From Farm to Table: Fifth Grade Class Learns Where Food Comes From

The Recorder, November 1, 2016, by Miranda Davis

Jackie Chase’s fifth-grade class at Gill Elementary was bursting with excitement about their afternoon cooking lesson. The students were making kale chips, and thrilled to be doing so.

The lesson is part of Chase’s curriculum that she designed after a successful grant last year. Once a month, the students walk to nearby Upinngil Farms and pick a vegetable or fruit. Then staff from the Gill Tavern come in and teach the students how to cook with it. Students do this over several days, and back in the classroom, Chase teaches them about the benefits of eating the food they’re cooking with.

It is a way to teach the students where their food comes from and how they can pick healthy foods, according to Chase.

She is an avid home cook, so the lessons also serve as a way to teach the kids about the joys of cooking for yourself.

“Why not take what I love to do and bring it to them?” Chase said.

The lesson starts with the monthly farm visit.

Sorrell Hatch, co-manager of Upinngil, attended Gill Elementary, and said her two young sons will, too. On the day of the monthly farm visit, she comes to the school and walks with the class through the woods to her property. The kids peppered her with questions about the names of the cows, and how the farm works.

Hatch said she loves being involved in the school and having the kids visit every month.

Chase said the kids have a natural curiosity and the farm visits can help connect them to where their food comes from, and the amount of work that goes into a meal before the ingredients are even purchased. They don’t just see the kale they picked for their cooking, but the other vegetables growing next to it, the compost pile nearby and the “pig chalet” that Hatch’s husband built for the farm’s pigs.

Chase said this is as much about teaching kids about healthy locally-sourced foods as it is giving them a hands-on learning experience. She said the kids are always at their most focused after the visit, because they’ve been able to run around and be outside, and it doesn’t feel like they’re learning.

Several days later, Laura Carboni and Walker Widner from Gill’s Tavern come to the school. Carboni is the co-owner and Widner is the head chef.

They talked to the students about the recipe they are making that day as well as other ways to cook the food. Then the kids get to help prep the food. In the case of the kale, they stripped the leaves from the stock, and helped coat them with olive oil and salt before spreading on a baking sheet and cooking.

Widner, who did the main demo with the students, said society has really moved further and further away from a point where most people had exposure to farms and understood where food comes from. Now there’s a resurgence in small farming, and it’s an opportunity to teach everyone, including children, where their groceries come from.

Carboni said kale chips are a great introduction to kale, especially for children.

She said when Chase reached out, she was excited to get involved in the project. She’s also the mother of a sixth-grader at the school, and likes the way this ties in lessons about local food and keeps community businesses involved in schools.

She praised Chase for setting this up and going above and beyond for her students.

“It’s takes time and effort,” she said.

Miranda Davis can be reached at