The Maine Dish
Food Education Masochism: Farming with 40(!) Four Year-Olds
I’m exhausted. Still. Last week, Midcoast-area Head Start nutritionist, Vanessa Whiting, and I gave forty students a real farm-to-table experience at Morris Farm, a working farm in Wiscasset dedicated to promoting sustainable agriculture through educational programs. Our “Farm to Head Start” event was partially aimed at highlighting the importance and feasibility of incorporating local foods into preschool menus, but our goal was to give these kids a real day at the farm. And if the quantity of manure still stuck to my boots is any indication, it was REAL real.
In the span of four hours, we harvested, washed, peeled and roasted beets, made a homemade herb vinaigrette, milked a cow, and made farmer’s cheese to top forty spinach and beet green salads. In the process, I ran defense on hot ovens and knives, was lulled into a trance-like state by a fully 15-minute rendition of “Old MacDonald,” and sustained a, shall we say, “surgical tattoo redesign” from a freaked-out rabbit. Know what? It was totally worth it. They had a blast.
The kids were brave around the dairy herd, which is saying a lot considering most of them assumed milk came from an eight pound plastic jug rather than a sentient 1,400 pound animal that farts (a very popular observation among the Head Start set), likes to be scratched behind her front legs, and responds to her name. More importantly, they had the magical experience of watching milk leave an animal’s body and enter their own within the span of one hour.
We sent a recipe for the cheese home to the families. We purchased and provided each child in attendance with a $3.00 gift voucher to the farm store so they could experience the pleasure of obtain food straight from the source. The kids got a kick out of the Montana-sized blister on my index finger, a consequence of rock maple-hard beets and the dullest knife on Route 27. And it was a joy to see those kids mucking around in the manure with their LED-lit sneakers without a care in the world except when they’d get a chance to kiss the cow’s furry tummy.
Does your kid know where food comes from? You can visit Morris Farm with your family or schedule a field trip for your school or organization. It’s about an hour and change from Portland. Visit www.themorrisfarm.com for info on all the important work this farm trust does.