Greetings Join the Farm! CSA and Abundant Table community! I’ve missed my regular connection with you all as I’ve moved out of CSA coordinator position and into full time farm education. But, I’ve loved witnessing Jeannette and Raquel blossom into their roles coordinating our CSA and growing our CSA community. The CSA newsletters continue to be a highlight of my week, it’s just now I love reading them instead of writing them. Except this week I’m glad to be back in the writer’s chair to share with you the exciting work that’s happening on and off the farm in our farm education world.
The Abundant Table, through Join the Farm!, our farm education programs, and our young adult internship program are truly growing a healthier Ventura County. We’re connecting sustainable produce production and sales with the kinds of education that excite and empower our community to make healthy, locally grown fruit and vegetable choices. The National Farm to School Network (farmtoschool.org), through the USDA, has identified procurement, education, and school gardens as the core elements of farm to school. Here at The Abundant Table we’re growing produce for Ventura Unified School District and Conejo Valley Unified School District, educating over 2,000 Ventura and Los Angeles County youth each year about sustainable agriculture and healthy eating, and our AT intern Angela Shultz is coordinating Community Roots Garden, a community garden in Oxnard with strong ties to youth in the Oxnard Community. We’re the only farm in our region working in every core area of farm to school! That’s right! Your farm is that awesome.
Farm education takes on many different forms at The Abundant Table. We offer farm-based field trips and summer farm camps for classes and youth groups of all ages. Groups engage their bodies, senses, and minds while exploring farm eco-systems, plant biology, soil science, organic farming practices, global and local food systems and economies. Students harvest delicious veggies to take home and share with their families. Of course their favorite part is biting right into their freshly picked carrot. It’s these kinds of direct experiences with soil, plants, and farmers that excite youth to eat fresh local produce. This excitement translates into healthy choices when they eat the same veggies they saw on the farm in their salad bar line at school. We’d love to have your child’s class or group out on the farm! Schedule a field trip today!
Another farm ed program with tremendous farm to school impact is our Farmer in the Classroom (FIC) program. VUSD and LAUSD recognize the importance of growing educational connections between youth and agriculture to support life long healthy eating habits and invite us to bring the farm to the classroom. We share pictures of our farm and farmers, share our sustainable growing practices, discuss the benefits of eating fresh local produce, and taste test two different produce items. This past year we visited 15 lower income schools and taught over 1,500 students about agriculture and healthy eating. We’re tracking the taste testing and found that more than 1,000 students we taught tried and liked a vegetable they’d never tasted before. That’s the kind of veggie exposure and enjoyment that will result in more kids eating more vegetables…for life.
We’re also working with Santa Paula High School students to improve access to healthier food in the Santa Paula community. Through a grant from the Social Justice Fund, we’ve partnered with Students Encouraging Social Political and Environmental Action, a student club at SPHS. During their spring semester students researched health and income disparities in Santa Paula, surveyed over 250 Santa Paulans to measure barriers to accessing healthy food, researched successful healthy community food models in communities similar to Santa Paula, and created a list of recommendations to improve access to healthy food in Santa Paula. Their recommendations include a weekly farmer’s market that would be accessible lower income families by accepting WIC and EBT (food stamps), include cooking demonstrations and nutrition education, and offer community health screenings and fitness opportunities like Zumba classes. The students will present their survey finding and propose their farmer’s market recommendation to the Santa Paula City Council August 18th. We invite you to come and show your support!
Students are also recommending a Harvest of the Month program at SPSH. The students would create a calendar of a monthly highlighted fruit or vegetable sourced from a local grower to share with students at SPHS. The students would lead nutrition education and cooking demos to promote the harvest of the month and food service would put recipes featuring the highlighted produce on their monthly menus. The students met with the director of Santa Paula Unified School District Child Nutrition Services yesterday. He was thrilled with the idea and wants to start the program as soon as possible. He invited the students to present the idea with him to the Santa Paula School Board. Next year these students will be actively increasing the amount of fresh local fruits and vegetables on their campus and creating a healthier school culture amongst their peers. Good work.
Even in writing about this work I feel a little twinge of inspiration! This community changing work would literally not be possible without grant and fundraising support from our community. If you felt a twinge of inspiration I hope you’ll continue supporting this work though continuing with your CSA membership and maybe even donating right now during our matching fund fundraiser! Every penny you donate will be matched through August up to $5,000. It all goes to the good work we’re doing through The Abundant Table.