Greenfield plans to bring farm curriculum to school

GREENFIELD — Greenfield students may soon be snacking on local vegetables sold at healthy snack markets in local schools while also learning about agriculture and ecology in the classroom.

The Greenfield School Department is applying for a one-year U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to work out how to develop a farm-to-school program for the district. The grant is worth up to $45,000.

Just Roots, the nonprofit community farm on 60 acres of town land on Glenbrook Drive, would help guide the school district.

At the same time, Just Roots has applied for a United Way grant to create a K-12 curriculum that incorporates education on farming, ecology and the environment, according to Jay Lord, director of program development at Just Roots.

Regardless of whether the school and nonprofit receive the grants, the school district and Just Roots are interested in moving the projects forward.

For the past five years, Just Roots, which leases the 60 acres of land at the former poor farm, has been working with area schools to develop school garden programs, outdoor education opportunities at the farm, mobile farmers markets, and year-round farm-to-school programming.

Connecting with schools has been a mission of Just Roots since it formed in 2010.

The farm-to-school program was originally spearheaded at the Discovery School at Four Corners, the district’s innovation school that has a focus on gardening.

On the school grounds, Just Roots has taught students to create raised vegetable beds, grow native wildflowers and establish a butterfly garden.

One of the most popular programs at the school is the Healthy Snack Market held over 10 weeks during the fall harvest season. The 2-year-old marketplace is set up in the cafeteria for students to choose a snack for the day.

As part of their farm market experience, students try a new food each day and record on a large poster board whether they liked it.

The market features locally grown food from Franklin County farms and includes a variety of vegetables and fruit.

Part of the plan is to bring the Healthy Snack Market to Newton School, Federal Street School, Greenfield Middle School and the Math and Science Academy.

With potential United Way money, Just Roots would pilot nine curriculum units over three years for K-12.

“There’s a lot of information and awareness among young people about food issues,” said Lord. “The difficult thing is sharing with them what we can do about it. It’s important for young people to understand that there’s something positive you can do to help. It’s teaching them that here’s our natural world and here’s how we can take care of it.”