Growing a Better School Lunch
Over 9 months in the making this video documents one of Minnesota's largest school gardens. Located in Arlington Minnesota we followed a school ag class from seeding to harvest through a school year. This video documents that process and helps other schools recreate the success they've had.
The phrase “farm to school,” is becoming wildly popular, and many schools are taking serious steps to bring fresh fruits and veggies to the lunch table. Sibley East High School in Arlington, MN, how- ever, is not just taking the farm to school — it’s taking its school to the farm.
Approximately 300 Sibley East students got involved in planting and harvesting three gardens, which total around 3.5 acres, filled with tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, green beans, carrots, onions and more. The students implement the process from start to finish. They start by planning the garden during agribusiness class and finish with harvesting. While plenty of students help in the process, three garden managers oversee the tending and harvesting through the summer. When the harvest is collected, the students share their bounty with the rest of the school through cooking and serving it at lunch.
This is the second year Sibley East braved the open fields to farm. “We were looking for ways to get kids more involved in their com- munity and give them more education and hands on experience with food,” said Jeff Eppen, an agriculture teacher and one of the staff leads of the project. The results were extremely successful. Not only were students excited about gardening, but they also thoroughly enjoyed the fruits (or should we say, vegetables) of their efforts during lunch. “It was so cool to see what we grew in the lunch line!” exclaimed one student. “It’s a lot of work,” declared cook Lorraine Lieske, “but I enjoy it because I like to see the look on the kids’ faces when they say ‘Oh! This is from the garden! It’s so good, so fresh, I really really like it. When are we gonna have some more?’”
Last year’s success encouraged them to try again this year on an even larger scale. In addition to planting two acres of vegetable gardens, they planted an acre of corn, which was sold to offset the cost of the garden. The school also reserved a section of its garden for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), which provides additional funding to pay the garden managers, who spent 15 to 20 hours a week during the summer working on their green thumbs. Through the CSA, members of the Sibley East community had the chance to purchase a share of the vegetable garden and take home its harvest. Twenty-nine Arlington community members participated in the CSA this year. “I joined the CSA this year because it’s a great way to support our students,” said Lynn O’Brien, CSA member and school employee. “Plus, it promotes healthier eating and sustainability in our community.”
Think Sibley East High had an awesome idea? Talk to the teachers at your high school about setting up a school garden or getting more local food on your lunch tray. Even if you live in the middle of a city, there are lots of ways you can bring more of the farm into your school.