That's what happens on a farm!

Fourth-grade students from East Durham visit Wild Scallions Farm

By Allysan Scatterday

“What did you learn about farming today?” I asked one of the fourth graders on our tour of Wild Scallions Farm. “It’s hard work. There’s a lot of walking!” The group of around 25 fourth graders from Maureen Joy Charter School in Durham listened as Farmer Renee talked about the various vegetables, fruits, and flowers that she grows and harvests throughout the year.

For most of the students, this was their first time visiting a farm. They are all participating in the East Durham Children’s Initiative (EDCI) Youth Leadership Council. This group of elementary school students is receiving training to develop leadership skills and become advocates for healthy living in their community. 

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EDCI is a non-profit that works with students living in a 1.2 mile radius in East Durham. They collaborate with a number of community organizations, including Farmer Foodshare, to provide ongoing support for children from birth through high school graduation. Many of the children living in this area face significant challenges. EDCI provides support and opportunities to allow these children to thrive and succeed.

Farmer Foodshare is working with EDCI to increase access to and education about fresh food and to help kids start thinking about the food system – from farm to fork. In addition to the farm tour, we’ll be piloting several programs with students living in the EDCI zone -- a mobile farmers market, a community food share program that will provide regular access to fresh food for children and families in the community, and cafeteria taste tests to get kids excited about eating fresh, local food.

The students on the Youth Leadership Council will be directly involved with all of these activities, promoting mobile markets, managing logistics of food share deliveries, and sharing what they’re learning with others. 

The objective of the farm tour was to give students a first-hand look at how food is grown and what life is like for a local farmer. They pulled potatoes from the ground, sampled native persimmons from the orchard, and asked lots of questions about farm life. Farmer Renee graciously and patiently shared her expertise. We’re so fortunate to work with local farmers like Renee who steward the land, grow a diversity of crops, and understand the importance of educating the next generation about how food is produced in a thoughtful, sustainable way.  

Some other things that the students said they learned: 

  • Crops have to be rotated each year to protect them from disease and promote healthy soil.

  • Some small plants (like strawberries) can make it through the winter and survive underneath the frost while others cannot.

  • In North Carolina, there are different varieties of blueberries that can be harvested all summer long.

  • If you plant one potato (the mother potato) like a seed, you can grow lots more potatoes!

  • Unripe tomatoes are not very delicious.

  • Farmers are always experimenting with new plants – sometimes they’re successful and sometimes not!

Perhaps the most interesting lesson of the day was one that we could not have anticipated. The students screamed and squealed when they noticed that Hansel, the friendly farm goat who accompanied us on the tour, was relieving himself. Farmer Renee quickly responded with an important teaching moment – “That’s what happens on a farm!” she said. The students laughed and quickly realized that they were in for an experience.