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Peterborough

Seeing the possibilities

Local teachers tour farm- to-school programs for young children, seeking ideas for their own curriculums

  • Kim Proctor discusses Happy Valley School's efforts to integrate a farm-to-school program at the private preschool with a group of educators on Saturday.

    Kim Proctor discusses Happy Valley School's efforts to integrate a farm-to-school program at the private preschool with a group of educators on Saturday. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Early childhood educators across New England met on Saturday afternoon to discuss farm-to-school programs and visit a few of the regions educational facilities that are utilizing the idea.

    Early childhood educators across New England met on Saturday afternoon to discuss farm-to-school programs and visit a few of the regions educational facilities that are utilizing the idea. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Early childhood educators across New England met on Saturday afternoon to discuss farm-to-school programs and visit a few of the regions educational facilities that are utilizing the idea.

    Early childhood educators across New England met on Saturday afternoon to discuss farm-to-school programs and visit a few of the regions educational facilities that are utilizing the idea. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Matt Roy uses a six-holed potter to explain how he uses gardening to work in simple math and numbers while working with pre-school children.

    Matt Roy uses a six-holed potter to explain how he uses gardening to work in simple math and numbers while working with pre-school children. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Matt Roy explains to a group of educators touring Happy Valley School in Peterborough about creating a garden that is self-sustaining.

    Matt Roy explains to a group of educators touring Happy Valley School in Peterborough about creating a garden that is self-sustaining. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Matt Roy shows Lisa Freeman, a kindergarten teacher at Pine Hill School in Wilton a glass case showing off a root system inside the plant nursery used for farm-to-school programing at Happy Valley School in Peterborough.

    Matt Roy shows Lisa Freeman, a kindergarten teacher at Pine Hill School in Wilton a glass case showing off a root system inside the plant nursery used for farm-to-school programing at Happy Valley School in Peterborough. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Lisa Freeman of Peterborough, left, a kindergarten teacher at Pine Hill School in Wilton, and Linda Wellings of Shelbourne Farms in Shelbourne Vt., try strawberries at Happy Valley School in Peterborough.

    Lisa Freeman of Peterborough, left, a kindergarten teacher at Pine Hill School in Wilton, and Linda Wellings of Shelbourne Farms in Shelbourne Vt., try strawberries at Happy Valley School in Peterborough. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Matt Roy of Happy Valley School in Peterborough shows a group of educators a radish plucked fresh from the ground.

    Matt Roy of Happy Valley School in Peterborough shows a group of educators a radish plucked fresh from the ground. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Linda Wellings, left, of Shelbourne Farms in Shelbourne, Vt., and Beate Becker of the Cornocopia Project in Peterborough, taste strawberries off the vine at Happy Valley School on Saturday, while learning about the school's farm-to-school opportunities.

    Linda Wellings, left, of Shelbourne Farms in Shelbourne, Vt., and Beate Becker of the Cornocopia Project in Peterborough, taste strawberries off the vine at Happy Valley School on Saturday, while learning about the school's farm-to-school opportunities. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Camille Burns of Allenstown, who works at Prescott Farm in Lanconia, examines a strawberry plant at Happy Valley School.

    Camille Burns of Allenstown, who works at Prescott Farm in Lanconia, examines a strawberry plant at Happy Valley School. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Early childhood educators across New England met on Saturday afternoon to discuss farm-to-school programs and visit a few of the regions educational facilities that are utilizing the idea.

    Early childhood educators across New England met on Saturday afternoon to discuss farm-to-school programs and visit a few of the regions educational facilities that are utilizing the idea. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Early childhood educators across New England met on Saturday afternoon to discuss farm-to-school programs and visit a few of the regions educational facilities that are utilizing the idea.

    Early childhood educators across New England met on Saturday afternoon to discuss farm-to-school programs and visit a few of the regions educational facilities that are utilizing the idea. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Kim Proctor discusses Happy Valley School's efforts to integrate a farm-to-school program at the private preschool with a group of educators on Saturday.
  • Early childhood educators across New England met on Saturday afternoon to discuss farm-to-school programs and visit a few of the regions educational facilities that are utilizing the idea.
  • Early childhood educators across New England met on Saturday afternoon to discuss farm-to-school programs and visit a few of the regions educational facilities that are utilizing the idea.
  • Matt Roy uses a six-holed potter to explain how he uses gardening to work in simple math and numbers while working with pre-school children.
  • Matt Roy explains to a group of educators touring Happy Valley School in Peterborough about creating a garden that is self-sustaining.
  • Matt Roy shows Lisa Freeman, a kindergarten teacher at Pine Hill School in Wilton a glass case showing off a root system inside the plant nursery used for farm-to-school programing at Happy Valley School in Peterborough.
  • Lisa Freeman of Peterborough, left, a kindergarten teacher at Pine Hill School in Wilton, and Linda Wellings of Shelbourne Farms in Shelbourne Vt., try strawberries at Happy Valley School in Peterborough.
  • Matt Roy of Happy Valley School in Peterborough shows a group of educators a radish plucked fresh from the ground.
  • Linda Wellings, left, of Shelbourne Farms in Shelbourne, Vt., and Beate Becker of the Cornocopia Project in Peterborough, taste strawberries off the vine at Happy Valley School on Saturday, while learning about the school's farm-to-school opportunities.
  • Camille Burns of Allenstown, who works at Prescott Farm in Lanconia, examines a strawberry plant at Happy Valley School.
  • Early childhood educators across New England met on Saturday afternoon to discuss farm-to-school programs and visit a few of the regions educational facilities that are utilizing the idea.
  • Early childhood educators across New England met on Saturday afternoon to discuss farm-to-school programs and visit a few of the regions educational facilities that are utilizing the idea.

On Saturday, over a dozen educators and farmers took a tour of Otter Brook Farm and Happy Valley School in Peterborough where they walked the garden on the property, said hello to the chickens in the coop next to the preschool, checked out the now-empty shed that once held rabbits and goats, and nibbled on the produce peeking up from beds in the nearby greenhouse and plant nursery.

The group was part of about 75 educators, farmers and parents from across New England who met in Dublin on Saturday to learn about putting together a farm-to-school program at their own area preschools. The group then split into four to tour some of the area education centers that are already successfully integrating farm-to-school programs, including Happy Valley School, a private preschool in Peterborough and the next-door Otter Brook Farm, Touchstone Farm in Temple, Brooks’ Side Farm in Hancock and Stonewall Farm in Keene.

Participants in the workshop met Saturday morning at the Dublin Consolidated School to attend workshops on subjects like cooking with children, maintaining school gardens, farm visits and purchasing from farmers, before splitting off to tour the neighboring farms. Those that went to Happy Valley School in Peterborough were met by the school’s director, Kim Proctor, and Matt Roy, farm manager at Otter Brook Farm, which works with Happy Valley to provide farm-to-school programming. The backyard of the preschool itself is large enough to host its own garden, rabbit shed and chicken coop. Most of the larger farm-to-school opportunities however, are provided by two larger gardens planted by Roy with the Happy Valley children, a potting shed where initial plantings are nurtured and a greenhouse dome where more sensitive plants are grown.

Happy Valley’s situation is unique, said Proctor, because Roy’s involvement in the program is paid for by a private benefactor. Private donations can help get a program off the ground, said Proctor, but educators shouldn’t wait for that one wealthy donor; they make efforts throughout the community. Proctor suggested speaking with community farmers and alumni resources for monetary donations or volunteers to assist with farm-to-school activities. And even schools that don’t have the space or funds to sustain a long-term project can make smaller efforts to get students involved, she said.

Roy, agreed, saying that he is willing to travel to a school for a day to give a practical talk to students, and some schools have arranged regular trips to Otter Brook Farm to work in the facilities there.

There are a lot of opportunities for education with a farm-to-school program besides learning where your food comes from and the growing process, Roy explained to the crowd. Happy Valley students learn simple math concepts when they’re planting seeds — such as filling the pots three-quarters full — and Roy uses the simple pests that can plague any garden to show predator-prey relationships. Flowers provide the opportunity to teach color, and simple experiments giving three beds of the same plant different amounts of water introduce young students to the scientific method.

There are also other uses for the things grown by the students’ gardens, said Proctor. The class’ gourd crop produced more than expected this year , so some of the excess will probably be used for painting projects, or hollowed out and made into musical instruments, or even sold to local artists, she explained to the group.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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