Farm to School month celebrated at Myers with an autumn harvest
MUNCY – Harvest has been a very exciting time for the youngsters at Ward L. Myers Elementary School in Muncy, PA. Since the beginning of the school year they have been learning about agriculture products and how food is grown for consumption. For in their back yard, behind the elementary building, the children were able to participate in a potato patch garden, and were able to remove from the soil, 200 pounds of organic potatoes which ultimately went to Muncy’s food bank.
Equipped with their backpacks holding bags of potatoes and holding hands in pairs on Wednesday morning, October 22, four classes of kindergardeners walked from school to the Son-Light House on Carpenter Street.
They were aware of their mission and quite proud to hand deliver their potatoes to the hands of volunteers who serve over 300 families in the tri-town area. The children were also greeted by members of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and the Penn State Co-op Extension offices.
In celebration of Farm to School Month Muncy was chosen to tour the school’s open garden and talk about the important roles agriculture plays in the heart of the community. Farmer Lu Potter from Pennsdale came for the day and volunteered her time in the classrooms leading discussions about the science of organic farming and home grown foods.
George D. Greig, Secretary from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture also came to the school for the day and said, “It’s more important than ever to show the next generation where their food comes from and how they can support local producers.”
Ward L. Myers Elementary was recently recognized by the state for their efforts into the PA Preferred Program. Its label “Made in PA. It makes a difference” is easily identified on agricultural products known for their quality. “It is the official brand that helps identify local producers,” Greig added. The program is now permanent to Pennsylvania and supports local farmers. “There’s no better way to celebrate the connection between farm and fork than through Farm to School Month. Not all food comes from a grocery store.”
Kindergarten teacher, Mr. John Tewksbury happily organized a grant that allowed the students to grow some vegetables on the school property. “To do two things, I absolutely love – teaching and farming and making connections by tapping into local resources,” announced Tewksbury to the visitors.
The visitors were able to take a tour of the gardens after enjoying a lunch with the kids in the cafeteria.
This time of year students enjoy a salad bar made with local fruits and vegetables. Farmer Lu helped with the tomato garden and “the great potato dig”. Students were also able to take farm tours. Last year they visited an Amish farm in Turbotville, Titus Farms where they made booklets about their experiences with the food and the animals. “With the grant we were able to pay the farmer to come here from his farm,” replied Tewksbury as he told everyone how they roasted the potatoes the next day for lunch in the cafeteria.
Cooking and gardening classes were also held throughout the year for community members. Grant money was used to purchase local seasonal foods and the parents came to learn how to prepare fresh vegetables. One of the recipes entailed a home made pizza made with home grown tomatoes and roasted squash. Also used was a recipe for making salsa which led to making connections on how to preserve the foods they made through freezing or canning.
The grant allowed the school to distribute information to the community on local farmers and their products. “Parents also learned how to set up their own gardens,” said Tewksbury during his presentation. The school garden took off seven years ago with the heirloom sun gold cherry tomatoes and more vegetables such as beans, peas, kale, and sweet potatoes have been added. “We also got assistance through the First Community Foundation.” The classes also planted pear trees.
School principal Frank Jankowski said, “It’s not always so easy to mesh it formally into academics. John Tewksbury has done well to make that connection in real life. This is mostly a kindergarten initiative.”
Diane Dabulis from the PA Dept. of Education said she was amazed at how much the children actually enjoyed the salad bar as she ate lunch with them. “They were eagerly eating tomatoes, broccoli and carrots.”