Agriculture has been a part of Longmont’s existence since it was founded over 150 years ago. However, over time, fewer people are able to relate to where their food comes from, says St. Vrain Valley juniors Lucie Dolenc and Harrison Falborn. A new grant will enable SVVSD to build a farm-to-school program led by students.
Both Dolenc and Falborn grew up on farms.
Dolenc, who is homeschooled, has raised chickens since she was 5-years-old and helped with her family’s garden at her 5-acre property near Longmont. She has always loved gardening and growing plants, she said. Over the years her family has added dairy goats, other poultry and rabbits to the animals they tend to.
Falborn, who attends Silver Creek High School, is a second-generation sheep farmer. Being one of four boys and a triplet, he too helps his family grow their own food.
Both students see the opportunity to educate younger students as a big step in bringing awareness to the agriculture industry.
The Colorado Department of Education awarded a $11,700 grant to SVVSD to support a farm-to-school program. The grant will include partners from St. Vrain Nutrition Services, St. Vrain’ Agriscience program, Future Farmers of America, school wellness programs and school cafeterias to educate students of the role agriculture plays in the food supply chain.
Both Dolenc and Falborn are part of an FFA student-led group that are in the process of building lesson plans for the new program. The grant secures funding from January to June, however, the district plans to continue the program beyond the grant’s expiration.
Ten schools including Burlington Elementary, Coal Ridge Middle, Columbine Elementary, Longmont Estates Elementary, Longs Peak Middle, Lysons Elementary, Main Street School, Sunset Middle, Westview Middle and Spark! Discovery Preschool will participate in onsite Garden to Cafeteria & Food Systems programming, said School Wellness Coordinator Theresa Spires, RD.
The programming will include lessons on nutrition and agriculture education and how to care for the onsite gardens. After completing lessons in the classroom, the mentors will help students decide when to plant seeds and how to grow them. When it is time to harvest the produce, students will explore how to use the food as part of the school cafeteria menu, including creating their own recipes. At least one recipe will be added to the district’s menu.
“We are looking forward to seeing what healthy, fresh and hyperlocal menu items the students create as well as continuing to grow our Agriscience mentorship and farm to school programming,” Spires said.
“I think today, our youth are so far removed from the agricultural system that they don’t even realize what it takes to get food from a farm to their table … I think bringing it into schools and introducing it at a young age will really help expose them to it and maybe spark interest in agriculture,” Dolenc said.
In addition to small gardens at the schools, the program will utilize two student-run greenhouses at the Career Elevation and Technology Center and Burlington Elementary. These greenhouses will enable students to grow food year-round.
“We hope to see produce such as fresh herbs and cherry tomatoes in our school cafeterias before the end of the school year,” Spires wrote in an email.
“The aspect of spreading what farming is and what we do every day to other people who might not be exposed to is really cool and especially to do it at a young age can inspire those kids to go into something related to it (agriculture),” Falborn said.