FROM FARM TO SCHOOL: Harvesting science and technology

AT TACONIC HILLS CENTRAL SCHOOLS, located in agriculture-centric Craryville, HARVEST isn’t just about bringing in a crop. It’s an acronym for an award-winning educational program begun during Taconic’s 2009-10 school year.

The volunteers and educators that lead the HARVEST Club use agriculture to teach science, technology, and a host of other subjects. “Healthy Agricultural Resources by Volunteers & Educators in Science and Technology” is the club’s full name, and already it’s garnered awards for the school district. That’s not just locally, but nationally.

Columbia County’s Healthcare Consortium via its Kids in Motion program presented Taconic Hills its Award of Excellence last month.

And last winter, when the American Farm Bureau Federation presented its National Farm-City Awards to just two New York State counties, Columbia County was one, thanks to the immensely proud Taconic Hills and its “pizza garden.” Located clear across the state is the other recipient, Erie County.

Taconic Hills is truly walking the Farm to School talk.

Last year, the HARVEST Club put in that now-famous pizza garden, so named because of its hexagonal form in which “slices” mark off its different crops. (Some say its moniker refers to the fresher-than-fresh toppings that are harvested for the pizzas that Taconic students eat at lunchtime.)

The club also raised an acre of pumpkins last year at the new Roeliff Jansen Park on Route 22 in Copake.

Eager-beaver HARVEST participants started plants over the winter. Now, in May, there are 100 tomato plants awaiting the good weather they’ll need before students can set them out under the sun and sky.

There have been more awards, including two sizable grants: one from Lowe’s Home Improvement and another from the Berkshire Taconic Foundation. That there have been numerous other contributions is perhaps not surprising, given the “amazing” level of support by both the Board of Education and the community, as cited by club leaders.

The HARVEST Club has heaped a great deal more on its plate. There’s a new greenhouse; there are the 120 day-old pheasant chicks that will be raised to adulthood; there’s a shed to be built; there’s the composting project; there are the berry bushes that, gloriously, survived the winter and now look to be thriving; there’s a garden pathway to be completed; there’s the notion of a Future Farmers of America chapter.

Advocates for Farm to School programs all over the country say that, through agriculture, any subject can be taught. Taconic Hills is plowing forward to prove that saying true.

The Columbia County Farm to School Program, part of the Consortium’s Kids in Motion program and geared for schoolchildren from kindergarten to 8th grade, works to combat childhood obesity in the county. Kids in Motion promotes programs for nutrition and for recreation around the county, and its Kids to the Farm program takes children right to the farm where their food is grown.

Information about Kids in Motion and Farm to School is available on the web at kidsinmotiononline.org or by phone at 518 822-8820, extension 317.

To contact Virginia Martin, Farm to School consultant for the Kids in Motion program of the Healthcare Consortium, email .

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