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Current Program Areas- Overview

I. Organic Schoolyard Food Production

Over the last 8 years, Agrarian Adventure has been instrumental in creating and sustaining a bountiful and diverse school garden at Tappan Middle School in Ann Arbor, which is utilized primarily as an educational resource for the school and community. As part of these efforts, our organization coordinated the construction of a large, production-style, passive solar greenhouse to extend the growing season and maximize student and classroom involvement throughout the school year. During the 2010-2011 academic year, our organization acquired a variety of fruit trees and coordinated students at the school to plant the trees, creating a fruit tree orchard alongside the greenhouse and garden. We work in close partnership with Tappan Middle School and the Ann Arbor Public Schools in SE Michigan to ensure that the garden & greenhouse continue to serve as an educational resource for students, teachers, and community members within the district.

II. Farm-to-School

We believe that fostering a deeper connection to the way our food is produced can help empower students to make healthier choices for life. And we are not alone. All across the world, community efforts to bring fresh fruits and vegetables grown by local farmers into school lunch programs have increased in recent years. These efforts are key components of what has come to be known as the "Farm-to-School" movement. Agrarian Adventure has been leading local efforts to this end, as well as networking regionally and nationally to create and implement Farm-to-School efforts in public schools.

Agrarian Adventure has been instrumental in creating and helping lead the Ann Arbor Farm to School Collaboration, which is a cross-sector partnership that includes Ann Arbor Public Schools, Chartwells Dining Services (the food service provider in local schools), University of Michigan Project Healthy Schools, Washtenaw County Public Health, and the Food System Economic Partnership. The collaboration exists to facilitate the sharing of resources between these groups, thus increasing the efficiency with which we can bring more healthy, fresh food to students.

Our efforts to this end are twofold:

1) Bringing Local Food into School Cafeterias
Since 2007, the Agrarian Adventure has been a key leader in brining locally-sourced items to the Ann Arbor Public Schools as part of the school lunch program operated by Chartwells Dining Services. Additionally, during the 2010-2011 school year, Agrarian Adventure worked closely with students, teachers, and Chartwells, to serve food grown by students as part of their science coursework. This effort represents one of the first successful school garden to cafeteria efforts in a district with a contracted food service provider. Best practices learned from this pilot are currently being disseminated.

Chartwells has continued to regularly feature locally-sourced fruits and vegetables in all Ann Arbor public school cafeterias in September and October. These "Farm Fresh Features" have been expanded over the years to feature local, cooked vegetables on the hot bar along with incorporation in the salad bar.

2) Farmer in the Classroom Visits
Through this program, local farmers, chefs, and food artisans visit classrooms throughout Ann Arbor and the surrounding area to bring their perspective and their food directly to students during the school day. These visits allow students to taste local fruits and vegetables and learn about how they are produced, farming as a career, and topics directly related to classroom curriculum and state standards. The visits are made possible through dedicated community volunteers and the Ann Arbor Farm-to-School Collaboration, that together match interested farmers and food producers with teachers interested in hosting a visit. Our organization provides logistical support, as well as lesson-plan ideas and support for farmers throughout this process to ensure that each visit is an effective educational experience.

III. Curricular Integration & Teacher Partnerships

Agrarian Adventure provides essential resources to make the food system and health a part of the academic curriculum and school day throughout the school year. We help integrate experiential and agricultural lessons into the curriculum by working with interested teachers, focusing on specific lessons, units of study, or classes to supplement and enhance core learning objectives. Over the years, these partnerships have impacted the school and classes at Tappan Middle School in Ann Arbor throughout all of the disciplines including Language Arts, Social Studies, Science, and Math, and electives such Foreign Language, Physical Education, Health, and Music.

Curriculum efforts are weaved into our work in the school garden & greenhouse at Tappan Middle School. Food and garden-related curriculum resources are available to teachers through our efforts and the garden serves as an experiential classroom. We work with classes to sponsor seasonal, school-wide educational events, such as the annual Earth Day Seed Planting and School Garden Harvest Dinner each fall.

IV. After-School Enrichment- Cooking & Gardening

We continue to develop and support a vibrant after-school enrichment program (Food & Garden Club) focused on developing middle school student skills in food preparation, gardening, and leadership. This program meets weekly throughout the school year and students form the core student leadership of the school garden.

V. Educational Events & Community Outreach

Agrarian Adventure develops, sponsors, and participates in collaborative educational food-related events for students and the local community in order to build support for local initiatives to improve the school learning environment. We organize these events alongside youth and reach out to the community to help build participation in our public schools. Examples from the past include: hosting renowned chef and food activist Alice Waters for a community presentation; sponsoring four annual school garden harvest dinners in which students cultivated, harvested, prepared, and served a family-style dinner to over 120 community and school members featuring school-grown and local foods; and two spring festivals which engaged students in creating and hosting a community event with over 25 local organizational and business sponsors. (In spring 2007 over 100 students worked with a professional chef in classes to prepare locally-grown, fresh, nutritious foods including nori rolls for over 300 community participants!)