The Season End at the Youth Grow Local Farm

I am thrilled with the 2011 season at the Youth Grow Local Farm.  I have deemed it the best season yet!  It was our third year, and thanks to all of the youth and adults involved in the farm over the past few years offering ideas, input and their own special touches to the programming it has really blossomed.  Just in time, too. 

The teachers at Kennedy Elementary School wanted to expand their relationship with the youth farm.  Last winter, we wrote a few grants together and were awarded funding through the Foundation for Madison Public Schools and Willy St. Co-op to create a new program called A Kid Can Be a Farmer.  The grants have allowed us to expand the number of classes that visit the farm in the spring and fall.  The goal is to schedule each classroom to come out at least once this fall or next spring.  We also have a core group of classes that visit us each week. 

The expanded programming meant that we sometimes had up to 120 elementary students visiting the farm in one day - many of them for the first time.  They all did an amazing job helping us with the fall work of putting the farm to bed for the winter and seemed to have lots of fun doing it! I couldn't have done it without the help of my stellar crew of interns and volunteers - they were incredible at running the stations and keeping the youth on task and having fun.  Here's what we were all up to the past few months...

Tasting lots of veggies!  Before the kids visit each session we make sure that we have plates full of veggies for them to taste.  We introduce each vegetable and have a short discussion about it.  We rotate through what is in season at the farm - they will try anything and most often clear the plates bare!  Don't believe it when people say kids don't eat vegetables!

veggies on plate

We ripped out lots of old plants (many taller than the kids).  They love teaming up two or three to a plant and working together to pull it out.  They also learned that bean leaves stick to your shirt and had fun making designs on themselves and each other. 

kids pulling out corn plants  youth with bean leaves stuck to his shirt

Each week the young farmers couldn't wait to harvest what became the favorite bean on the farm - Dragon Tongue.  I am still not sure if it's because of the taste, the unique purple and white colors, or the name!  Another popular harvest was the large brassicas.  The kids got to pick a cabbage, cauliflower or kohlrabi to harvest.  One of the interns would cut it from the plant for them and they would march back to the shed and weigh it.

girl holding green beans

Since most of the food we pick gets delivered to the Goodman Food Pantry, we like to clean it up to make it more appealing to the clients.  The kids helped us harvest and clean hundreds of pounds of onions and potatoes for delivery to the pantry.


Spreading woodchips on the aisles and climbing up and down the pile was one of the most popular stations at the farm this fall.  Our pile is still pretty large, so as the kids dug down into it big plumes of steam would release from the composting process.  They were amazed by it!

boy dumping woodchips in garden

During our last week we planted 1500 cloves of garlic and tasted lots of beets.  After the kids took the beets from the tasting plate they would often have pink thumbs.  We started calling it "beet thumb" and walked around giving each other a high beet thumb instead of a high five.

kids planting garlic in a garden

The last photo of the season is from this week.  It's a photo of Joe from CAC plowing up some new land at the farm.  We have plans for expansion in the spring and will be adding two new areas to the farm.  We'll be happy to welcome the hundreds of Kennedy students back in April to help us plant thousands of seeds and seedlings and begin the cycle again!


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