"C" is for Carrot: Farm-to-School in Somerville

Boy holding up carrots in classroom

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Ever try to get your kids to eat carrots? It’s not always easy. But for students in grades K–5 at Somerville public schools, eating carrots is part of the afterschool curriculum. And many of these kids are more than happy to nibble and taste different carrot varieties while they investigate soil, farming, and composting worms with Emma Scudder, Drumlin Farm’s Food and Farm Educator.

“Believe it or not, the partnership with Somerville began because of an abundance of carrots,” said Scudder.

Boy watering a school garden

With more than two tons of carrots in the Drumlin Farm root cellar, crops manager Matt Celona needed to come up with creative ways to sell them. Already providing a considerable amount of carrots weekly to a large network of local restaurants, Celona came up with the idea of reaching out to schools along the delivery route. Enter Somerville Farm-to-School Project director Karyn Novakowski.

In 2013, Novakowski began working to develop a long-term strategy for the Somerville school system to provide healthy, locally sourced food in its cafeterias. It was the perfect fit for Drumlin Farm, and after a few discussions, Celona, Scudder, and Novakowski came up with a school version of the community supported agriculture (CSA) model.

 

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In May of 2016, 10 Somerville cafeterias received a weekly CSA share of spinach, arugula, radishes, lettuce—and, of course, carrots—to supplement their salad bars.

In addition to having fresh, local produce in their cafeterias, students in Somerville’s afterschool program had a chance to visit the farm, helping in the fields and tasting in the garden. For the students, this final morsel of the partnership brought to life all they had learned in the classroom throughout the year—they were seeing where their food was grown and who grew it, getting their hands dirty in the process.

“Nature activities reach many of our kids faster and more deeply than a worksheet ever could,” said Sarah, an afterschool teacher at Capuano Early Childhood Center. “There’s a tactile satisfaction that comes with digging in the dirt and listening to the butterflies—it encompasses a lot of different things, especially in early childhood classrooms.”

The partnership with Somerville schools has been beneficial to everyone. Celona and his farm team are able to distribute more vegetables to more communities, the students learn where their salad bar veggies come from (a mere 15 miles away), and cafeteria staff members are excited to get creative with lunches.

Afterschool teachers are looking forward to the fall, when Scudder—along with her carrots and worms—will return to Somerville for more garden exploration.