The future of food is in the hands of the children of this world! Teachers and advocates play a greatly important role in the future of the food movement; returning to the roots of our native lands, integrating edible education, and installing inspiration and passion for good, clean, fair food into the hearts of students and youth across the globe!
Ann Cromley, here, reporting from Vermont…where it was FINALLY Spring yesterday! Sunshine and temperatures in the 40s! We have consistently been above freezing for a few days now…which is a big deal for many of us up here! A little bit about myself before jumping in to my recap of the School Garden Conference that I attended in February in Wellesley, Massachusetts! I am a soon-to-be graduate from the University of Vermont, where I am a Nutrition and Dietetics major, with a focus and great passion in childhood and community nutrition education. I am the current President of Slow Food UVM, our very active and quickly growing campus chapter. I have recently been elected as a board member of Slow Food Vermont, where I hold the position of Slow Food Youth Network Coordinator…a dream come true! My involvement with the Slow Food movement began in my first year of college, and what an amazing four-year road it has been! I have met so many beautiful people from all over the world and have had my palate explode with flavor and culture more times than I thought would be possible by age 21. My dream is to cultivate and expand the minds of children in elementary schools with the joys of good, clean, and fair food! Alice Waters has been such an inspiration to me, leading the way with Edible Education, and I’d like to help lead the way in Vermont!! I’m getting very excited writing this, and could go on forever, but let’s get to the (slow) meat of this blog post! 🙂
I found great inspiration at the School Garden Conference, held February 19 at the Gardens at Elm Bank in Wellesley, Massachusetts. What a beautiful setting…though covered in SEVEN FEET of snow at that time! I’d be excited to go back when I can see the grass and flowers! The event was sponsored by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, which boasts an impressive resume on the school gardens front! Let me tell you a little more…
The Massachusetts Horticultural Society is the oldest Hort Society in the country, and beginning in 1891, Mass Hort established a committee on school gardens, which ultimately led the School Garden Movement throughout Boston, and the nation. Encouraging students to work in the open air, the organization provided the opportunity for youngsters to work together and independently to expand their minds with the wonders of plant science. The importance of the life skills that students gained cannot be stressed enough! Mass Hort offered guidance, prizes and opportunities to show off the fruits of their hard work.
The event brought together educators, principles, food service workers, youth, and Slow Food chapters from the local and national levels. Organizations leading the front in Massachusetts such as Mass Ag in the Classroom, the Garden Club Federation of Massachusetts, Master Gardeners, and the School Gardens Network were also present! The day was full of featured speakers and topics that explored how to successfully plan, implement, and maintain a school garden/school garden program that will endure the change of seasons as well as administration changes, meet educational goals and serve generations of healthy, growing children.
Collaboration and networking proved to be key, as well, as ideas and excitement tend to be contagious when sparked within a passionate group! Ideas and experiences bounced off attendees in breakout sessions concerning many topics, from how to increase community involvement and volunteering to seed saving and starting a seed lending library in your community!
A key goal of the conference was to educate attendees on how to help communities rediscover their local horticultural and culinary traditions. A great friend of mine, and keynote speaker, John Forti, stressed the importance of connecting kids back to their native lands and celebrating regional diversity. Wonder and discovery…that’s what children will find when placed in a beautiful outdoor setting to learn and explore! Taste education and other fun activities for kids and food are limitless! Their young minds are SO ready to learn, so interested in new experiences and new tastes! Let us not hold them back from gaining such knowledge! Let us ignite the spark in them for creativity and love for the land from which their food comes from! Get creative, be silly, and celebrate health for all children! In the words of the inspirational Miss Waters…this will be quite a “delicious revolution” indeed!
Much love from Vermont!
Ann Cromley is the current President of Slow Food UVM and was recently elected as a board member of Slow Food Vermont as Slow Food Youth Network Coordinator