BARTON — The kids are back in school, the gardens are bursting with the season’s harvest and it is harvest festival time for students across the Northeast Kingdom.
Harvest festivals are coordinated by Green Mountain Farm-to-School (GMFTS) and their partner schools and feature a meal prepped and cooked by the students using vegetables that they grew, tended, and harvested from their school gardens.
In total, there will be 12 schools throwing the festivals for the student’s families and community members. They began at the beginning of September and will run through October.
“The harvest festivals are a powerful way to reinforce lessons about food and health that the kids are learning in the classroom,” says Maire Folan, farm-to-school program manager with GMFTS. “They get to harvest and cook produce they planted in the spring and then enjoy it with their families and friends. It’s a great opportunity to see where food comes from and how to prepare it in healthy ways.”
At Barton Academy and Graded School the farm-to-school coordinator, Jeyna Diallo, who is returning for her second year as a farm-to-school coordinator with GMFTS, coordinated and executed two full days of harvesting, prepping, cooking, and serving with just about every student in the school.
For the dinner, the students helped to prepare and cook beef chili, veggie soup, roasted root veggies, kale chips, beet brownies, zucchini ribbon salad, and bread sticks.
Most of the food was harvested from the school garden or donated by River’s Edge Farmstand, Pete’s Greens, and local community members.
“It is was pretty special to be there for a second year because I planted the garden with those same kids last spring,” Diallo said. “Seeing them remember what they planted, recognizing it in the garden, and making that connection from garden to eating is amazing.”
Over 95 meals were served at the Barton Academy and Graded School Harvest Festival this year, far outpacing the 70 meals that were served last year. Held in conjunction with the schools’ open house, families were able to enjoy the meal before or after their visits with teachers.
They were also treated to apple cider making with a hand-cranked press that was provided by GMFTS as well.
“The time Jeyna and her helpers spent with kids preparing was super,” said Barton Graded School Principal Bob Partridge in an email following the event. “The meal was delicious and her presence with students, staff and parents is outstanding.”