Bethlehem Central Middle School assistant principal Mark Warford offered a private tour of the school’s gardens, showing how corn is among the many products being grown there. Diego Cagara / Spotlight News
DELMAR — The Bethlehem Central School District is holding its 11th annual Farm to You Fest this week, with activities from Tuesday, Oct. 1 through Saturday, Oct. 5.
Part of a statewide initiative to celebrate local farms and food, each Bethlehem school will take part in different ways but they all seek to appreciate locally-grown and fresh produce beneficial for good health. Farm to You Fest is also a collaboration between Delmar Farmers Market, Capital Roots and the school district’s Food Services, Green Team and Healthy Kids Committee.
Mark Warford, BCMS’ assistant principal, said, “The main message with Farm to You Fest is to support local farmers and raise awareness about local farming but at the same time, it’s also asking kids to be aware of their footprint on the planet based on the food that they eat. Food that comes from thousands of miles away and that is grown using chemicals to kill bugs and weeds have a negative environmental impact.”
He added that when someone eats organically-grown food that was picked fresh the day prior, “there is a huge difference.”
During morning announcements on the first five days of October, BC Middle School students will have an “Agricultural Question” to answer to test their agriculture knowledge. Students with correct answers can win a gift bag of vegetables and decorative corn from the middle school’s garden, as well as gift certificates from the Delmar Farmers Market. One sixth, seventh and eighth grade winner will be announced each day.
Throughout all five days too, students can support people in need with the “Squash Hunger” campaign where students and parents can bring in fresh produce — from their own gardens, a local farmer’s market or farm stand, or a grocery store — to collection bins at each school. Any type of fresh produce is acceptable, including butternut squash, apples, carrots and onions. Designated volunteers will then take them to McCarroll’s/Delmar Marketplace as well as local soup kitchens or food pantries. “Squash Hunger” continues the school district’s partnership with Capital Roots’ Squash Hunger Program and since Farm to You Fest was originally created, over 4,800 pounds of produce has been donated by BC.
On Wednesday, Oct. 2, students can take part in “Guess the Weight of the Pumpkin,” a contest where four big pumpkins are located at different spots inside the middle school. Students whose weight guesses are the closest to the actual weight have a chance to take the pumpkins home with them.
On Friday, Oct. 4 in all lunch periods, the “Salads for Kids Day” will offer students free garden salads which are prepared by parent volunteers from PTO and the Healthy Kids Committee. Salads will mainly be produced from fresh lettuce, tomatoes, radishes, green beans and carrots, all of which are harvested from the middle school’s garden. It aims to educate students about how the food they eat are sustainably- and locally-grown food. Salads for Kids Day is a collaboration between the middle school’s PTO and Garden Club, BC’s Green Team and the Healthy Kids Committee.
Warford said in past years, he has received emails from parents that they initially had difficulty getting their children to eat vegetables at home but after experiencing Salads for Kids Day, they “now have buckets and buckets of fresh-picked vegetables which they typically wouldn’t have before.”
Students can visit the Delmar Farmers Market on Saturday, Oct. 5 for the “Farmers Market Scavenger Hunt” where they would do a scavenger hunt by asking local vendors questions. Forms for this scavenger hunt are available in any school office or at the Farmers Market’s main table; winning students can expect prizes in the end.
Cindy Ferrari, BC’s Healthy Kids Committee’s co-president, said preparations for this year’s Farm to You Fest “is like a well-oiled machine at this point” since it has been happening for years now.
“For kids to know that the food they can generously donate to people in need is a great teacher to them in itself,” she said.
Warford said he has a passion for environmental education. To develop an appreciation locally-grown and organic foods at school, “is just the perfect venue to be able to model that for kids.”