Farmer Fairs Get Iowa City Pupils Excited About Greens

Farmer Fairs Get Iowa City Pupils Excited About Greens

Wed 15 Jun 2011

Story by Shelly Squier
 

Our goal at Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) Farm to School chapter is to help students understand where food comes from, why local food is important, and to develop healthy food habits.

The ICCSD Farm to School is a project of the Johnson County Local Food Alliance, an association that aims to foster a more local and sustainable agriculture in Johnson and surrounding counties. During the past school year, the project has served locally-grown lettuce for lunch to all the schools in the district, encouraged schools to build edible gardens, and conducted Farmer Fairs. These are “in-school field trips” that bring local growers into the schools to talk about what they produce.

As a local farmer who grows vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers, I recently enthusiastically agreed to participate in the Farmer Fair at Horace Mann Elementary School in Iowa City and help educate students on the benefits of eating local, healthy food.

Three local farmers spoke with groups of students about local food in Iowa. An Iowa City chef prepared samples of locally-grown asparagus, spinach, lettuce and raspberry vinaigrette for everyone to sample. The farmers led the students through the tastings, with students filling out score cards to rate whether or not they liked each food.

We talked about how the food was prepared and other ways to enjoy the ingredients. Most of the students liked the samples - many discussed their experience and knowledge of these foods and lots of questions were asked. We discussed when different foods are planted, how they grow, how to prepare them, what they taste like, why they are good for you, and the benefits of eating local food in season.

Other Farmer Fair activities included a demonstration of how to compost with worms using food scraps and straw; a hands-on activity planting herb seeds into milk cartons the students had saved from their lunches; and a 30-minute mozzarella cheese curd making demonstration and tasting by a local dairy farmer.

Farmers also announced to students that the following Wednesday, they were going to get to sample more locally grown greens at lunch during the district’s first “Spring Greens Day”. Over 330 pounds of lettuce was grown by two local farmers for this project, and numerous volunteers helped prepare the greens for this very successful event. Some students loved it so much that they went back for two or three servings!

This was the second Farmer Fair in the ICCSD and both were highly successful. It’s been very exciting to see several students and their families visit me at the Iowa City Farmers’ Market after my presentations at school. The very popular market is becoming an increasingly dynamic gathering place for the community. People meet twice a week to visit friends and farmers, listen to local musicians, observe local chefs preparing seasonal dishes, participate in children’s activities, and experience the local, fresh and healthy food that the Iowa City area has to offer.

I love growing food for Iowa City and spreading the knowledge about healthy food, and Iowa City is proving that it loves its local food!

About the author: Shelly Squier and Mike Donnelly have operated Squier Squash & Donnelly Farms since 1999. They grow vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers using 100% chemical-free, GMO-free and sustainable practices.

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