by: J. Adam and Sophia S.W. Bogle
Cultivating healthy kids, environmental stewardship, farm relationships and the local economy.
Have you heard the story of the well meaning Italians who go to Zambia to teach the people how to grow tomatoes? Well, they worked together and grew some magnificent tomatoes and as soon as they were ripe, 200 hippos came out of the river and ate them all. The bewildered Italians expressed their dismay and the Zambians calmly said: “That’s why we have no agriculture here.” And the Italians exclaimed:”Why didn’t you tell us?” And the Zambians’ reply tells the whole story here: “You didn’t ask.” (This is from a TED talk by Ernesto Sirolli posted in November 2012.) The title of the talk is “Want to help someone? Shut up and listen!
I don’t know if anyone at Rogue Valley Farm to School (RVF2S) has ever heard this TED talk, but they certainly take the principle to heart. While they have a very clear mission statement (see below), they don’t have a singular path to get there.
Instead, they work with each school individually and they ASK them what they would like to focus on. Here are just a couple of the stories of how they are not imposing their tomatoes on anyone.
At Phoenix High School, RVF2Ss FoodCorps service member, Karen Tassinari worked with teacher, Jim Janousek who wanted to focus on creating a community event with his students. The event was designed to promote awareness of and generate support for the amazing work the students were doing to grow their garden, care for vegetable starts, and of course; the harvest! The Phoenix High School students hosted the Community Garden Party and Barbecue to coincide with the Future Farmers of America students’ annual plant sale as a way to generate more exposure to the garden and integrate the two classes. The students planned the whole event with the guidance of both Janousek and Tassinari. They formed committees for everything from the musical entertainment to menu based on the food they grew themselves as well as some locally sourced items. The menu included kale pesto pasta, salad with roasted beets and radishes, burgers, spinach dip with homemade crackers, and carrot muffins. Wow. The event was a great success, and students had the chance to see all the steps it takes to coordinate a community event.
Many students become visibly more empowered as they learn new skills that they can use throughout their lives.
In the Central Point School District, Karen works with students at Sams Valley Elementary School. The garden committee there wanted to focus on producing more garden fresh produce for the cafeteria salad bar. Karen’s role has been to help them by engaging the 3rd-5th graders to grow the vegetables. The students have learned everything from planting seeds to harvesting produce and creating recipes with their garden abundance. They recently made simple lettuce wraps with carrots, radishes, cilantro, and peas that the students loved, exclaiming that it was the best food they had ever had! One third grade girl told Karen that her family bought kale starts and melon seeds to start their garden since “I know how to plant because you taught us.” Pride that comes from gardening was a recurring theme no matter what the story was that Karen shared with me.
Creating your own food just can’t be beat for a sense of accomplishment!
To volunteer go to www.rvfarm2school.org/volunteer and look at their calendar. You could help with their Harvest Meals programs.These occur on farms where students get to visit a farm and explore farm activities. This always includes harvesting and cooking food as well as information on compost, insects, plant parts and more. The day ends with a meal everyone helped to prepare, yum! You can also call their Outreach Coordinator, Lilia Letsch at 541-579-3656.
Their mission statement: Rogue Valley Farm to School educates children about our food system through hands-on farm and garden programs, and by increasing local foods in school meals. We inspire an appreciation of local agriculture that improves the economy and environment of our community and the health of its members.