by Vicky Dibe
In November 2011, over 50 fifth-grade students came together for the love of garlic. Well, many of them had a love of garlic. But the vision of the project was that the students would really get to participate in the life cycle of a crop from start to finish. The classrooms from Oak Grove, Academy School, Green Street, and Hilltop Montessori were all involved in this new venture. It started with a visit to each classroom by a local vampire who discussed some of garlic's history and folklore, followed by investigation stations where each student dissected various members of the Liliaceae family (onions, leeks, garlic, and tulips) to discover each plant's anatomy. Who knew that garlic cloves are actually the bottom part of the plant's leaves? Does anyone believe that garlic can actually repel mosquitoes?
Once the students had an understanding of garlic and how the planting process works, each classroom was invited to Hilltop Montessori for the big planting day. Joined by the Co-op's outreach educators, UVM Extension's 4-H Youth Agriculture Project, Post Oil Solutions' Farm to School program, and Lilac Ridge Farm, these kids planted 1,800 cloves of garlic that were donated by Amanda Thurber from Lilac Ridge. It was a beautiful sunny day filled with breaking up garlic bulbs, measuring, planting, mulching, art projects, and cooking with garlic! Kids from the different schools had a chance to get to know each other through the excitement of garlic.
On May 24th, everyone came back together to take part in weeding their big field of garlic with Amanda Thurber. The students broke up into groups and rotated through weeding, making artistic labels for their garlic, and taste testing. The Brattleboro Food Co-op outreach educators used green garlic (a.k.a., garlic shoots) to make three types of olive oil infusions. The kids had an opportunity to try each infusion and vote for their favorite. They also talked with Amanda and the Co-op folks about bringing a crop to market, what criteria a market might have, and what costs they had to recoup from the proceeds. After a fun garlic-filled day, the school buses arrived and all left with the promise to return in midsummer to harvest the garlic.
On July 18th, the participating students and upcoming fifth graders were invited back to Hilltop Montessori for the garlic harvest. Tristan Toleno and his traveling pizza-oven team met the group that remembered to come meet up on top of the hill (it's a long time from the end of school to mid-July!). After the harvest, all the bulbs were tied together in bunches and hung from the rafters in the barn at Hilltop Montessori to cure. Then, all were regaled with many varieties of pizza hot out of the oven on the bucolic hillside.
In September, throughout the month, some of these now sixth graders will be sampling their garlic in recipes in the store for you, and telling you some of their impressions of this process. The Co-op is selling the entire crop exclusively, and is proud to be a part of this crop life cycle for these young students, who learned some science, some economics, some marketing, and some practical lessons. They will also be mentoring the new crop of fifth graders who hope to repeat this process this year. All of the money that is raised from the sale of the garlic to the Brattleboro Food Co-op will be returned to the Windham County Farm to School program to fund this same project for the next round!
The Co-op's Education and Outreach program extends its appreciation to all the participating organizations' representatives, from Post Oil Solutions' Farm to School program, UVM Extension's 4-H Youth Agriculture Project, and Lilac Ridge Farm, for being so committed to the education of our youth.
Visit the Co-op on Thursday and Friday, September 13 & 14 from 4-6pm, have a sample taste and meet some of the students who planted and harvested the garlic!