October 4, 2013
Veggies head of class in Homer
Elementary students learn about fresh, local foods at Village Green
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Homer Elementary School kindergartner Aleigha Johnson holds her newly planted broccoli seed up to the sun during the school’s second annual Farm to School Food Fest Thursday on the Village Green in Homer.
HOMER — Homer Elementary School students spent time outside enjoying a sunny fall Thursday afternoon as they learned about farming and healthy eating habits during this year’s Farm to School Food Fest.
Children from kindergarten through second grade were engaged in activities at the half dozen stations set up on the Village Green while others ate locally-grown apples and exchanged vegetable trading cards beneath the shade of the gazebo.
Chastity Mydlenski, owner of Oh My Goodness Health Food in Homer, and Sara Watrous, an AmeriCorps volunteer working with Sustainable Cortland, coordinated the event as a part of National Farm to School Month and NY Harvest for NY Kids Week.
Mydlenski and Watrous said this is the second year the Farm to School Fest has taken place and they were motivated to teach children more about local agriculture and healthier eating habits.
“We realized kids go home and don’t usually eat healthy, nutritious foods,” Watrous said. “Last year was such a success we decided to make it an annual event.”
“We think it’s important the children are educated about where their food comes from,” Mydlenski said. “And to support local farmers and promote healthier after-school snacks.”
Toby Clark said her second-grade class was learning more about life on a farm and growing healthy food; a lesson that seemed to be hitting home with the students.
Daniel Hartnett, 7, said he learned farmers started putting cows in buildings to keep them safe while Alyssa Swayze, 6, learned about “super foods,” or foods that provide her with more energy, proteins and nutrients than other foods.
“I learned that when you eat super foods it makes you stronger and healthier,” Swayze said.
Clark said she was happy the event returned because it teaches the children how to eat healthy and to appreciate the work local farmers do bring healthy food to the area.
“I like it because it brings the community into our school,” Clark said. “Sometimes we don’t recognize all of the unique things going on around us.”
Main Street Farms in Homer set up a small aquarium fitted with a simple aquaponic system. The same water goldfish were swimming in was used to water basil and pepper plants before being filtered back into the tank.
Manager Bob “Bobcat” Cat, who studied outdoor environmental education, said his goal is to teach the students new ways to look at food and agriculture.
“Aquaponics is new and people don’t know a lot about it; and the kids are fascinated by it,” “Bobcat” said. “I try to have a pretty basic conversation about ... the work that goes into producing food so, as they grow up, they become educated consumers.”
Anna Dallam, owner of Dutch Hill Farms in Tully, Onondaga County, and Susan Williams, member of the Homer Farmers Market Board, spent time showing the kindergartners how to plant seeds.
The line of excited children giggled as they reached into a large bowl of dirt to fill plastic cups which they used to plant and water their very own broccoli seeds. Dallam and Williams said they thought it was important for the children to understand where their food comes from, but that it was equally important for them to realize how simple it is.
“I think it’s important to know (planting seeds) is something that they can do,” Dallam said. “For this age group, it’s perfect. There’s nothing complicated about it.”
“There’s this connection of, ‘I can grow this at home and feed myself and my family’,” Williams said. “To think that you can plant something that’s food you can eat; it’s exciting for them.”
Principal Jim McGory said he thought the event was a great idea and when he was hired this year, he heard nothing but positive feedback from parents as well.
“When I first came I talked with parents,” McGory said. “I asked questions and asked about some of the things they wanted to continue. This was on the top of the list of the things they wanted to keep.”
He added that as a teacher, he thinks the Farm to School Fest is a valuable learning experience for the students and so long as parents feel the same way he does not anticipate it will stop anytime soon.
“That’s the bottom line,” McGory said. “If it’s good for the kids, then we’re going to keep it.”
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