The child care program at the Erie YMCA has participated in a variety of Farm to School activities. The class visited a local apple cider mill, Furhman's Cider Mill. The children were shown how the apples are delivered, stored, and sorted. Then they learned how apple cider is made and stored before getting a chance to try some fresh cider!
The class went on a field trip to a local farm called Peace by Piece Farm in Waterford, PA. The students were given a tour of the farm and helped plant potatoes in the garden.
In October, students learn about pumpkins and prepare a pumpkin pie dip. They round out the unit with a trip to a local pumpkin farm to see how pumpkins grow and to pick out a pumpkin to take home.
For information about and resources related to Farm to Preschool see the National Farm to School Network’s Farm to Preschool site:
Lancaster County Career and Technology Center Willow Street, PA Lancaster County
Students from the Brownstown Culinary Cluster took part in the planting of herbs and vegetables supported by Project Leader Suzette Renshaw, Culinary Instructor at the Brownstown campus and Grant Manager Mike Moeller, LCCTC Special Projects Coordinator. Dean Long, from Esbenshade’s Greenhouse, assisted in the project by using existing planting tables to develop hydroponic growing systems. The plants consisted of a Hydroponic Boston Lettuce table and various herbs and vegetables grown in pots. This project shows students the process of how to effectively grow local fresh ingredients for use in culinary dishes. Staff members envision this pilot program will expand in 2015-2016, and will begin providing fresh produce to the culinary centers at each campus.
Hydroponic school gardens allow students to grow produce rapidly, year round, even in small spaces and without soil. For a hydroponics gardening guide, go to:
Upper Moreland School District Willow Grove, PA Montgomery County
Through a partnership with a local landscaping company, donations from Home Depot, and advice from other schools with school gardens, Upper Moreland School District recently expanded their gardening program. Students started with plants in the classrooms. In mid-May the district created a schedule for each classroom to come out for Garden Days in which they re-planted their classroom produce into the garden. They are growing basil, pumpkins, watermelon, varieties of lettuce, peas, cucumbers, and spinach. The district also planted three fruit trees. Additional information can be found on their website: http://www.umtsd.org/page/900
Before starting a garden of your own, refer to this step-by-step guide from USDA’s Let’s Move program, which offers important information about how to safely grow your own fruits and vegetables with your students:
Spring Grove Area School District Spring Grove, PA York County
Though Spring Grove Area High School does not offer agricultural courses, a few years ago several students requested the opportunity to establish a school garden. A Future Farmers Club (FFC) was created from that initial interest and the club has become one of the fastest-growing organizations on campus, with close to 60 members.
The Future Farmers Club started with a ½ acre of land and, after a successful first year, the students received permission from the school board to expand the on-campus garden. Currently, the students are looking forward to those spring days when the ground is finally ready to work again. Last year they provided numerous vegetables to the school cafeteria.
The club has held a “Drive Your Tractor to School” event in conjunction with the Nutrition Department’s “Get to Know Your Farmer Week” to kick-off a series of presentations and food samplings for their high school peers. Butternut squash soup and green beans grown from the garden were served to all high school students by the FFC students.
As the program grows and the FFC students expand their selection of vegetables to be grown, the district looks forward to more participation by the students at all buildings.
For tips for hosting a successful taste-test in your school, see this Action for Healthy Kids webpage:
Lancaster School District Lancaster, PA Lancaster County
Hamilton Elementary in the School District of Lancaster sits on 13 acres of land. In 2009, Hamilton staff and families built 31 raised bed gardens. These gardens are intended for use by the school students and staff to create a better understanding of food sources, nutrition and healthy living. The goal is to educate students and families and to outreach to the community through gardening and outdoor education. Students can make academic connections through working together in a garden setting. The produce can be used for nutrition and healthy eating lessons during the school day and for family events. The Hamilton teachers and administration have developed a very successful afterschool and summer outdoor education program. The program includes time in the garden learning to apply math, reading, writing, and science skills in real life situations. In addition, the students spend time in the kitchen classroom where they learn nutrition and how to prepare the vegetables that are harvested!
Read about the academic, health, and economic benefits of Farm to School:
Northern York County School District Dillsburg, PA York County
Northern York County School District received a USDA Farm to School grant that will impact approximately 25,000 students across seven school districts in three counties by facilitating local purchasing for school meals programs through creation of a “virtual food hub.” The district also has an active school gardening and Agricultural Education program. Northern High School's FFA students have a club called “FFA Harvest Club” which picks produce from the district's 22 garden beds as well as gleans produce from local farmer's fields. This produce is used in the schools for taste testing. Additionally, the FFA Harvest Crew conducts an annual Pumpkin Gleaning event, which involves buying pumpkins from a local farmer and selling them to elementary school students, which helps to fund some of the district’s farm to school programs.
To learn more about gleaning, see USDA’s Let’s Glean! United We Serve Toolkit:
Hollidaysburg Area School District Hollidaysburg, PA Blair County
The Tiger Victory Garden started in the spring of 2012 as a combined effort from the Wood Technology classes and the Ecology classes to build a compost bin for the Hollidaysburg Area Senior High. The small project blossomed into the desire to build an entire garden and incorporate as many different students, faculty and staff into building and maintaining a garden. The project expanded into a complex of raised beds that grow a variety of vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers.
The Tiger Victory Garden is an interdisciplinary project that continues to enhance student learning at the Hollidaysburg Area Senior High. The Wood Technology students designed, built and installed the compost bins, raised beds, seating and storage shed. The compost bin is utilized by the cafeteria and food prep classes. The EcoAction Club plants and maintains the Tiger Victory Garden. The vegetables, fruits and herbs are used by the school district’s summer lunch program and the Senior High cafeteria during the school year. The garden space has also been used by the art classes for projects and Life Skills, Autistic Support, and MDS (multiple disability students) classes for sensory lessons.
Funding for the garden has been provided by the Hollidaysburg Foundation and Lowe’s Toolbox for Education program. A recent "Seed Change" grant from the National Farm to School Network will provide funds for greenhouses which will allow produce to be grown from March to November, as well as the planting of fruit trees and bushes in an interior courtyard.
For tips on funding Farm to School activities, see this National Farm to School Network handout:
Burgettstown Area School District Burgettstown, PA Washington County
Burgettstown Area School District turned an outdoor courtyard into a garden with raised self-watering beds. The original objective was to grow vegetables that could be used in Foods classes and by 4-H members’ projects. As the project started to take shape more interested was expressed from students who were observing the garden. Five students took on the garden as part of their senior graduation project. Four students are creating augmented reality learning stations for each plant.
Using Aurasma a web site for creating augmented reality pages, these seniors have created an interactive activity for each vegetable. When a garden visitor holds an iPad over the picture of the vegetable, on stakes in the garden, they are connected to a picture and recording of what the plant is. They learn nutrition information, planting information and see pictures of the plant when it is ready for harvest. Interest in the garden has grown and elementary teachers would like to be able to use the garden as a learning center not just for growing vegetables but also as an interactive learning lab.
You can read about the wide array of Farm to School activities taking place in Pennsylvania schools by checking out the Farm to School Promising Practices on the Project PA website.
Environmental Charter School Pittsburgh, PA Allegheny County
The food service staff serves students at both the lower and middle schools scratch-cooked meals prepared by Community Kitchen Pittsburgh. ECS leads a variety of innovative farm to school and food education activities. The lunch program is based on healthy, from scratch and locally supplemented meals. The food service director, Kelsey Weisgerber, relies heavily on food education as the backbone to her nutrition programming at ECS and has partnered with over 50 local organizations and chefs to bring hands on learning to her students. Kelsey has developed a comprehensive food curriculum that links the lunchroom to the classroom, and teaches students about growing, cooking, and eating healthy foods. The school garden is also a central focus of the ECS curriculum, providing students with hands-on experience in food production.
According to USDA’s Farm to School Census, 40% of Pennsylvania schools are engaged in Farm to School activities reaching more than a half million students.
Pennsbury School District Fallsington, PA Bucks County
Fallsington Elementary School in Pennsbury School District partnered with a local farm to teach students lessons on nutrition and farming. Snipes Farm and Education Center has programs set up which both enter the school classroom and allow students to enter the farm and learn about farming. Two classroom-based lessons were provided (where members of the farm came to the school to teach the students) and there were corresponding taste-tests which accompanied the lessons. These lessons were given to each grade level and were tied to Pennsylvania academic standards. The students were also able to participate in the collection, cleaning, and donation of locally grown apples to the community soup kitchen. Future plans include classroom extensions to the farm which will allow for hands-on lessons in farming.
Looking for Farm to School curricula or lesson plans? Check out the resources listed on this USDA website:
The School District of Philadelphia Philadelphia, PA
This summer, as a part of the Farm to School Program, students from Saul Agricultural and Northeast High School, joined by staff from The School District of Philadelphia and Food Trust, took a tour of Greener Partners’ Longview Farm in Collegeville, Pennsylvania. Students and staff learned about organic and sustainable farming practices and were able to actively participate when they helped pick strawberries.
The School District of Philadelphia is excited to continue into its second year of the Eat Fresh Here project, processing and freezing local blueberries and collard greens this past summer. They will be used during the winter months when they aren’t locally available. This year we will be featuring smoothies for breakfast three days a week using our frozen blueberries! In early August we tested some of the fruit smoothies on our students in order to involve them in a piece of the menu planning. Our smoothie taste test received positive publicity in a New York Times article highlighting our success in making school lunches more nutritious.
In honor of Food Day 2015 The Philadelphia School District will be participating in the “Apple Crunch” on October 23rd to celebrate eating a healthier diet! The students will be able to choose from a variety of locally grown apples including fuji, gala, empire, and staymen winesap for both breakfast and lunch.
There are over 63,000 farms in PA. Many accommodate class trips. For a listing of Pennsylvania farms that may host field trips, check out:
State College Area School District State College, PA Centre County
The State College Area School District has gardens at several schools including Radio Park Elementary where students plant crops in Spring and harvest them during the next school year. Teachers use the garden to enhance their curriculum. Items from the school gardens are incorporated into school meals when possible. Through a partnership with the Boalsburg Farmer’s Market, the school district also invites local producers to participate in assemblies teaching students about local foods. At the high school level, Biology students built and operated aquaponics systems to engage students and to highlight the biological cycles involved in food production. Students participated in a taste test to compare store-bought products versus local and fresh products that the students had grown themselves, including tilapia, lettuce and other leafy greens.
The Buy Local, Buy Fresh website can be used as a guide for locating local products throughout Pennsylvania:
Muncy School District worked to develop relationships with local farms and has purchased products from more than 10 different farms. In 2012, they purchased a salad bar to better feature local produce and local lunches (featuring items from local farms) throughout the school year. They started a garden in 2008 and have since expanded to eight gardens. They have integrated math, science, reading, and writing curriculum standards into garden projects. Students have been exposed to Pennsylvania farming through farm tours to a pumpkin patch, dairy farm, greenhouse, and produce farm. Farm to School activities have expanded to include the community as well. The school district has offered classes for parents on cooking with local products, preserving local foods, gardening, and composting. In 2014, students harvested potatoes from their garden and delivered them to a local food bank as a donation.
The PA Prefered Program works to support and promote Pennsylvania products. The PA Preferred website is a resource for finding local products:
Cornwall-Lebanon (Lebanon, PA) and Eastern Lebanon County (Myerstown, PA) SDs Lebanon, PA and Myerstown, PA Lebanon County
Anthony Brochu Jr., director of food and nutrition for Cornwall-Lebanon and Eastern Lebanon County school districts buys locally grown food each week during the growing season at the Lebanon Produce Auction, located in Reistville, PA between the two school districts. He buys locally grown food, such as tomatoes, broccoli, potatoes, plums, peaches, watermelon, strawberries, and blueberries. Brochu estimates the cost-savings from buying through the auction to be about $15,000-$20,000 per year, between the two districts. The cost for a watermelon at the auction is typically $1.50 - $1.75 and the auction price for apples ranges from $.07 to $.10 each. He recently purchased a box of tomatoes for $7.50. In addition to the cost-savings to the meals programs, the students appreciate the fresh, locally-grown produce.
Produce auctions provide schools with the ability to purchase fresh local produce and save money at the same time. For a directory of Pennsylvania produce auctions, go to:
Owen J. Roberts School District Pottstown, PA Montgomery County
The Owen J. Roberts School District has been involved with Farm to School for some time. In addition to having school gardens, taste tests, and nutrition lessons, the school foodservice director has made it a goal to purchase and use local, in-season produce when possible. To support this goal Chef Bill Scepansky was hired to train 42 food service workers about how to prepare meals utilizing healthy local ingredients such as root vegetables and beans. These meals must not only be healthy and compliant with new food service regulations but they must also be delicious and accepted by students. Chef Scepansky taught knife skills, how to handle and prepare fresh, local items, how to season items without using salt, and tips on preparing meals which stay fresh during their holding time. The staff learned how to make a basic minestrone soup which could also be transformed into other soups (e.g. Tuscan Vegetable) depending upon what is local and available. The high school student body president was involved in a taste testing/advertising event that promoted the new items on the school lunch menu.
Local chefs can be great resources to provide training on using local produce or to help introduce students to new recipes using local products. Check out USDA’s Chefs Move to Schools program at:
Brandywine Heights School District Topton, PA Berks County
The Brandywine Heights Elementary School Garden Committee, consisting of the school principal, food service staff, Business Manager, secretary, teachers, and other school personnel, distributed “Seed Kits” to each K-3 classroom. This allowed students to plant and tend to the seedlings until they were strong enough to be planted in the raised bed garden located by the front door of the school. The school maintenance staff built the raised beds and supplied the soil. Family and community groups tended the garden over the summer. Gardening tools and gloves were located in the school office for those who came to the garden during school hours. The garden consists of two raised beds each being approximately 5 feet by 12 feet. This allowed for two rows of crops in each garden, thus allowing external student access. One raised bed has heirloom and roma tomatoes, along with basil. Pumpkins, zucchinis and carrots are growing in the other raised bed garden. Students tasted products from the garden upon their return to school in the fall.
For Food Safety Tips for School Gardens, see this USDA Fact Sheet:
Southern Columbia Area School District Catawissa, PA Columbia and Northumberland County
Southern Columbia Area School District's Wellness Committee promotes healthy eating with a Fresh Food of the Month campaign. The Wellness Committee is comprised of a diverse group including students, community members, the school food service director, members of the school board, local farmers, teachers, etc. The Fresh Food of the Month event introduces a new, locally sourced, nutritionally dense food or menu item. The ingredients are procured from local farmers, the item is promoted via posters, announcements, the school website, letters sent home, and a press release. The district has also begun a gardening program and has received a Seed Change grant from the National Farm to School Network to support this effort.
According to USDA’s Farm to School Census, 25% of all schools in PA are growing edible gardens. Uses include taste-tests, nutrition education, donations to local food banks, and as produce for the school meals program.
Pine Richland School District Gibsonia, PA Allegheny County
A gardening club, The Green Thumb Growers, was established at Pine Richland High School to give students in the life-skills program, who have disabilities, the opportunity to learn vocational skills. Club sponsor Mark Schweers says the students learn gardening skills and help from the start to finish from planting seeds and growing plants, which are then sold at local markets. Students gain marketable job skills. During the year, students work in the greenhouse and garden, which are located at the middle school. When the fall harvest was over, students began making holiday wreaths with pine boughs and cones harvested from trees around the school campus to sell to teachers and parents. In May, club members donated a dozen tomato plants to The Lighthouse Foundation Food Bank so that families in need could have fresh tomatoes during the summer and early fall.
School gardens make excellent learning laboratories for the school curriculum. For school garden resources, check out this USDA site:
Mt. Lebanon School District Pittsburgh, PA Allegheny County
With the arrival of the Healthy Hunger-free Kids Act Mt. Lebanon took on the challenge of simultaneously serving compliant meals while maintaining participation levels. This was accomplished by a combination of nutrition education aimed at both parents and students and by making it easy for elementary students to eat lunch via a grab and go system. Tazeen Chowdury, Food Service Director, served as guest speaker at the elementary schools, explaining the lunch program and the Healthy Hunger-fee Kids Act to the students. Parents were taught about the new school meal patterns at the PTA meetings.
Mt. Lebanon also purchases produce through a produce company that is committed to supporting local farms. This allows Ms. Chowdury to incorporate locally-grown produce into school meals and feature a “Farm of the Month” in the lunchroom. A National Farm to School Month event at Mt. Lebanon featured Chef Dave Misterka preparing local squash and zucchini for students to sample in the lunchroom.
According to the USDA Farm to School Census, Pennsylvania schools spent 7.5 million dollars on locally-sourced foods in School Year 2011/12.
Bucks County Youth Center Doylestown, PA Bucks County
Bucks County Youth Center completed a vegetable garden two years ago. They are now working with Penn State Extension in Bucks County to plant an orchard this spring, which will include blueberry, blackberry and raspberry bushes, peaches, pears, apples and plum trees. They will be preparing the boxes and the soil for the garden this fall and then plant in the spring.
The yield from the garden has been tremendous. They have harvested over 300 pounds of eggplant. They have used the garden produce to make soups, breads, muffins, cookies, sauces, pizza toppings out of roasted vegetables, pickled zucchini, cucumbers, banana peppers, and hot sauce. Greens grown in the garden include collards, swiss chard, kale, romaine, and more. They have also grown, cabbage, onions, carrots, spinach, peppers, asparagus, strawberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, and winter squash. They also have pumpkins and gourds for the fall. Last year they estimated a harvest of $6000 worth of produce and they expect to exceed that this year.
Master Gardeners are volunteers trained by the Penn State Extension. Master Gardeners offer a variety of services to the public including answering questions, speaking to groups, working with 4-H horticultural projects, and more.