This winter has been a very unique one for Battery Urban Farm – for the first time we are running our Student Farmer program during the Winter Semester. As Farm Educator, I get to brave the winter cold to visit a few of our downtown classrooms each week and bring the farm to our students! I’ve had the chance to continue working with our first grade students from PS 276 who visit the farm during both the fall and spring. This has been a great chance to take a closer look at some of the topics they were introduced to on the farm this fall.
During our first winter class in Stephanie Schneider’s classroom, we set to cooking some of our final harvest for the year. We made a steamed Swiss chard salad, herbed hummus dip and mashed Japanese sweet potatoes – all using ingredients from the farm! As I sat down with my group of ten students to make the Swiss chard salad, we shared the different kinds of salads we like to make at home and discussed the difference between raw and cooked. We realized there are many foods on the farm, like eggplants and potatoes, that we would NEVER eat raw, but others, like chard and broccoli, that we can eat both raw AND cooked.
Many of the salads that we like to eat included different types of leaves, so we spent a while recalling the function of a leaf. The leaf is the power house of our plants – making all of the energy the plant needs through photosynthesis. Through sunlight and cardon dioxide collected by the leaves, combined with the water absorbed by the roots, plants are able to make all of their own food, and in turn become food for us.
After separating the Swiss chard leaves from their stalks, we ripped the leaves into bite sized pieces and sent them off to the microwave for a quick steam. While the leaves cooked we all paused to investigate the stalks we would be composting. By ripping them apart, students discovered small tubes running the length of each stalk. Seeing these stringy tubes recalled an earlier lesson from the fall where we learned that stems are like highways, transporting materials throughout the plant. After this closer analysis one student pointed out, “so the tubes are like a straw that we use to drink and it [the nutrients and water] get carried up to the leaf.” What a great discovery! This prompted the students to take a few leaves to dissect, and found “tubes” running through these as well. With this discovery, students suddenly understood the workings of the Swiss chard’s vascular system!
Once the Swiss chard was all cooked, we whipped up a delicious honey-garlic vinaigrette, tossed our salad, and served it to the rest of the class. Everyone loved it and many of the students took the initiative to share these recipes with their families by preparing them at home over the next two weeks.
While our PS 276 students have been continuing the learning they started back in September, our PS 397 Spruce Street students (who will be joining us for the first time in April) are starting to explore some of the concepts they will be using on the farm this spring. Many of our Spruce Street student farmers will be new to Battery Urban Farm, but some have visited farms before. A few have even been lucky enough to plant seeds and harvest fresh produce. We’ve done some brainstorming on what we expect to find on our farm. When I asked students, “What do you think we will see on our farm?” students gave the following responses:
“Plants…cows…fat pigs…food growing…carrots…seeds…soil for growing seeds in!”
There will be many new things for us to discover come spring: there will be new foods to taste, new bugs to study and new crops to plant and care for. I’m not so sure about the fat pigs, but on the first day of classes in April there will definitely be soil for us to plant seeds in.