Jim Brown, on behalf of the Western Colorado Community Foundation, presents a check to Anita Evans, Angel Flores and young farmers to help with their Farm to School program.

The Farm to School project encourages Delta County’s elementary school kids to play in the dirt with a purpose. The local nonprofit Friends of Youth and Nature and the Delta County School District Farm to School are partnering to give young students the satisfaction of digging in the dirt.

The initiative just received a $5,855 grant from the Western Colorado Community Foundation to carry out this farm-to-table educational drive. This fall, the Farm to School groups are adding two more school gardens: at Montessori School at Crawford and at the Cedaredge elementary school.

All summer the Farm to School group tended its gardens in seven school locations. The students and their mentors, including AmeriCorp volunteers and educators, grew enough produce to make profits at area farmers’ markets to finance further growing gardening plans. They also harvested enough vegetables and herbs to contribute healthy fare for local families’ tables.

One might think that with fall and winter chill setting in, that these young farmers could rest on their laurels, but that is not the case. Angela Flores, the Farm to School Project coordinator and Hotchkiss Elementary School teacher, discussed extensions of the program. A relationship with the soil also involves stewardship of that resource. Flores says that the goal of the program is to impress upon the young farmers the importance of feeding and taking care of the land that feeds and takes care of them.

For that reason, Flores plans to teach her pupils the details of reusing, recycling and composting to encourage a well-rounded look at land stewardship. The raw material to feed this lesson will come from the schools’ cafeterias, so the kids will see food production, use, and disposal up close and personal.

Other topics to be covered will include: reducing lunchroom waste, recycling unwanted food, reusing and reducing food packaging, composting 101, using compost to build soil, how compost conserves water, how soil clears our water, and how worms eat your lunch! Through these efforts the participants hope to reduce cafeteria waste by 15-25% this year.

Hotchkiss K-8 teachers will be adding to these lessons by working with their students on a grant-writing project for a pollinator garden. Farm to School is also developing a farming curriculum for K-5 teachers to use with their students in the classroom.

Another part of the work of cultivating and harvesting is tasting and Flores says that the kids excel at that part of the lesson, learning how to use and enjoy the fruits of their labors.

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