Food for Thought August, 2011
The summer is flying by, as usual. Hopefully you've been enjoying the season with its bountiful produce and opportunities to get outside and enjoy the beautiful landscape.
August is Eat Local Month in New Hampshire. It's a time when residents are encouraged to meet and support local farmers by purchasing their products. Of course at NHAITC, we encourage folks to do that all year. However, highlighting the diverse agricultural offerings in our area with special events and activities raises awareness and educates even more people about the important role of agriculture in our lives. To find out more about what's happening in your part of the state, visit the NH Eat Local website: www.nheatlocal.org.
As part of Eat Local Month, National Farmer's Market week will be celebrated from August 7-13. Make sure to visit your local market to see what they have to offer. As the season progresses, produce changes so plan to go frequently to see what's new. There are nearly 90 markets to choose from in New Hampshire, so chances are there's one near where you live. Visit the NH Department of Agriculture website for a listing in their publication section: www.nh.gov/agric.
National Apple Month is not until October, but the beginning of apple season is just around the corner here in New Hampshire. In this issue you'll find some ideas for planning lessons related to apples. I interviewed an orchard owner to get tips on how teachers can prepare their students for a rewarding visit to an orchard. NHAITC has apple story books and reference materials as well as activity guides that can be borrowed. Check out the resource list for books and websites related to teaching about apples. Find out if your school or the school in your town serves NH grown apples in the cafeteria. If not, have your food service director contact NH Farm to School program to find out how they can participate (www.nhfarmtoschool.org). Don't forget to treat yourself to a an orchard visit and pick some fresh, crisp apples right off the tree.
In the mean time, enjoy what's left of summer and as always, let us know how we can help integrate more agricultural topics into your curriculum, or the curriculum of teachers you many know.
Ruth Smith, Statewide Coordinator
Amazing Apples by Consie Powell
Acrostic poems made from apple-themed words lead readers through the growing season-from early spring buds to apple-picking time to naked tree branches resting in winter. Illustrated with hand-colored woodblock prints, Amazing Apples also includes some apple history as well as ideas about what to do with apples. Best for ages 5-8. ISBN: 0-8075-0399-1
Apples (A True Book) by Elaine Landau
This text provides an accurate and comprehensive look at apples. From early cultivation in Greece and Rome on to Europe and America, the apple's story is told. The complex process of apple production is covered. A good glossary and resource list adds to the usefulness of this book. Best for ages 7-13. ISBN: 978-0-5162-1024-7
An Apple A Day! Over 20 Apple Projects for Kids
by Jennifer Storey Gillis
Puzzles, crafts, food projects, the title says it. There are more than 20 projects that involve apples so kids can learn about and use apples while having lots of fun. Best for ages 7-10. ISBN: 0-88266-849-8
Apples by Jacqueline Farmer
This beautifully illustrated book is filled with facts about how apples are grown, characteristics of different varieties, ways to use apples, nutritional value, and history. Great for integrating into science and history lessons. Best for ages 7-10. ISBN: 978-1-57091-695-3
Johnny Appleseed by Steven Kellogg
The story of John Chapman, a real man who became an American legend. Best for ages 8-11. ISBN: 0-688-06417-5
New England Apple Growers Association www.newenglandapples.org
This site is created by a trade association of New England growers. It has a library and book list, YouTube videos on pollination, packing and storing apples, apple varieties and making cider. Information on the science of apples and nutritional facts provide good resources for science and health lessons.
New Hampshire Fruit Growers Association www.nhfruitgrowers.org
A trade association dedicated to promoting fruit growers within New Hampshire. The website lists locations and information for all the association members, recipes, nutritional benefits, and archives of their publications.
New York Apple Country www.nyapplecountry.com
This promotional site for the New York Apple Association provides excellent resources, including a page for teachers and kids. The teacher kits available on line are user friendly, easy to download and print and ready to use. They include activities, information, a bibliography, and more.
U.S. Apple Association www.usapple.org
A trade association which promotes the use of apples. This website contains many recipes, facts, YouTube videos, FAQs, and general information about apples.
Washington Apple Commission www.bestapples.com
Washington State is the number one producer of apples in the country and they are very proud of it. This website provides a wide variety of facts about apples in general which can be useful. However, remember that this site is designed to promote Washington apples. New Hampshire also grows great apples, just on a much smaller scale.
Agricultural Calendar of Events
NH Agricultural Fairs
Belknap County Fair: August 13-14, Belmont
Cornish Fair: August 19-21
Lancaster Fair: August 31-September 5
Hopkinton Fair: September 1-5
Putting Food By August 10, 6:30 pm
Dot Perkins of UNH Cooperative Extension will discuss the basics of root cellaring, canning, drying and preserving foods. This is NOT a hands-on workshop, rather an information-packed workshop designed to give you tips and tricks to keep food over the winter.
This workshop is free but, please register by calling Mary at
796-2151. The workshop will be held at the Pittsfield Community Center.
See more programs offered throughout the state by UNH Cooperative Extension at www.extension.unh.edu.
Local Lunches August 11 and 30
On August 11 at the Lakes Region General Hospital in Laconia and August 30 at sister agency, Franklin Regional Hospital in Franklin, NH Eat Local Month will be celebrated at the hospital cafeterias. "Local Lunches" will be available from 11am -2 pm on both days to visitors and staff via a special menu. No reservations necessary. The lunches are being co-sponsored by the NH Farm to Restaurant Connection. A limited local dinner menu will also be available at both facilities. Contactinfo@nhfarmtorestaurant.com for information.
See more events on the www.NHeatlocal.org website
August 20 & August 21
Old Time Farm Days,
NH Farm Museum
Horse-drawn wagon rides, demonstrations of traditional crafts, black-smithing, rock splitting, basket making, spinning, weaving etc. Living history farmhouse tours, corn roast, children's activities and more. For more information: http://www.farmmuseum.org/calendar.html
August 27 - Harvest Children's Program at the Dover Cassily Community Garden
Come and enjoy gathering the harvest! Collect flowers, herbs and produce for the community. Children of all ages and families are welcome to attend free of charge. All programs will begin at 10am at the DCCG shed and will be held rain or shine, but not thunder and lightning. Much more information is available at dovergarden.org or email Traci, Youth Outreach Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Save the Dates - Upcoming Conferences
October 5: NH Children in Nature, Ossipee
October 7: National Education Association-NH, Penacook
October 21-23: New England Environmental Education Alliance,
October 23-24: NH Science Teachers Association, Meredith
October 27: NH Council for the Social Studies, Manchester
Plan a trip to an Orchard
To inspire teachers to take their students to an apple orchard, I interviewed an orchard owner in Concord who has been educating the public on their farm for many years. Diane and Chuck Souther established Apple Hill Farm in 1978, starting with just apples. Over the years they have added other fruit trees, berries and vegetables. Their farm offers pick-your-own options, a fully stocked farm stand and they are vendors at four farmers markets. Diane took a few minutes between markets and jelly making to answer some of my questions about how and why they encourage school visits at their farm.
NHAITC: How many students visit your farm each year for educational field trips?
Diane: During September and October we host field trips that bring in over 1000 students. That number has actually decreased over the years. Many reasons contribute to the decline including the economy, busing issues and costs and believe it or not, environmental issues like mosquitoes and ticks. In the spring we also host a two-day school to farm program with volunteers from other farms. That event alone brings in 350-400 4th grade students from greater Concord.
NHAITC: Given that you are busy running your farm and farm stand, why do you take time to host students at your farm?
Diane: It's always been an important part of our business plan. Students need to be reminded where their food comes from. More and more our population has no garden or farm experience. A perfect example was when we planted potatoes in the spring. Some of our helpers never knew that potatoes grew under the soil.
The fact that all food is available in the supermarket year round makes the realities of growing food a hard concept to accept. I'll get calls in the middle of the winter looking to pick fresh strawberries because they saw them in the supermarket. This is why we do school tours. If I reach even half of the class then I've done my job.
I love getting the thank you notes and seeing what the students have retained and thought about after leaving the farm. I've even given spring time pollination tours where adults didn't understand the process of spring blossoms, to fruit to harvest in the fall. It's one of the most rewarding things we do each year.
NHAITC: What are some of the key points you try to convey to the students?
Diane: The weather is our biggest challenge! Every year is different and trying to deal with it can be tiring. You have to go with what you receive and last year (2010) was a perfect example. We lost half of our apple crop to a freeze in the spring. While we tried to use all the methods we had to protect them, we still lost those apples. There was no getting them back and we had to deal with that loss of income. Showing the students that there were no apples at the bottom of the hill illustrated the challenges that we face.
NHAITC: What tips should teachers know about preparing their students to come to a farm for a field trip?
Diane: It's a farm. Dress appropriately for the weather. Prepare the students on what they are going to see and experience. Bug spray, sunscreen and water bottles help make it a happier experience. Have the students prepare before the trip and bring questions.
NHAITC: What are some lessons you've learned over the years?
Diane: Yellow-jackets make cider pressing next to impossible. Food allergies also prevent us from doing much sampling. But we always allow the students to eat an apple that they pick fresh from a tree. We provide the freshest, tree ripened, low sprayed and safest fruit they can find, quite a contrast to the highly processed food most of them bring in their lunches.
NHAITC: What is the most challenging part of having groups of children on your farm?
Diane: Late arrivals and early departures, chaperones who are looking for an outing not an educational experience and parents who use their cell phones during the program. The children are hardly ever a problem.
NHAITC: What is the most rewarding part for you?
Diane: The hand written thank you notes which show us exactly what the students have retained. Also hearing the students when they come back with their parents on another visit explaining the proper way to pick an apple or which one to select because it's their favorite.
NHAITC: Do you have a favorite memory you can share with us?
Diane: Yikes, I'm not sure when this happened but I'm old enough now to have former students who come back with their own children and some grandchildren. Watching them bring them to the farm and sharing their memories of the apple harvest or their field trip is a treat.
Civics in the Garden
We often talk about how agricultural topics can be integrated into any curriculum. I recently encountered a great example of the intersection of gardening and civics. An article from the Washington Post described a battle being fought by a woman who lives near Detroit and was sentenced to 90 days in jail for putting five raised beds of vegetables in her front lawn.
It turns out that vegetables did not fit into the definition of plants prescribed in the municipal codes for her suburban neighborhood. Her goal was to make her lawn more productive and raise some food for her family. The community goal seemed to be for all yards to look uniform and "neat". She has hired a lawyer and the case is being studied. Meanwhile she is harvesting tomatoes, basil and cucumbers.
The article (called "A Different Kind of Garden Pest", by Adrian Higgins) goes on to state that "vegetable crimes" like this happen throughout the country. As a backyard gardener and local food advocate I was outraged when I read this. Then I put on my educator's hat and thought, what a wonderful opportunity for students to learn about appropriate use of laws and regulations.
There are indeed lessons to be taught here. Why not have students research agriculturally related regulations for their own communities? For instance, most cities have some type of law that determines whether residents can have chickens or other livestock. Perhaps neighborhoods in New Hampshire restrict certain plantings too. Regulations about use of pesticides and herbicides are certainly important to consider. Farmers are well aware of the laws that govern what can be sold from a farm and how food is processed. There are probably laws about driving farm equipment on roads. The possibilities are vast.
These are all places where the process of raising food overlaps with the way that we interact as people. It's essential to look at all sides on issues like this; there are many shades of gray between what seems to be black and white. Teaching students to be critical thinkers is one of the most important skills we can give them. Sometimes these projects unearth interesting information and create advocates on one side or another. Students can get quite engaged about something they are passionate about. When they do, I believe we have succeeded as educators.