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Cross-Pollination Gathering for School Garden Coordinators

https://www.foodconnects.org/

Garden Coordinators from five Windham County Farm to School programs gathered at Guilford Central School for a “Cross-Pollination” event in late October. Garden Coordinators, often somewhat isolated in their unique roles, had the opportunity to share ideas, challenges, and successes with each other as they prepare for winter activities in the classroom.   

More and more area schools have hired Garden Coordinators in recent years, finding that they are a key component to a thriving Farm To School program. In addition to taking care of the gardens with support from students and volunteers, they also plan and execute educational activities around gardening and cooking and facilitate teacher and student involvement in FTS programming.  

Sarah Rosow, Guilford’s Garden Coordinator since 2018, hosted the event, showing the visitors the school’s three different garden areas, the outdoor classrooms, and concluding with a “show and tell” of sorts where Coordinators discussed useful equipment for cooking outdoors, curriculum guides, and sample lessons. Everyone was inspired by Sarah’s “snacking garden” where students are able to snack freely on mint, cherry tomatoes, and adorable cukamelons growing on her archway. 

As they toured the campus, Garden Coordinators discussed their roles at their schools and what makes their programs unique. While Guilford’s program excels at innovative outdoor teaching, Mandy Walsh of Westminster Center School offered the details of her upcoming Farm and Field Day—an event 3 years in the making, where students will participate in six different Farm to School stations. Kathy Cassin of Academy School spoke about her after-school cooking and gardening club while also gathering ideas about deterring the deer that had been eating all of Academy’s beautiful greens. After hearing that Mandy had some success with growing a border wall, she remarked, “that's good to know because it’s been so frustrating losing our greens!” 

Erica Frank of Central Elementary, a registered dietician and current Food Service Professional at the school, spoke about the value of getting kids involved in cooking.  Amy Duffy, the new Garden Coordinator at Newbrook Elementary, agreed. “Giving kids a little more control over their eating then leads to better choices.” Amy also shared that she works with each grade once per week. Sarah Rosow responded, “I’d like to pick Amy's brain a little more in terms of the scope and sequence, and also just learning how she works in every grade level every week and how she manages that because I’d like to move toward that model.”

Everyone gained new ideas from this gathering, and it was clear at the end of the event that everyone had so much more expertise to share and so many more questions to discuss. In response, Food Connects looks forward to hosting more Cross-Pollination for Garden Coordinator events for our member schools throughout this school year.