He believes the children are the future: Teach them to grow and let them lead the way

Awesome apple: A student at Carolina Day School is in awe of the shape her local apple could make during a Farm to School cooking demonstration last fall; this month, mashed potato and pumpkin soup demos are scheduled.

“You know the song, ‘I believe the children are our future?’” says Matt Parris reluctantly sharing why he got involved with ASAP’s Growing Minds during National Farm to School Month. “No, seriously!” he says. “Growing plants and taking care of the earth … they’re just one of the most important things we can teach our kids. Once the connection is made between a child and the garden, it’s a touchstone that will be in there their whole life.”

As part of Western North Carolina’s celebration of National Farm to School Month this October, ASAP and Parris’s company, Roots, are announcing $250 grants to seven area schools to start or expand their school gardens. Applications will be made available in late October; schools can apply by visiting growing-minds.org. Roots is also donating $750 to ASAP’s Growing Minds program to be used in all aspects of their Farm to School work: farm field trips, cooking in the classroom, local food in the cafeteria and school gardens.

“Roots is succeeding, and now we have an opportunity to get more involved in the types of ideas and relationships at the core of why the business was started in the first place,” says Parris. “ASAP’s network of people and resources allows people and companies to contribute to a cause without having to reinvent the wheel.” He adds, “Sharing food is one of the most powerful and immediate ways to connect people. I want Roots to be right in the thick of it.”

To make that happen, Parris is also getting his entire team involved. This month, and well beyond, Roots’ staffers will take field trips themselves and help build and maintain area school gardens. “I want to see kids and the Roots team get turned on to and learn about gardening. And I want us all to get to share in the harvest!”

Of course, this new partnership isn’t all that has happened and is happening this month here in WNC, where Farm to School activities take place throughout the school year. Isaac Dickson Elementary students visited Sky Top Orchard near Hendersonville in October to pick and snack on farm-fresh apples. Students from Evergreen Community Charter School and Haw Creek Elementary School will take field trips to Hickory Nut Gap Farm to learn about and interact with animals.  ASAP will lead local food cooking classes at North Buncombe Elementary School, where they’ll whip up local mashed potatoes with homemade butter, and Candler Elementary School, where local pumpkin soup is on the menu.

This diversity of celebration is exactly why Congress declared October National Farm to School Month in 2010. “Farm to School programs exist in all 50 states, but since Farm to School is a grass-roots movement, programs are as diverse as the communities that build them,” states the National Farm to School Network. The declaration celebrates these programs and connects them together as part of the larger movement. Along with the variety of ways groups and schools participate, the monthlong celebration is a testament to the growing importance of Farm to School as a means to improve child nutrition, support local economies, and educate children about the origins of food.

To find out what’s happening in school cafeterias, classrooms, gardens, and on family farms, visit farmtoschoolmonth.org. A map shares events happening across the country, and the site spotlights different activities, schools and groups each weekday throughout the month. You can also follow @FarmtoSchool on Twitter and the national network on Facebook (National Farm to School Network) for updates.

Know of a Farm to School event happening in your school or community? Add to the map at asapconnections.org, and contact ASAP’s Growing Minds through growing-minds.org.

Maggie Cramer is ASAP’s communications manager. She can be reached at 236-1282 or maggie@asapconnections.org.

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