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!
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.
The Agrarian Adventure helps integrate experiential agricultural lessons into the curriculum by working with interested Ann Arbor teachers to design specific lessons or units of study that utilize school gardens and kitchens to enhance core learning objectives. These efforts are especially woven into our work with the school garden and greenhouse at Tappan Middle School, where the garden serves as an experiential classroom.
School garden and food lessons can be mapped to current education goals for students K-8. Lessons aligned with the state standards and the local curriculum have been successfully taught in Ann Arbor schools in all of the learning disciplines including Language Arts, Social Studies, Science, and Math, and electives such Foreign Language, Physical Education, Health, and Music.
We also work with schools to sponsor seasonal, school-wide educational events, such as Earth Day seed planting and occasional school garden harvest dinners.
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.
The 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 facilitated through two areas of programming:
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 Program
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, hear about farming as a career, and learn about other 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.
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.
One way you can help is my making a small monthly donation – $20 for example. And don’t forget all donations are tax-deductible.
Deb Lentz, Vice President
Deb Lentz is co-owner of Tantré Farm, a CSA farm in Chelsea, Michigan, which produces certified organic vegetables, fruits, herbs, mushrooms, and flowers. She and her husband, Richard, also own and operate the Washtenaw Food Hub in Ann Arbor, which includes two rentable commercial kitchens, a farm market, and an agricultural educational event space for those interested in a mutually supportive network of local, food-based businesses along with an ecological demonstration site and sustainable food system destination. She also has served on the Chelsea Farmers Market Advisory Committee for a number of years. As a farmer and former educator Deb has led many Farmer in the Classroom presentations for elementary students in the Ann Arbor Public Schools since 2008.
Deb has been a board member of The Agrarian Adventure since 2010 and is a founding member of The Agrarian Adventure’s “Farmer in the Classroom” subcommittee.
Chef Chris has been the Sous Chef at both The Black Pearl and The Grange Kitchen and Bar in Ann Arbor, among his other work leading the kitchen at The University of Michigan Ross School of Business. He teaches workshops and classes on local sustainable foods through the University of Michigan Sustainable Food Systems Initiative and Munger Graduate Housing. He enjoys volunteering his time and talent to the Ann Arbor community, whether it be serving as a board member at The Agrarian Adventure, cooking breakfast for. the homeless at St. Andrews Church, or preparing the Fall Harvest Dinner for Honey Creek Elementary’s Wellness Program every year.
After volunteering with the Agrarian Adventure as a visiting chef for a couple years, Chris joined the board in 2017.
Jeff went to Logan Elementary, Clague Middle School, Huron High, and the University of Michigan before stumbling on the awesome local farms and food opportunities surrounding his hometown. Happily, young students won’t have to wait so long now! He has worked in diverse fields such as solar engineering, green business research, higher ed administration, real estate, software development, and FARMING. He works together with people in their quests for health, a home in a vibrant community, and a nourishing eco-system. He also enjoys learning skills to live in close connection to nature in Michigan, and enjoys curiously compassionate brainstorming.
New board members:
Neha Shah, Advisor to the Board
Neha Shah is an urban gardener and ecological justice advocate. She teaches fourth grade at Burns Park Elementary in the Ann Arbor Public School District. She holds a Master of Arts in Social Foundations with a concentration in Eco-Justice Education from Eastern Michigan University. At her previous post at King Elementary School as a fifth grade teacher, she spearheaded the school wide composting program and the King Learning Garden.
Neha believes in educating and empowering students with knowledge about the local and sustainable food systems, community interconnection and collaboration, place-based education and eco-activism. Neha co-chairs the Farmer in the Classroom subcommittee and serves on our School Garden Network and Advocacy subcommittee.
Farmer in the Classroom visits allow students to learn about where their food comes from straight from the source. Visits involve hands-on lessons taught by a local farmer or food producer.
The Farmer in the Classroom program seeks to establish youth’s long-lasting connection to and understanding of local agriculture and food production. We believe that personal interactions with local food producers are powerful tools for helping youth develop meaningful connections to their local community and enthusiasm for the healthy food produced within it.
The Farmer in the Classroom program facilitates experiential lessons in Ann Arbor area classrooms during which students engage directly with a local food steward and locally produced food, or some aspect of that food’s production, in order to establish students’ authentic connections to local agriculture and increased enthusiasm for locally produced food.
The Agrarian Adventure would like to thank the following for their contributions and support since our inception:
Al Dente Pasta
Ann Arbor Chapter of the National Woman’s Farm and Garden Association
Ann Arbor Educational Foundation
Beim Foundation The Brinery
Downtown Home and Garden
Food System Economic Partnership
Grounded Here at Pilar’s Tamales
Great Harvest Bread Company
Johnny’s Selected Seeds
Landscaping for the Heart & Soul
Mighty Good Coffee
Morgan and York
Nature Nurture Landscaping
People’s Food Co-op
Rap for Food
The Raven’s Club
Sassafras Tech Collective
Slow Food Huron Valley
V 2 V (Vintage to Vogue)
Whole Foods – Cranbrook
Woman’s National Farm and Garden Association
Zingerman’s Community of Businesses