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FoodCorps Teams Up with Local FarmerPrint

Food & Farming | November 28, 2012 | By Kirsten Gerbatsch

Jim Bardenhagen shares different varieties of apples that he grows with Suttons Bay Elementary students.

How often do typical elementary students get to eat lunch with the farmer who grew their school meal? Last month, every student at Suttons Bay Elementary had the opportunity to meet Jim Bardenhagen, who grows apples and squash on his farm in Leelanau County.

Bardenhagen’s an avid supporter of Farm to School efforts in the region. He visited all three fifth- and sixth-grade classes and one first/second-grade class to introduce students to different kinds of apples and share information about himself and his farm.

Jim Bardenhagen's
"Farmer Baseball Card."

FoodCorps Service Members Kirsten Gerbatsch and Daniel Marbury, who are funded and supported locally by the Michigan Land Use Institute, partnered with Bardenhagen to bring his produce into the cafeteria to prepare a Buttercup Squash & Apple Salad for the kids with the food service staff. Bardenhagen greeted students, slicing and handing out nine different varieties of apples along with his ‘farmer baseball card,’ featuring his picture and facts about his farm.

During every lunch period, he was surrounded by a group of wide-eyed students, all fascinated by Bardenhagen’s apples. One group of girls even stayed after all their classmates left to ask, “What is the sweetest variety of apple? What is the softest kind of apple? The hardest? What kind of apple do you use to make apple pie?” In a world dominated by mealy Red Delicious and Granny Smith apples shipped in from across the country or around the world, it was encouraging to see a third grader sincerely interested in the difference between a Gala and a Honeycrisp.

Many of the Suttons Bay Elementary students had never tried squash, so some approached their first bite of the salad with a bit of trepidation. But after, the kids were hooked on the mixture of sweet and tart flavors along with crisp and soft textures. Several students even asked Marbury to write down the recipe to bring home to their families.

The friendly farmer sitting in the lunchroom, and the smiling FoodCorps service members, made the delicious and nutritious foods more familiar to the young students who are still discovering new foods and developing tastes.

It’s experiences like these that extend learning beyond the classroom—into the lunchroom and into every meal.