Planting seeds off the farm
Earlier this week I met with Tabitha Gilmore Barnes, local fiber artist who is also in charge of providing cultural enrichment activities for 6-8th graders for the after school program at Roxbury Central School. We managed to plot out a garden strategy for the spring, planting a pizza garden, salsa garden, succession plantings for the salad bar and of course more strawberries. There was an OP-Ed piece in the NY Times, about the hidden costs of introducing new food to children and how parents on a tight budget can't afford to experiment with food given the average number of times it takes a child to really accept a new food, 8-15 tries! Every home has a unique dinner table culture, but I know in the garden that if a student is able to grow it themselves, they will eat it. Snapping brussels sprouts and popping them into their mouths, nibbling on chives and kale leaves, its awesome! This spring and early summer, my steady hours at the RCS school garden are Tuesday morning 7-8 and Thursday afternoon 3-5pm and Im open to meeting parents and students at other times to get to work.
With Farm Catskills, I am participating in a Market Readiness Training program
sponsored by American Farmland Trust/Farm to Institution New York State to help farmers sell to institutional markets such as daycare centers, schools, colleges, hospitals. The project has inspired me to reach out to a local institution to develop a long term plan to incorporate local ingredients into the kitchen. Consumers are making the demands and many in the food service industry respond with knee jerk reactions with a call to a local farm to find out 50 pounds of tomatoes are not available in March. Kitchens these days are often ill equipped with efficient storage and equipment for ingredients to cook from scratch, employees are under-skilled and the food budget cafeteria managers have to buy with can only work with the crutch of USDA food subsidies, cheap CAFO beef, canned mushy veggies, etc. The Wellness Committee from the Mountainside Hospital and Residential Care Center approached me last year about a CSA share which I wasn't able to satisfy without GAP certification. BUT this interest drew me back there this week to explore the possibility of developing a long term plan for their kitchen. The meeting went really well and Im looking forward to meeting with the Mountainside food services director in the near future.
Farm Catskills is planning a big year! We had a Board Meeting on Thursday and so far our season is jam packed with farm to school action; Cow to Cafeteria launching at Stamford Central School with the guidance of Board members Cathy McKenna and Pam Benson, Harvest of Songs with Story Laurie going to 8 more public schools in the county, brewing innovative projects to trickle more and more local food into schools. Its been an honor to be on the Farm Catskills Board and Im so grateful we have an organization like this connecting farmers, students, artists and institutions to work together to fuel our lives with local food!
AG Literacy Week is coming up March 14-18. This years book is about apples. Above: Tabitha is reading a book about bees to 2nd Graders at RCS, Im disguised as a beekeeper, this was part of Ag Literacy Week 2013.