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October, 2013

Food For Thought

In This Issue
Potato Facts
Potato Activities
Potatoes Teach
Belknap County School to Farm
Help Support NHAITC
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The leaves are changing color, produce is being harvested and there is a nip in the air that tells us the growing season is over.  But there are still many opportunities to grow, learn and enjoy agriculture in New Hampshire.  Nearly 400 fourth graders from Belknap County experienced that at the 4th annual Belknap County Farm to School Days on September 24-25.  See the article about that successful event for more details.


New Hampshire now has an official state vegetable thanks to the efforts of fourth graders at the Derry Village School.  This issue will feature the potato and some of its amazing qualities.  As those students learned while researching this plant, there are countless ways to use the potato as an integrating theme for history, geography, science, literature and math.  The connection the potato has to New Hampshire is fascinating.  Explore the articles and resources to learn more.


Potatoes are also rather iconic for me.  They are my favorite vegetable to harvest because there is a huge element of surprise.  They grow underground so you don't know until you bring them to the surface what your harvest will be like.  The plants above the ground may be lush and green but underneath the voles could have consumed the bulk of your crop, or you could have lots of tiny tubers.  Hopefully there is a bumper crop of robust potatoes that can be eaten and stored well into the winter.



Planting potatoes or any crop is like teaching.  You hope that the seeds will grow and produce a fine harvest in the future.  I've had the privilege of doing some of that as the Coordinator for NH Agriculture in the Classroom.  However, I will be moving on in a few weeks.  During the past three years, I hope I've been able to plant some seeds, provide ideas, resources and support for increasing the agricultural literacy of students and teachers around the state.  I have learned a great deal as well and thank you all for the support, feed back and opportunities you have given me to grow, learn and share.


Please continue to stay engaged. The future of NHAITC depends on support from donors, farmers, teachers, community members and all who care about the importance of agriculture and the education of our youth.  Grow on!


Best wishes,


Ruth Smith, Statewide Coordinator

NH Agriculture in the Classroom
Potato Resources


Eames-Sheavly, Marcia and Tracy Farrell. The Humble Potato: Underground Gold. A wonderful guide including history, experiments, recipes, nutrition activities, growing ideas and more. Cornell Cooperative Extension. Download the PDF version.



Idaho Potato Commission.  Frequently asked questions and kids pages with games.  



USDA Economic Research Service - Potato information: history, geographic information, production, uses, exporting data, etc.



US Potato Board. A website with recipes, nutrition information, history, facts, activities, interviews with potato farmers, videos and more.  



Spilsbury, Louise.  Food: Potatoes. A book for young readers about the history, types of potatoes, how they are used around the world, nutritional info and more.  Heinemann Library, 2001. ISBN: 158810149-5.


Washington State Potato Commission. General information, nutrition, publications and more.  


NHAITC Calendar

October is 

National Farm to School Month 

Learn how to get local food into your school and see what schools are doing in NH and across the US. 



October 7, 6:30 pm, Boscawen

History of Agriculture as Told by Barns

- lecture by John Porter. This is wonderful background for Ag history lessons (check out our Ag History lesson packet too).www.extension.unh.edu/Food-Agriculture/Agricultural-Workshops-Events


October 12-14, Sandwich

Sandwich Fair, 



November 3-4, Meredith

NH Science Teachers Conference

Join us for a workshop on Chickens & Eggs 



November 8-9, Durham

NH Farm Bureau Annual Meeting 

- We're holding a silent auction.  Contact us if you you'd like to donate a product or service. www.nhfarmbureau.org  


November 14-16, Manchester

National Grange Convention

Join us at the Idea Fair



Ag Book Sale

American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture 
Back to School Book Sale 
through September 21
Check out a large collection of agriculturally appropriate books.

NH Ag in the Classroom

Ruth Smith, Statewide Coordinator



295 Sheep Davis Road

Concord, NH  03301


Deb Robie, Grafton County Coordinator

Potato Facts
The Incas of Peru were the first people to cultivate the potato between 8000-5000 B.C.
In the 1530s Spanish Conquistadors came to Peru, learned about the potato and brought it back to Europe.
Potatoes were introduced to Ireland in 1589 and spread throughout Europe over several more decades, becoming a major staple because they were easy to grow in much of Europe.
In 1621 the potato was brought to North America - to the colonies, especially Jamestown in VA.
The first permanent patch of potatoes to be cultivated in North America was in Londonderry (Derry), NH in 1719.
Thomas Jefferson introduced French fries to the US.
In the 1840's a potato blight swept through Europe killing the plants.  Loss of the potato led to starvation. Nearly 1 million Irish died of starvation or disease, another 1 million emigrated to the U.S. and Canada.
In 1995 the potato was the first vegetable to be grown in space.
In 2013, the New Hampshire Legislature voted and Governor Hassan signed into law a bill making the white potato the state vegetable, thanks to efforts by fourth graders from the Derry Village School. (See Potatoes Teach reflections from their teacher, Amy Landry).
Potatoes are high in Vitamin C, potassium and other important vitamins and minerals.
Idaho and Washington State produce more than 50% of the potatoes grown in the U. S. 


Potatoes have a real appeal.  From Mr. Potato Head to French fries and chips, kids seem to gravitate toward this vegetable more than many others.  While using food for play is not something that should be done lightly, helping students appreciate potatoes and their many uses can increase their interest in learning about them and in eating them in more nutritious ways.


Potato Prints 

Cutting potatoes and using them for print making is a great way to integrate agriculture into an art lesson.  The possibilities are endless.  See this link to get started.






Sprouting Spuds

Potatoes are grown from putting parts of the potato in the ground.  Sprouts grow from the "eyes" to produce new plants.  Experimenting with what conditions cause potatoes to sprout is a fun science activity.  Students can learn the difference between growing from a seed (sexual reproduction) and growing from vegetative parts (asexual reproduction).

See this link for experimentation ideas. http://www.education.com/science-fair/article/under-what-conditions-do-potatoes-sprout-fastest/


Potato Travels

Using an outline map of the world, color in the countries where potatoes originated, traveled to and have had a major impact.  See The Humble Potato (resource listing) for more ideas.  Explore the social and economic impacts of the potato in terms of immigration.  There are many social studies and geography applications here.


Good Eating

Brainstorm with students some of the many ways that we eat potatoes.  Try preparing them in new ways and do taste tests of different recipes and different varieties. Evaluate their nutritional qualities.


Grow 'Em

Plant potatoes in your school garden.  There are many ways to experiment with how to grow them.  They can be planted in a bucket with holes in the bottom, a column of soil surrounded by a hay bale stack or directly in the ground.  Be creative, have fun.  Don't be a couch potato!




Potatoes Teach

Reflections from Amy Landry, 4th grade teacher at the Derry Village School.  Her class was responsible for introducing the bill to adopt the white potato at New Hampshire's state vegetable. 


"The project started when we went on a field trip to the State House as part of our NH History unit in Social Studies.  After being inspired by another group that failed to get the state color passed, I decided to ask my students to come up with a proposal of their own.  After students researched, they decided that because the first potato in America was planted here in their own town that the White Potato should be the official state vegetable (luckily NH did not have one already).  

Once we had decided on the potato, it was my task to get support from our local legislators to sponsor the bill.  John O'Connor took this project under his wings and the rest is history, literally.  

While the process of the bill was going on, I tried to bring the potato into other parts of our class.  They [the students] wrote persuasive letters to senators, created advertisements and posters that hung in our hallway, learned how a bill becomes a law, as well as many science experiments using the potato.  We also read about the history of the potato and its journey to the US by immigrants.  

As a teacher of almost 19 years, this project made me proud to be an educator.  I have been recharged as a teacher!  The first year, students brainstormed, researched and created the proposal.  The second year, the students were able to watch the process of how a bill becomes a law and the many stages it takes before the Governor signs it into law. 

This project took two years to complete but it was worth every minute!"

What a great story.  Thanks to Amy, her students and all educators who take on innovative projects and see them through.

Belknap County School to Farm


On September 24-25 fourth graders from Alton, Barnstead, Gilford, Gilmanton, Laconia and New Hampton visited the Ramblin' Vewe Farm in Gilford.  They met a sheep farmer who demonstrated sheep shearing, they watched wool get spun into yarn, tasted maple syrup and learned how bees make honey, met a dairy cow and some oxen, discovered how plants grow, why soil is important and that garlic is good for you.  Most of all they realized that food doesn't come from the grocery store; it is produced by hard working farmers, many of whom live right in their own county.

This was the fourth annual Belknap County School to Farm event.  This program has more than doubled 

since starting with three schools and 135 students in 2010 to seven schools and 373 students this year.  Its success and continuation is due in large part to the support of the Belknap County Farm Bureau.  This year we also received financial and in kind support from Moulton Farm in Meredith, Meredith Village Savings Bank, Farm Family Insurance, Cabot Creamery, Barbara & Bill Angevine, Matty Huckins, Allison and Jon Howe.  It would also not be possible without the volunteer presenters: Belknap County Cooperative Extension, Belknap County Conservation District, Huckins Farm, Lindon Garlic Farm, Ox-K Farm, Pemi-Baker Beekeepers, Prescott Farm Environmental Education Center, Ramblin' Vewe Farm and the Shepherd's Hut wool workers, and Suroweic Farm.  Thank you to all of those who participated and to the teachers who made the effort to bring their students and provide them with this rich experience. 


NH Agriculture in the Classroom | 295 Sheep Davis Rd | Concord, New Hampshire 03301 | 603-224-1934