Building Relationships Between Kids, Kale, Curriculum & Community

By David Sobel, Antioch New England University, Core Faculty
Foreword to the Monadnock Farm & Garden Education Toolkit

A toolkit?  Looks like just a bunch of glossy pictures and words at first. Where are the packets of seeds, the trowel, the fork, the trusty hoe, the watering can? Well yes, you need all those things to actually plant a garden, but what if you are wanting to plant relationships?  Relationships between vegetables and children, between gardens and schools, between farms and communities? What kind of tools do you need then? To plant relationships, you need good stories, ways to get in touch with people, reasons to collaborate.  You need to know what it is you are going to get out of these new relationships, and how each new relationship will make the world a better place.

Remember how Miss Rumphius planted lupines all over the countryside to make the world a more beautiful place? Well, the Monadnock Farm and Community Connection’s folks, Meg, Bonnie, the Amandas, Jeff, Jen and Jessica, are all about making our corner of the world a healthier place through building relationships between kids, kale, curriculum and communities.

The Monadnock Region would be a better place for learning and living healthy lives if there was a garden at every school, a farm connected to every school lunch program and a farmer’s market every day of the week. If we believe in Vision 2020, the idea that our region’s communities will be the healthiest in the nation by 2020, then creating these relationships that engage all of us in growing and eating locally grown, healthy food is an integral part of that vision.

Each one of the stories in this toolkit can help you start to till the soil in your community. Learn how kindergarteners in Alstead, master gardeners in Keene and farmers in Winchester are all working to make tending and growing and harvesting a regular part of the air we breath every day. Learn how to help children throw off the shackles of their cell phones and savor the crunch of their celery. Learn how to seek out the fresh pressed and the just picked.

Take my hometown of Harrisville, for instance. I can buy locally raised lamb, pork, chicken, beef and yes, even goat from local farmers at The Harrisville General Store. (I admit, I was a bit leery of goat, but we tried it in moussaka and it was great.) We press our own cider from apples on my backyard trees or our neighbor’s wild trees. I can stop at Jody’s to pick up recently laid Silver Lake Farm eggs. Raised beds may be sprouting at the elementary school. The maple sugarer drops off a quart or two of syrup from the trees on my property that he is tapping. And just a few weeks ago, the old field in the triangle between the Harrisville and Nelson roads was tilled to make way for the new community garden next spring. Eleven of the twenty plots have already been claimed. My food is coming home again. Which is the way it should be.

Use this toolkit to plant relationships between your farm and the local school, between the community garden and the community kitchen, between children and good grades. All those relationships will make the Monadnock Region a more beautiful, and a healthier, place.

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