Chef in the Garden

Events herald second year of Farm-to-School activities

By Alison Rooney

Transposing “the proof is in the pudding” to a healthier framework, children at Haldane and Garrison School each participated in a local field trip linking locally grown vegetable and dairy products to a delicious meal made from these ingredients. They themselves gathered and picked the ingredients from the fields and barns in which they were grown, and thereby were able to make a vivid connection between the plants they pulled up from the soil and the serving of food on their plates a mere hour or so later.

Sandy McKelvey, a Haldane parent, has been coordinating the Farm-to-School program now in its second year at Haldane and starting up at Garrison School.  She described the program’s journey: “We started the pilot program last year at Haldane. After the third month, it was so successful that the Garrison school wanted to start up a similar program.

Carefully taking the outer leaves off a savoy cabbage.

Carefully taking the outer leaves off a savoy cabbage.

This year, both schools will be expanding their programs so every elementary school class will receive a visit from a chef.  In today’s world of fast foods and pre-packaged meals, most children have a limited understanding of where food comes from and how it gets to their plates. One of the goals of our farm to school program is to engage children about food and give them the tools to make healthful decisions about what they eat.”

Over the summer, McKelvey was thinking about how the program could be taken a step further, “so the kids could see the full picture: How is food produced and how does it get from “seed to plate?” She met with the principals of both schools and proposed a special event to kick-off the program in the new year: one class from each school could visit a farm or garden and have their Chef in the Classroom program there. Both schools agreed.

The Haldane kids, students in Mrs. Hartford’s fourth-grade class, visited Glynwood Farm in Cold Spring on a misty September morning.  Under the guidance of Farm Educator Carolyn Llewellyn, they immediately and enthusiastically set to work in one of that beautiful property’s vegetable and herb gardens, identifying many of the things growing within its confines. Questions posed to the group, such as “Who knows what chives are?” were answered by a chorus of ‘I do’s,’ and the some of the kids were able to identify rosemary and oregano plants.

Glynwood's Carolyn Llewellyn showing the class the vegetable and herb garden.

Glynwood’s Carolyn Llewellyn showing the class the vegetable and herb garden.

Llewellyn conducted a mini-lesson on botanical reproduction by pointing out the difference between boy-flowers and girl-flowers on a pumpkin squash and posing the question, “Since the babies never grow unless the pollen from the boy flower gets into the girl flower on the other side of the garden … how can that happen?” The fourth-graders were quick to answer, knowing their bees and birds, botanically speaking.

Llewellyn directed the boys to pick 10 basil leaves each, for “Chef Mark” to work with. One boy, listening closely, repeated her instructions to another a bit later, “She said these were weather-worn, so we should only use the purple ones.”  One girl was set to work harvesting a wrinkly Savoy cabbage, getting rid of the external leaves, then handing it off to an appointed “cabbage-carrying guy” for transport.

The group then headed off, past beehive boxes and moveable shelters for the chickens, for some cherry-picking of the tomato kind.  En route, Llewellyn pointed out the damage sustained from Hurricane Irene’s deluge, however Glynwood fared much better than many other regional farms in that regard, with large, undisturbed swathes of broccoli and kale visible.

Dubbing the copious cherry tomato plants an “all you can eat buffet, “Llewellyn advised the kids to check for spots and make sure the tomatoes chosen are firm and dark orange.”  Kids were popping the tomatoes into their mouths as if they were jelly beans.

Chefs Sunny and Mark Gandara set things up.

Chefs Sunny and Mark Gandara set things up.

At this juncture, Philipstown.info asked a student if the class had done any preliminary gardening activities either inside or outside of the classroom, prior to the trip. She (Olivia) answered enthusiastically, “Yes!  We do composting, where we take leftover foods and we dump them in the garden and they make a kind of extra soil. I didn’t know about that before learning about it in class.”

Another student, Molly, added, “Yes, at our school we do composting every Wednesday at lunch.  We also do recycling.  Our class was very excited to come and learn about all the vegetables and eggs.”

After Llewellyn asked the kids to “raise your hand if you don’t mind walking through the muddy mucky mud” (all hands were raised), egg gathering ensued. “Farmer Don” showed the kids how the eggs were washed, while nearby, a gaggle of children, carrots in hand, tried to entreat a trio of horses from their stables over to the fence, to feed them.

Ike, Toto and Filly Girl took their sweet time, but eventually did wander over for the veggie treats.  Then it was on to the barn, where seating was on a large haystack, which made for perfect viewing of the cooking demonstration from chefs Mark and Sunny Gandara of the local catering firm Fork and Glass.

Picking cherry tomatoes

Picking cherry tomatoes

Chef Mark explained the beauty of the frittata concept to the kids, “You can put anything in it; you can eat it warm, room temperature, whatever, and have it for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  You guys picked a lot of great stuff.  We can add what you want.  How about tomatoes?”  “Yes!” said the crowd.  “Fresh herbs?” “Yes!”  “Kale?” “Yes!” “Really?” “Yes!” After some back and forth with the students about the versatility of eggs, Chef Gandara noted “When you see the chef’s hat with all the pleats on it — the toque – the pleats are supposed to represent the 100 different ways you can make eggs.”

Sunny Gandara then proceeded to talk about the reasons eggs from a place like Glynwood taste so good, “Different egg colors mean different types of hens laying different kinds of eggs.  This farm is great because animals can move around and are happy.  This leads to yellow yolks and a better taste.”

The cooking began, with students being called up to assist, breaking the eggs and sprinkling in the cheese (which was supplied by Sprout Creek Farm and Iron Tomato Mozzarella), while Chef Gandara spoke of his beginnings in his field, “I started cooking when I was about your age.  Eggs were the first thing I learned how to cook — pulling up a chair in my mother’s kitchen.”

Snacking on cherry tomatoes

Snacking on cherry tomatoes

Soon the delicious aromas of the frittata started to permeate the barn, and the kids were more than eager to sample the meal created from what they had gathered earlier.

A chorus of “this is delicious” followed, and the line for seconds began almost as soon as the first helpings were consumed. After a quick visit to see the Glynwood pigs, usually the recipients of uneaten scraps and leftovers (the pigs were unlucky on this day: no leftovers), the visit to the farm ended.

Llewellyn was very pleased with how the program had transpired.  Although there have been many school visits to the Farm, this was the first combining the ingredients of vegetable/egg gathering and cooking. As Glynwood is first and foremost a working farm, school visits can be challenging, but Llewellyn said that they are working slowly to accommodate the visits safely, and provide crucial education to the local and regional communities.

McKelvey was pleased with the outcome as well, “Studies say, the more students can link what they eat with who grows it and where it comes from, the more likely they are to eat it. After seeing the 4th graders at Glynwood chewing on parsley, chomping on broccoli flowers and tearing off pieces of cabbage and stuffing it into their mouths, I don’t need to rely on studies, I can see it for myself.”

On Monday, Oct. 3, the Garrison School’s 5th grade class went to The Garrison Country Club to have a similar “Chef in the Garden” event with chef Jason Wood and farmer Brian Bergen sharing with the children in the creation of a harvest salad.

For more information on the farm-to-school programs at Haldane and Garrison, visit the blog: Hudson Valley Farm to School. Glynwood will host a Harvest Celebration, open to the public, with farm activities, on Oct. 23. For more information visit the Glynwood website.

Photos by A. Rooney


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