“Fertile Ground is a great example of how connecting kids to food and farming can enhance curriculum, engage children, involve parents and the larger community, and encourage healthy eating. Visit the garden, come to the harvest feast–or sample the dishes and read the stories in this cookbook–and you learn that all of this can be accomplished through the beauty of the garden, the taste of real food, and the connections between people.” –Margaret Christie, Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture
Fertile Ground broke ground in spring of 2003 as an after-school teaching garden project of the kindergarten at the public elementary school in rural Williamsburg, MA. Right away, the garden became a focal point for parents and teachers who wanted their children to learn how to grow and delight in nutritious food. For 10 years, Fertile Ground has worked with the Williamsburg Elementary School to mobilize our community to tackle nutritional and health issues and learn about foodways.
Together we built a thriving school garden, taught kids how to grow and enjoy eating healthy food, supplied fresh produce to the school, developed valuable partnerships with elders and Holyoke teen leaders, and established an annual Harvest Feast. Over the past two years, we have worked closely with the school administration, PTO and School Committee to transition management of the program more directly to the school community and narrow the scope of our Williamsburg program involvement. It has been our hope all along to support teachers, students, parents, and administrators in developing and maintaining a sustainable farm to school program that becomes part of the school fabric forever. We are pleased to report our success.
With the school community we have created the systems and policy changes to sustain this program, first by hiring a garden educator [Hope Guardenier from School Sprouts] and supporting thriving teaching gardens, and recently by advocating for adequate kitchen equipment, recycling, composting and sustainability systems as part of the new school renovation. Over time, the school community has taken on most of the work: the PTO now maintains fiscal management of the garden program. A new advisory committee raises funds and helps manage summer garden care and the Harvest Feast.The school continues to fund the bulk of the cost of a garden educator for 24 weeks. Teachers supplement Hope’s weekly activities with new garden curriculum.
The relationships built with the Williamsburg program has fostered additional technical assistance opportunities with rural and urban schools, school districts, local and regional food policy councils, and partnering nonprofits.
“I teach five year olds. It’s very simple and very complicated to talk to them about racism. Children this age have a very strong sense of fairness. They know that everyone deserves to be treated with love and respect. Teaching about the realities of racism in our society is something that we in schools do not do enough of.” –Sherrie Marti, Williamsburg School Teacher