The Cornucopia Project announces a new partnership with the Monadnock Conservancy, with support from the Caswell Foundation, to create the Kids Connect! Farm, Field & Forest Youth Summer Program at Four Winds Farm in Peterborough. The Kids Connect! program promotes self-esteem, teamwork, play and healthy eating by connecting children to land and nature through safe and enjoyable farming and gardening activities and adventures in cooking.
The program is geared for children entering grades 3 to 6 and meets every Monday and Thursday from 4 to 6:30 p.m., from July 17 to August 17. The cost is $150 per child for 10 classes, or tuition-free for families eligible. For more information please email email@example.com.
Farmer John’s Plot will manage a farm laboratory across the road from ConVal High School where students from that school and others will engage in hands-on sustainable farming courses and experiences. They are joining forces on this farm site with the Cornucopia Project, a local non-profit that focuses on tying gardening to primary education. Their programs will combine to provide a seamless path from elementary garden education all the way up through high school and post graduate sustainable agricultural training via our incubator program.
They are partnering with the local Peterborough Food Pantry to help to supply fresh and nutritious food choices to area families with low income. This is a pilot program that could provide a great example to other food pantries on how local farmers and organizations can partner to make local healthy food options available to those of all income levels.
Also, they are collaborating with The Well School, a private K-8 school in Peterborough, to provide them with a farm to school program. They will manage a farm site adjacent to the school property and conducting farm education classes with the students throughout the school year.
Enjoyable green spaces. This is a topic on the forefront of many minds these days where school gardens are becoming a norm and the concept of edible landscapes is blooming. At Antioch’s campus in Keene, NH, the lawn is now growing food for the on-site café and is one of the most popular outdoor classroom spaces.
Four garden boxes, each two feet high and six feet long, create corners for an open space where people can sit and socialize, classes can meet, musicians can play, and inspiration can be derived. In its first summer a variety of vegetables and herbs filled each bed, including peppers, tomatoes, basil, Swiss chard, pole beans, sweet peas, carrots, and much more! This fall as leaves started to drop, produce was harvested, garlic was planted, and plans for winterization began materializing. Throughout its first season students across departments combined efforts to create educational and funding sources, and the Antioch community as a whole is a buzz with excitement about the possibilities.
Antioch University New England is a unique location for a school garden. It is a graduate school that caters to a wide range of disciplines including clinical psychology, integrated learning, environmental studies and more. ANE values ecological stewardship and place-based learning experiences, and the creation of an on-site vegetable garden is an example of these values.
In March of 2009, a number of Antioch students, faculty and staff attended the workshop “Grow Food Everywhere” hosted by Deb Habib of Seeds of Solidarity. Discussions following this workshop revolved around the desire to have a working, edible landscape on Antioch’s campus. A few months later, the Antioch Garden Committee formed, a garden proposal was submitted to the campus president, and plans for construction were approved.
An Antioch student took the project on for her summer practicum and with loads of support hit the ground running. By July 2009, four garden boxes were built and a variety of vegetables planted. In the words of one volunteer, “Something beautiful has begun.”
Supplies for building the boxes were made available by local farms, students, faculty, staff and alumni. Over $500 was collected through in-kind donations and a gift from the graduating class of the Environmental Studies department. This provided the capital needed to buy the lumber and a few maintenance supplies.
Over 155 volunteer hours were committed to making this project a reality. Currently there are two paid work study positions that coordinate the garden efforts and are supervised by a faculty member. The garden is now able to use compost that is produced on-site from collected food waste and a center garden bed was created, which will host a garden of medicinal plants starting in the spring of 2010.
Up and Running
The theme of Antioch’s garden is truly “many hands make light work.” Two garden coordinators host ‘work parties’ where everyone is welcome to come and participate in garden related events such as: planting garlic, harvesting produce, turning the compost pile, putting the beds to sleep for the winter, or participating in fundraising events. The work parties have been an opportunity for new folks to meet each other, a great time to socialize after a day of classes, and an opportunity to take part in producing the food that is eaten on campus.
The first garden fund raiser, a sustainability themed book fair, to raise funds for the purchase of materials for spring planting and project expansion was a campus-wide success.
Two different cold frames were built and more greens have been planted to extend the growing season and provide an educational experience for overwintering with small, box gardens. Students collaborate with the facilities staff as well as the landscaping crew to enhance the communication between different parties dedicated to preserving and maintaining the beauty and integrity of Antioch’s campus. The gardens are five months old now, and already students are incorporating the gardens into class curriculum and master’s projects – the medicinal garden being the first master’s project.
Hurdles to Overcome
There is concern that there may be gaps in leadership for the maintenance of the gardens from season to season or year to year because this is a student led initiative aligned with the school calendar and not the growing season. Staffing the work study positions throughout the summer, the attraction of animals or rodents and the loss of open, green space have also elicited some concern from the Antioch community. There is also a lack of continuous funding for project expansion.
Evaluation tools are being developed to help track this information. Small grants have been considered and more research is being done as to what is available, but there are few grants that cater to smaller scale, vegetable gardens at higher level institutions. The location of the campus has also raised concerns about the soil quality for the gardens. Soil tests were sent to UNH prior to planting, and the results did not indicate any threats to the health of the soil. If the program hopes to expand to other areas of the campus, soil quality will need to be considered in those locations.
Planning for the Future
Students continue to express interest in using the gardens or garden space for class projects, faculty are considering how the gardens can be used as an experiential learning tool, and the committee hopes to expand the growth of food both for the purposes of the on-site café, as well as the local community kitchen. Plans are being made to utilize the garden for classes such as Soil Ecology and Place-based Learning. Entomology, a class held in the summer that studies
the eight major orders of insects, could utilize the garden for observations. Two students are currently planning a “Quest” that would have students finding items or investigating aspects of the garden and compost piles.
There are other students researching ideas for how new classes could be offered at Antioch including Eco-Therapy and Sustainable Agriculture. These visions for the future of the garden space are just at the tip of the iceberg. Student groups are beginning to brainstorm ideas for continuing to make our campus a “green” working landscape—and the expansion of the garden space on campus is a top priority. Beautiful things truly are happening on ANE’s campus.
Advice for Other Schools/Projects
Allow for student-led initiatives to grow and find ways to help mobilize their efforts
Use human resources including friends, family, students, parents, local experts and community members
Stir up excitement for your project through brainstorming sessions and community forums
Kin Schilling, Founder and Director of The Cornucopia Project shares an upcoming goal, capturing the spirit of the project: “The kids are cutting salad greens for the cafeteria in December. They will cut it, wash it and take a large bowl from the greenhouse directly to the cafeteria and continue the process three to four more times, planting every two weeks. The students also plant spinach and arugula.”
The Cornucopia Project (CP) serves young people throughout the Monadnock Region and believes kids best understand where their food comes from by growing, harvesting and eating it. “We think that it’s important that kids eat their vegetables… and grow them, too!” Kin adds.
CP is both a school- and garden-based program with a mission to “teach sustainable and nourishing life practices to children and young adults by connecting them to the land and community through organic gardening and nutrition.”
The Cornucopia Project’s goals are to:
Cultivate food, learning and community through the development of school gardening programs
Create a safe local food system
Eat locally and sustainably
Build curriculum around growing local food
Plant, harvest and eat organic food in our schools
Support local farms
Blending her background as an organic gardener, artist and professional cook with a heart of gold, Kin started the CP in 2006 with thirteen raised beds and a chicken coop on a one-acre piece of land near her home in Hancock.
Kin’s first pilot project called Earth Connection brought together students from the Crotched Mountain School, a school for young people who are physically or mentally challenged, and Great Brook Middle School in Antrim in 2006. They hammered together sixteen wheelchair-accessible raised beds where they grew herbs and vegetables. From the garden, the students took the food to the main cafeteria.
In 2008, the Norway Hill Kids’ Garden began and a Kids Garden Club ran in the spring, summer and fall. Kids met once a week for six weeks, divided into two age groups: the Seedlings, ages 3-6, and the Garden Gorillas, ages 6-10.
The Garden Gorillas planted, hoed, weeded, watered, and played games, listened to stories, drew pictures and sang. They even put together a farmers’ market for their families.
The Seedlings, the younger-aged gardening club, introduced young children to plants, vegetables and how seeds grew. The Seedlings learned about a new garden plant every week.
Up and Running
In 2009, the Cornucopia Project was in five schools: Dublin, South Meadow, Conval, Crotched Mountain and Hancock Elementary.
Hancock Elementary School integrated their work with CP into the curriculum. Each grade level, kindergarten through fourth grade, participated in weekly garden activities at the Norway Hill Kids Garden and in the classroom. Past activities included digging an asparagus bed, learning about and drawing animals that are harmful to a garden, reading books about gardening such as Hogwood Steps Out written by Hancock resident Howard Mansfield, observing and recording differences in home-made and store-bought compost, as well as planting, watering, weeding, and journaling.
The Dublin Consolidated School planted crops and each class cooked something with what they grew in the fall. Best of all, all 68 students tried what was cooked—even if just a tiny amount that Kin calls a “no thank you” bite. Different families “adopted” the garden for a week over the summer.
At Crotched Mountain School a class of mostly autistic children planted an herb and vegetable garden which children visit, one-by-one, to water. The Home Economics and Science department partnered with CP to help students learn about plants, conservation, and nutrition.
Students at the South Meadow School have built nine new raised beds in a sunburst pattern—with a community bread oven nestled right in the center. A greenhouse will produce much of the salad mix for the cafeteria. Sixty-three students participate in the garden club, meeting at 7:20 a.m. every Tuesday and Thursday in the greenhouse. The Peterborough Garden Club will help maintain the beds throughout the summer. See more details in the South Meadow School Toolkit pages.
Hurdles to Overcome
Funding, like with many other programs, is a challenge. Kin volunteers her time for most of the schools she works with. Individuals and organizations like Slow Food Monadnock donate resources, time and money and CP finds many creative ways to fundraise: Rosaly’s Garden Cookbook (in its fourth printing) and Life Is Food t-shirts.
Kin would love to acquire the funds to hire an assistant and find a grant writer. This past summer, the Guerilla Gardeners were unable to use the Norway Hill Garden property due to zoning issues.
Planning for the Future
The Cornucopia Project was recently given 52 acres to start a community-based Agricultural Education Center in Hancock. The gift or permanent lease was donated by the Mathewson family. The property is called Brookside Farm and has been in existence since 1790. With the help of Bob Bernstein from Land For Good, a non-profit organization located in Keene, the Mathewson family and the Cornucopia Project will form a land trust.
The goal over the next five years is to develop solid plans to gently teach sustainability, land stewardship and nourishing life practices to local children, young adults and kids at risk. CP will slowly build upon the existing infrastructure of organic raised garden beds and a Zen garden. Kin is already planning to bring at-risk kids from New York City to help build garden beds and yurts. She also envisions a classroom and kitchen on the property and has plans to acquire farm animals, teach maple sugaring, conduct woodland walks and partner with a local mill in Hancock to teach about wood milling. Local schools will be invited to participate in all the activities.
At Conval High School, the plan is to create a school-based agri-business program. The Green Team, along with two teachers and community members, will build a 20 x 60 foot hoophouse. Students will manage the growing and processing of organic foods and sell their products to the cafeteria and area grocery stores such as Roy’s and Nature’s Green Grocers. Kin wants students to keep at least 60% of the profit. A mission statement and business plan are started. Kin hopes to build a commercial kitchen for the school, students with their parents and area farmers to use.
Advice for Other Schools/Projects
Kin advises schools, farmers and gardeners to just do it – if you have an idea in your head that seems too big, start small. It’s easier to build on success.
Instead of relying on a rotatiller or tractor, new beds can be established using cardboard and newspaper (sheet mulching).
Kin urges all of us to come together in strength; the kids are our future and they need to be educated in a way that excites them—which the Cornucopia Project clearly does.