Thanks to the Houlton Pioneer Times for sharing the following article, written by staff writer Joseph Cyr.
HOULTON — Sometimes the best lessons are not taught in the classroom.
Such was the case for a group of Houlton Elementary School [students] in Lauren Fitzpatrick’s second-grade class Sept. 20, as the students journeyed to a field in Hodgdon to pick fresh corn for the school.
“(Dale) Flewelling and I have done some gardening projects with the kids in the past,” Fitzpatrick said. “We see a real excitement and ownership in the gardening project when kids have a direct connection. They get excited to put the seeds in the ground and watch them grow.”
Another added benefit, Fitzpatrick said, is that there seems to be better consumption of vegetables in the lunch program when students have had the opportunity to grow and pick the produce.
The class harvested about 400 ears of corn that were taken back to the school. The corn was packed and stored in a cool location to be husked and was prepped to serve in the school this week. The school “purchased” the corn from Friends of Aroostook, who in turn donated those funds back to the school to be used for a school garden project, Flewelling said. Those funds will be used to assist with the purchase of gloves, rakes and other items for tending to the garden.
Houlton Elementary School has a small garden behind the school where students plant veggies in the spring. This year, the garden featured carrots, green beans, beets, onions, cucumbers and turnip. Whatever comes up for vegetables is used in the school’s cafeteria for lunches.
Many ears of corn were not harvestable this year, Flewelling said, because several moose discovered the field and ate the tops off the corn. He worked that incident into his talk with the students when they arrived at the field, showing them the difference between a healthy ear of corn and one damaged by the moose.
Students enjoyed their time in the field.
“They are absolutely thrilled to be outside and part of the harvesting,” Fitzpatrick said. “Many of them told me it was like Christmas morning for them.”
“I am excited,” said Grace Langley, a second grader. “It’s hard work, but fun. My favorite vegetable is…I don’t know.”
Flewelling said he hopes to expand the relationship between Friends of Aroostook and Houlton Elementary School.
“What we would like to do is better determine what the kids could plant that will mature in the early fall so they can pick it when they come back to school,” Flewelling said. “Our goal next year is to assist them even more with supplies. We always have excess seed. We’ll also help them prepare their garden next spring and through the summer so it’s ready to go in the fall.”
Now in its fifth season, the Friends of Aroostook initiative continues its efforts to provide fresh vegetables to those in need in Aroostook County. The non-profit group began modestly in 2008, planting 3,600 ears of corn. Those numbers have grown steadily to more than 50,000 pounds of vegetables, including peas, green beans, corn, cucumbers, carrots, zucchini, summer and winter squash and potatoes were distributed throughout Aroostook County to various food pantries and soup kitchens.
Flewelling said he would like to see the beneficiaries — those individuals who go to food pantries and soup kitchens — come out to the field to pick for themselves.
“What we really want to see are those people who are receiving the fresh veggies to be the ones picking them,” Flewelling said. “That way it’s not a handout. It’s a hand-up.”