Celebrate Farm to School Month with Garlic!

There are many ways to celebrate Farm to School month. You can organize taste testings, participate in the Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch, learn about local farms, or invite the community to visit your school garden. These are all excellent ways to celebrate. But I'm here to advocate for garlic. Plant it. Eat it. Celebrate it this October!

Disclaimer: I love garlic. I never realized how much kids could love it too until I witnessed our middle school students go crazy for it this summer. I usually expect kids to seek out the sweet, colorful vegetables in the garden - sun gold tomatoes, snap peas, carrots - but garlic? We couldn't stop them. They wanted it cooked, raw, and in a bag to take home. While we waited for harvest time, the kids were the ones telling the staff that we needed, please, to weed the garlic.
So, why is garlic the perfect vegetable for Farm to School month? 
  • It is one of the only things you can plant in a Wisconsin garden in October (other than a number of perennials or bulbs).
  • It is the first vegetable to show green leaves in spring, generating excitement about the garden as soon as the snow melts.
  • Because garlic can be stored, you can keep it around and enjoy it all year. 
  • If you are able to cook with students, garlic is a versatile as a good wooden spoon. Green garlic can be harvested in April and May for early spring snacks!
  • Garlic has been cultivated by humans for thousands of years, and is a great starting point for a garden-based history lesson. 
  • Save the best cloves from each year's crop to use as seed garlic. Your garlic patch can expand each year with no additional cost buying seeds. (Also a great lesson in vegetative reproduction!)
  • No vampires in your garden. Obviously.   
See the Resources section below for a planting guide and tips for helping kids work with garlic. We hope you enjoy introducing kids to this amazing food - happy Farm to School Month everyone!



Growing Healthy Children 
WSGI's newest resource is a toolkit for teaching garden-based nutrition! Download an electronic copy here, or enter our photo contest to win 20 free hard copies for your school! #GrowingHealthyChildren
All About Farm to School Month 2015 
Interested in Farm to School Month, but not sure where to begin? This fact sheet from the National Farm to School Network offers a quick overview of how individuals, schools, and other organizations can get involved! The National Farm to School Network also offers a Communications Toolkit to help you tell the world about the impact of Farm to School in your community! 
Garlic Planting Guide
This planting guide - written by Wisconsin garlic growers - is straightforward but thorough, and includes a section about growing garlic in containers and propagating your own seed! Learn more about the history and medicinal properties of garlic here - great background information for any garlic lesson!
Chop! Chop! Culinary Skills for Wisconsin-Grown Produce in School Meals
Six short training videos take you through a variety of different Wisconsin-grown produce and how to use more of it in your school lunch room. Videos include information on school nutrition requirements met by each fruit or vegetable, basic culinary preparation techniques, creative menu ideas, and tips for using 'cosmetically imperfect seconds.'
"Garlic Goes Into the Garden"
This lesson from The Edible Schoolyard includes talking points and questions for students as they plant, tend, and harvest garlic over the course of a year!
Teaching Ecology in the Garden: A Resource Guide
This free online booklet has tons of resources for teaching ecology in a vegetable garden setting! 
Convertible Benches!
It's a bench. It's a table. It's both! Webster Tiger Manufacturing students used these plans to build benches for the Webster Elementary garden.

Events ... visit our Events page for more

Growing Healthy Children School Garden Photo Contest!
Now through October 21, 2015 

Don't forget to post your favorite school garden photo and caption on facebook under #GrowingHealthyChildren by October 21! WSGI will announce the winning photo on Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch day, and the winning school will receive 20 free copies of the Growing Healthy Children toolkit, as well as a school garden care package!

Caption for example photo at left:  
Fourth graders joined up with the high school Food Processing class to harvest
257# of potatoes that were sent from the garden to the school kitchen! This is enough potatoes to serve 6 meals!  -Mrs. Lesneski's fourth grade class, Shell Lake School District 


Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch!
October 22, 2015 

Sign up to participate in the Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch! It's a simple way to feature your farm to school work in a loud way. At noon on October 22, we'll all Crunch into a healthy, delicious local or regional apple to show our support for National Farm to School Month and Food Day. When you sign up, you'll receive a Crunch Guide full of ideas for planning, promoting, sharing, and education around your Crunch!  

Sign Up to Crunch!
Crunch Facebook Page



Food Day: Mid-West Menu
October 22, 2015

Are you interested in doing something special with your whole lunch try to celebrate Food Day during Farm to School Month? The Midwest Menu might be for you!  In the spirit of collective celebration, all schools across the Midwest are invited to serve a coordinated lunch try featuring local and regional foods on Food Day - Thursday, October 22. This can be a great addition to the Great Lake Great Apple Crunch!

Learn more about the Midwest Menu here - we suggest the webinar recording!



Wisconsin Local Food Summit: Request for Presenters

The Wisconsin Local Food Network is seeking dynamic presentations that will inform all members of the growing local food movement. One of the summit tracks is Farm to School initiative! Presenter applications are due October 13 for this January 14-15 event in Sheboygan! 

Application and further information
Deadline: October 13, 2015

Art in the Garden Project Exhibition
September 5 - October 25
Overture Center for the Arts - Madison, WI

The Art in the Garden Project helped ten Madison-area schools create lasting outdoor works of art in their school gardens. Join us in celebrating the unique and inquiring results of this project, told through photos, objects, and stories from participating schools at the Overture Center for the Arts from September 5-October 25. Reception with garden snacks and activities: October 4, 2pm-4pm.


MEEC: Register or Volunteer!
October 21-24 - Madison, WI

The Midwest Environmental Education Conference is coming to Madison this fall! You may register for one, two, or three full days of the conference. Students can register for just $15. 

You can also sign up to volunteer for the conference!  


Tasty Tidbits ... of wisdom, fun, and information

Garden Joke of the Month: 
What do you call a 100 year old wizard who never wears shoes and lives on garlic?  Click here for answer.

Garden Grants!
Wisconsin Medical Society Foundation Community Grants include a special School Gardens Grant Program! Deadline: October 19th. 

The Nature Works Everywhere grants from The Nature Conservancy want to help build, amend to revitalize school gardens and promote environmental education! Deadline: October 28th.

Self-care and Wellness Study Seeks K-12 Teacher Participants

Karla Manning, a doctoral candidate in Curriculum & Instruction at UW-Madison, is seeking ten K-12 teachers to participate in a research study that looks at how self-care and wellness practices affect teachers. Participants will receive a small stipend as compensation for participating in the project.

Contact: KRManning@wisc.edu or 312-778-0179


Success Story: Webster Elementary

Webster’s Garden Buddies Connects High School Students to their Kindergarten Roots
At Webster Elementary, students look up to their peers. They don’t have to look too far, however. That’s because the school’s oldest students – fourth graders – can be found squatting down to harvest potatoes, wrangle weeds, or investigate soil critters with Webster’s younger Garden Buddies. These young leaders help Kindergarteners tend plants and complete special projects – such as growing seedlings for an annual plant sale or making container gardens for After 3’s Family Night. 
This year, three former Webster Elementary students – now high schoolers –have been invited to return for another leadership role in the garden. Once a week during the After 3 afterschool program, these Webster High School students work as garden assistants. The best part? Garden assistants get paid by the hour. The opportunity to have an afterschool job that also lets them give back to their school community, be a positive role model for younger students, and continue connecting with positive experiences from their past is a unique and valuable experience for any teenager. Likewise, elementary students benefit by seeing their role models engaged in healthy activities.
The After 3 program’s garden efforts are supported by in-school garden-based learning in Terry Day’s fourth grade class, as well as Kindergarten classes at Webster.  Day is as enthusiastic about learning in the garden as any of her students, and talking with her is an inspiring rush of ideas for engaging students outdoors.  For example, Day taught her students about weeds by creating a game she called Cops and Robbers. “The weeds are the robbers because we learn how they steal nutrients from our plants,” she said. “We learned how to identify the most common weeds and then made “WANTED” signs with a picture of the weed so students – the cops – would remember what each one looked like.” Day’s students are working on researching other weeds so they can pick them and put them in the garden “jail,” aka five-gallon bucket!
Other academic connections include planting pumpkins in spring, and returning in fall to measure circumference and study density –will it float? – followed, of course, by students carving their own pumpkin. Students practice counting and estimating with sunflower seeds, read in the garden with their older book buddies, and participate in taste testing on a regular basis.  Tiger garden projects have also included planting Mother’s Day flowers, and using sunflower seeds saved from fall to create a “January garden” of suet balls (hung on old Christmas trees) for winter birds.  This fall, After 3 students will create an obstacle course among old plants to extend their outdoor time even after they put their garden “to bed” for the season.
The Webster Tiger Territory garden began with baby steps in 2008, when the school used a “Got Dirt” grant to install three raised beds.  With each passing year, the garden has expanded in both growing space, and number of students involved.  The 2013-14 school year saw the addition of five apple trees, as well as convertible benches built by a high school class called Webster Tiger Manufacturing to expand the garden’s function as an outdoor classroom.
Day is part of a team that meets once a month to set goals and objectives as the garden continues to grow at Webster. Day’s fellow team members .
 This year, the garden team –  which also includes kindergarten teachers Jessia Hedrick, Nicole McCorison, and Laura Eckart – is working to connect their garden efforts with Green and Healthy School certification. Although the garden used several small grants to get started, the program is sustained completely through a student-centered annual spring plant sale, in which students sell seedling starts, as well as plants donated by parents and volunteers.
Webster’s long-term plan for sustaining the garden program financially helps to ensure that the Tigers who are discovering the garden as Kindergarteners this fall can return as teens to relive the wonder they found as five year olds, and to help the next generation of kinder-gardeners find the same magic in soil, worms, and plants.
See more photos and connect with the Webster Tiger Territory Garden on Facebook!

Share your garden story #wischoolgardens

Tell the world what is going on in your school garden. Stories help build support for school gardens, and can help sustain your program via community engagement and school pride!  

Share your story.

For those new to WSGI, we couldn't leave out these amazing resources. "Got Dirt?" will walk you through starting a school garden, while "Got Veggies?" will help you implement a garden-based nutrition curriculum.  "Cultivating Childhood Wellness through Gardening" is an online training that will help you establish and utilize a school garden.  You can watch the entire training or select specific chapters.

Find them all here.

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