By Kelly Zimmerhanzel, FoodCorps Service Member
In September and October, students at Stefanik, Bowe, Litwin, and Streiber returned to their school gardens to harvest the beets, carrots, and potatoes they planted back in June! These Harvest Days are part of the Harvest Days and Salad Days program that Chicopee Fresh has adopted from our friends at Backyard Growers in Gloucester. The program gives every student involved a total of three garden visits and two seed-to-fork experiences over the course of the year. For the Harvest Day, each third, fourth, and fifth grade class comes out to the garden for 20 minutes to harvest what they planted back in June, and a few days later, the students get to taste what they harvested in the cafeteria!
Root vegetables are some of the most exciting things to harvest, because you can’t really tell how big they’ll be or what they’ll look like until you pull them out. I love seeing the joy on the kids’ faces when they get a particularly big carrot or beet, or accidentally grab a whole handful when they were expecting just one. Potatoes are particularly fun, because when you pull out the plant, you rarely get all the potatoes with it, so I always tell the kids to dig around and try to find more. They get so excited when they unearth potatoes hidden deep in the dirt, as if they’ve just discovered buried treasure.
The harvest at Stefanik was by far the largest, with 13 pounds of carrots, 34 pounds of beets, and 4 pounds of potatoes! Bowe had the second largest harvest with 7 pounds of carrots, 8 pounds of beets, and 21 pounds of potatoes. Streiber came in third with 11 pounds of carrots and 13 pounds of potatoes. Litwin had the smallest harvest overall, with 15 pounds of carrots and 6 pounds of potatoes, but even this was impressive considering the fifth graders did all the planting and harvesting.
A few days after the harvest, students got to try the veggies they harvested in the cafeteria. For the taste tests, we cut the carrots, beets, and potatoes into bite-sized pieces, sprinkled them with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and roasted them in the oven.
The students were eager to try the veggies they had grown and harvested, and while a few students really loved the beets, the potatoes were by far the biggest hit. Students at Stefanik were the biggest fans of the roasted veggies: 118 students loved it, 47 liked it, and 45 disliked it. Streiber came in a close second: 70 students loved it, 33 liked it, and 24 disliked it. Litwin came next: 91 students loved it, 51 liked it, and 45 disliked it. The veggies were least popular with the students at Bowe, perhaps because only the beets and carrots were served due to a mishap with the potatoes: 55 students loved it, 45 liked it, and 65 disliked it. However, 95 students either liked it or loved it and only 65 disliked it, which is still positive.
A special thanks to our friends Juniper, Kali, and Nick from FoodCorps in Springfield, who came to help us out with one of the Harvest Days and two of the Taste Tests!
The ChicopeeFRESH team is a group of creative individuals who are working to feed Chicopee students healthy, local and FRESH foods each day.