Farmers and Food Stewards: Attend an Orientation

Are you a farmer or food steward who wants to share your knowledge of and passion for food systems with K-5 students?

What is a food steward?

A food steward is someone who is interested in or knowledgeable about food systems, but is not necessarily a farmer.

What can I teach?

Lessons everything from “parts of the plant” to permaculture. You can use one of our lessons, or you can work with our Farmer in the Classroom team to design your own lesson based on your interests.

What is the time commitment?

All farmers and food stewards are required to attend an orientation session which covers the basics of our program, and classroom management techniques. After orientation, our coordinator will be happy to work one-on-one with you (if necessary) to ensure you are prepared.

After the orientation process, the level of involvement is really up to you. You can teach one hour-long lesson per school year, or you could teach an hour-long lesson each week (we’ve never had anyone teach that much, but hey, we can dream)!

Will I be compensated? 

Farmers and food stewards are given a stipend for each classroom lesson.

Where can I get started? 

You can sign up for our next orientation on March 16, 2016, from 6:00 – 8:00 at the Washtenaw Food Hub. More details here.

Farmer in the Classroom Visits

For Farmers:

If you are a farmer, chef, or local food artisan passionate about spreading the good food word, consider becoming one of our Farmer in the Classroom visitors! Previous teaching experience is not a prerequisite – just a genuine knowledge of sustainable food production and an interest in teaching what you know to others.

Our team can help guide you through the process of visiting a classroom, including providing logistical and lesson-planning support.

If you are interested in learning more about visiting one of our host classrooms, please fill out this survey:

Farmer in the Classroom Interest Survey

Based on your level of interest and availability indicated in the survey, our team will contact you to provide you more information or to schedule your classroom visit!

For Teachers:

If you are a classroom teacher interested in having a farmer come visit your classroom, please fill out a survey so that our team can help match you up with a farmer!

Farmer in the Classroom Program

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.

Our Vision

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.

Our Mission

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.

Request a visit

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A Little Hoophouse History As We Plan for the Future

On May eighth 2014 at the Tappan Middle School Media Center thirteen supporters of the Tappan Middle School Garden met to discuss the future of the hoophouse that sits above the baseball diamond and soccer field behind the school, just off Stadium Blvd. The hoophouse has been a fixture of the vibrant school garden at Tappan since it was built by volunteers and students with a grant from the Ann Arbor Farm and Garden in 2006. The hoophouse was constructed to serve as a classroom and to operate much like a school media center with a primary steward to work with teachers to maximize learning. This was how Jane Rossi, recently retired Tappan Media Specialist, described the concept of the hoophouse classroom.

The idealists like Ms. Rossi who hatched the idea for The Agrarian Adventure believed most state educational objectives including life sciences, math, language arts, and social studies could be met using garden linked lessons, (say, for instance calculating area using a hoophouse garden bed). While an outdoor garden could suffice for this purpose, (and does at a number of schools) Rossi and other Agrarian Adventure members believed that outdoor food, health, and agriculture could be integrated more fully, and thus with greater impact, if lessons could be taught throughout the school year, even in the dark cold winter.

In its early years the hoop house did provide a warm dry spot for teachers to bring students as late as December. A harvest dinner celebrated the garden and hoophouse bounty each fall. For a while the Agrarian Adventure supported a part-time teacher liaison with donations and a few grants, but sustaining the energy and community involvement has been tough. The changes in Michigan’s public school funding have forced the district and to tighten the school day schedule, increase teacher work load, and course offerings. Although happily, seventh grade life sciences, geometry and a few other classes continue to use the hoop house and garden in the spring, most teachers have little time to integrate outdoor learning experiences in the tight, outcomes-driven curriculum.

The role of the schoolyard garden and particularly the hoophouse in the middle school curriculum at Tappan has lessened. Moreover, because of less funding for The Agrarian Adventure programming, activity has decreased in the hoophouse, leaving it more vulnerable. Then, in recent years vandals repeatedly ripped and tagged the hoophouse plastic cover. It was an eyesore that seemed to draw trouble.

Despite all this, students stream to the garden to help rake and plant at the mid day Advisory period run by the PTSO and there is an upwelling of interest in the After School Food and Garden Club this spring, funded in part by a grant from the Green Thumb Challenge. Nevertheless, in February it seemed time for The Agrarian Adventure board of directors to reconsider or “re-envision” the hoophouse, and with input from the Tappan PTSO Garden Committee, they began a round of planning, beginning with a stakeholder meeting.

At the May meeting five alternatives were laid out on posters, and participants, including school principal Jazz Parks, former Tappan parents, TAA founder and MSU Organic Farming Outreach Specialist, Jeremy Moghtader, and current TAA Board member, farmer and former teacher, Deb Lentz (Tantre Farm) placed stickie notes with handwritten questions and opinions on the posters.

The most comments showed up on the poster for keeping the hoophouse in place. But this option would require a partnership can be forged with an organization or business in the next six months. A few comments expressed doubts a partnership would work to protect the hoophouse from vandals unless investments in security were made. Could TAA even find such a partner, and how long would the partnership last?

Moving the hoophouse to another school garden evoked support as well. But several shared their concerns that the new school would need to address the same issues that have arisen at Tappan, i.e., funding, school priorities, and security.

Discussions underscored the unique value of the hoophouse, but recognized that it is at present an underutilized district resource. Maybe increasing awareness of the structure as a shared resource could safeguard its place at an AAPS school. The Agrarian Adventure will explore these two ideas for sustaining the hoophouse in the next few months. For now, the hoophouse stands uncovered, looking expectant. Our hope is that community conversations will lead to good developments.

If you are a grower, consider a partnering with The Agrarian Adventure and AAPS, and please get in touch. If your school might be interested in exploring adopting a hoop house, we would be happy to talk to you about our experience and help you think about next steps.