From School to Farm, An Exhibit from the Past to Present: An Invite to Get Involved

This year’s Soybean Festival Farm Exhibit at Weldon Library, organized by Mike Rae, showcased items from the past to present historically covering the many youth who have served in Future Farmers of America (FFA) and 4-H Clubs throughout the region.

An excerpt from the 1960’s written by Betty Gayle Collier’s 4-H Club Member’s Record Book reads, “During the first years, I hoed the garden and kept it clean. I helped plan the garden; so that we would have an abundance of vegetables from early spring to late fall.”

Research continues to find that students who participate in school gardening activities as part of their science curriculum scored significantly higher on the science achievement test than those students who had not [Klemmer et al. (2005)]. A separate study found students participating in nutrition education combined with garden experiences significantly increased their daily intake of fruits and vegetables [McAleese & Rankin (2007)].

Other than research, our agricultural history tells a better story. It tells a story of a recent past that is filled with the knowledge of how to raise a prize winning milk cow, tend to the family’s garden, speak in public, and make the fluffiest biscuit you have ever eaten.

During the exhibit, the NWTN Local Food Network (LFN) displayed their Farm-to-School initiative to grow community member’s ideas into fruiting projects that will increase access to healthy, locally grown foods in our pre-schools, schools, and universities.

The LFN invites the community to attend their monthly “Meet-uP” Community Potluck and join the Farm-to-School Conversation. Bring a dish-to-pass on Tuesday, September 11th at 5:30 pm at the Trinity Presbyterian Church on 145 Hannings Lane, Martin. The entire family is encouraged to participate. RSVP at nwtnlfn.org/events.

Ashley Kite-Rowland, Director of Research and Outreach with the Local Food Network, is eager to foster more farm-to-school activities throughout Northwest Tennessee. “The positive benefits of farm-to-school programs are well-known, and now we all get a chance to learn more and become inspired to start growing programs in schools throughout the region, similar to the good ole days.”

Guest speakers include Teresa Crouse, Liberty Technology Magnet High School agriculture teacher and FFA advisor who established, in 2009 as a partnership between the Liberty Agriculture Program and the JMCSS School Nutrition Department, the Farm to Tray program. “Students participate in planting the seeds, analyzing the vegetables as they grow under specific conditions, and are heavily involved in harvesting, packaging, serving, marketing and conducting nutrition education,” Crouse says.

In addition, Elizabeth Goss, Farm to School Specialist, Tennessee Department of Education Office of School Nutrition will be sharing information about Farm-to-School programs, resources and growing connections.

Sign-up for a dish-to-pass at the September 11th Meet-uP on nwtnlfn.org/events. The challenge is to source at least one item in your dish locally… by a farmer, out of your garden, produced by an agri-business or locally owned store. For questions, contact nwtnfoodguide@gmail.com or phone at 731-281-4770.

*By Samantha Goyret, Executive Director