unique position to not only be on the ground helping with daily garden-based education but also participate in longer-term visioning and partnership-forming meetings and discussions. From the onset, I realized how intentional and mission-based City Schoolyard Garden was as an organization. That has not changed. CSG truly works to “cultivate academic achievement, health, environmental stewardship, and community engagement through garden-based, experiential learning” and that is apparent in every one of its programs and community partnerships. It has been privilege to work with such a dynamic and multifaceted organization and I am looking forward to a great last few months continuing to learn and grow from my time at CSG.

A chicken visit in the garden at Johnson Elementary School.
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