In late September, 40 students, 2 teachers and a parent from Springfield Ball-Charter School boarded a big, yellow school bus and took the short ride out to Garrick Veenstra’s place in Rochester to experience a morning on the farm. Garrick started the tour by introducing himself and explaining that the farm they were visiting was not only his place of employment, but also his home. A few kids exchanged glances, raised eyebrows and commented on the possibility of living and working somewhere “so cool.” Garrick talked a little more about his family’s property, consisting of 15 acres, and the vegetables, flowers, sheep, and chickens they raise there. The kids were then split into two groups so they could take turns experiencing the day’s activities.
One troop went on a walk with Garrick, to check out exactly what grows on the farm. They entered high tunnels to see a variety of brightly hued heirloom tomatoes and peppers of all different sizes and colors. They examined rows of spinach and radish growing in the fields while discussing what seeds and plants need to survive. Kids admired tall sunflowers as they made their way to the main attraction: a tractor with a trailer full of straw bales. Garrick safely loaded the children onto the hay rack, drove them around to see the chickens and showed off fresh eggs that the hens had laid.
Meanwhile, the other group of students were with staff from Grow Springfield and the Illinois Stewardship Alliance looking at a small sample of Garrick’s seed collection. Lindsay Miller and her friend Jacob, Joe Eby and myself, Alana Reynolds, talked about planting a farm the size of Garrick’s. Everyone agreed that it would be difficult to seed the whole farm by hand and having a tool would make the job easier and faster. Kids were introduced to the EarthWay Garden Seeder and we discussed how even tiny lettuce seeds could be efficiently placed into the soil using this method. Many kids requested to plant something, so we brought out the baskets of garlic. Our group worked together breaking apart the heads and peeling the cloves. Some students enjoyed the smell and remarked that it made them want to eat a piece of garlic bread, while others said it was too strong and stinky. Once the garlic was prepped, we all walked out to a spot that Garrick had tilled early that morning. Kids followed planting instructions, making sure that each clove was buried deep enough in the soil and spaced far enough away from its neighbor so that it could develop properly.
Both groups eventually merged and were treated to a delicious sample of veggie appetizer pizza and basil lemonade that had been prepared by Molly Gleason, Outreach Coordinator for the Illinois Stewardship Alliance. Kids gobbled it all up and were pleased to know that Molly used herbs and vegetables that had been grown right there in the Veenstra’s fields. Two crates of freshly picked apples from Lindsay and Jacob’s farm were also on the menu and kids were so thrilled that they could take as many as they wanted. When it was time to go, each student left with apples for their families and a grin from ear to ear.
Ready to plant some garlic!
Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work we go!
The class gets their hands dirty as they plant garlic that will bloom next Spring.
Time to learn about high tunnels, season extension, and how to grow tomatoes on a string!
"And this is how you grow tomatoes...."
Beautiful day for a hayrack ride to see some chickens!