FORESTVILLE - Students may have an opportunity to grow more than their minds in the upcoming school year.
The Forestville Board of Education is considering the concept of farm to school, which would show students how to produce fruit, vegetables and even milk.
Cornell Cooperative Extension Educator Virginia "Ginny" Carlberg gave an indepth presentation at a recent board of education meeting.
OBSERVER Photo by Jasmine Willis
Cornell Cooperative Extension Educator Virginia “Ginny” Carlberg gives a presentation to the Forestville Board of Education on the Chautauqua County Farm to School program at a recent meeting.
Board member Amy Drozdziel spearheaded the campaign and invited Carlberg to shed some light on the subject for her fellow board members.
"Farm to school is broadly defined as connecting schools with farms," Carlberg said. "We support local farms and teach students to appreciate what they do."
New York State Farm to School has three objectives when recruiting schools.
Schools, colleges and universities will increase the amount of New York-grown and produced foods in their food service.
Students, teachers, parents and community members will increase awareness of local food and agriculture systems.
New York state farmers will gain access to local markets.
"Kids get really excited about fresh-grown food they or their neighbors grew," Carlberg said. "It exposes them to a healthy way of eating."
Carlberg added if students start out in their early development growing food, it may spark a future career in the long run.
The first time Chautauqua County Farm to School really made an effort with this program was a couple years ago with Pine Valley and Sherman schools.
Sherman chose to work with grapes and Pine Valley with apples.
"They (Sherman Central School) said it went really well. They did math problems with grapes, and the interesting thing was when they were asked to draw a picture of a locavore," Carlberg said. "Many of them thought it was some kind of creature, but it means someone who eats locally."
"Pine Valley started with apples and read 'The Giving Tree,'" she continued. "They incorporated it with acts of kindness."
There are some hurdles when participating in the Farm to School program.
Seasonality of produce and short local growing seasons are huge barriers.
"Right now our growing season is done in September. We would have to preserve and freeze food," Carlberg said. "Freezing is an intense process. We can't go with canning, because it is too difficult for the students."
She said price is also a big challenge, and labor is a factor when making a decision on what to farm.
There are many positives to going with this program as well.
"If you can overcome the barriers you will find much more is possible," Carlberg said.
"Farmers may be interested in coming to the classes. You need to catch them at a time when it is easier for them."
Pine Valley has started working with a potato farmer who volunteered her farm to the school.
"The kindergarten class has planted the potatoes, and in first grade they will come back to harvest them," Carlberg said. "The idea is to have them planting and harvesting something every year."
Board member David Caccamise thinks this is a great idea, since he teaches a culinary arts class in BOCES.
"I think it is a wonderful concept," he said. "We need to get funding from the government so we would need farmers to bid."
Carlberg said the board could get farmers to bid.
"Food safety is a big topic of concern," she said. "Farmers need to be inspected. When they sell food at the markets, they need a stamp of approval. I would encourage farmers to get a certificate stating they are approved."
"It makes it difficult, but if we could get around the loophole it would be awesome," Caccamise added.
President Sylvester Cleary wanted to know if they could get group funding if schools in the area pitch in.
"We haven't done real large funding for many schools, but we would like to do that next year," Carlberg answered. "If you could all get together it would make you stronger. You could bring in more rural schools with strong connections to local farmers."
Resident Paul Bock told the board he has a rather large plot of land he intended to farm, and would volunteer it to the school.
"I am really inspired by that presentation," he said. "I have a greenhouse and my intention was to make it a produce farm. If it would help the school, you can use it to help educate students."
"I plan to coordinate a committee soon, and see what we can come up with," Drozdziel said. "I am going to invite several teachers who might be interested, and I would be interested in touching base with farmers and the community."
Cleary thanked Drozdziel for taking on the leadership role.
"Thank you for standing up for it," he said. "When our board members are interested in something they stand up and talk things out."
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