Question: “Where does your food come from?”
Answer: “The store!”
At least, that’s the response most kids provide when asked where their food comes from. And their logic path is clear. The store is where we go to get food, so, it’s where it came from. Makes sense!
Of course, there is more to the story of our food before it ends up packaged on grocery store shelves. And it’s that story that Celeste Gingras (Seacoast Eat Local’s Education Coordinator) teaches on stops with the SAMM van. SAMM stands for Seacoast Area Mobile Market. Originally designed to service locations without access to local food, SAMM’s offerings have widened to include school and community education.
Most recently, SAMM and Celeste completed a series of visits to Maplewood Elementary.
Partnering with Somersworth Farm to School, Celeste taught nine lessons to 316 children in the third, fourth, and fifth grades. Each lesson began with an overview of the Indigenous people who farmed, and still farm, in Somersworth and other Seacoast towns such as the Wabanaki, Penacook, and Abenaki. Celeste also shared some techniques such as the Abenaki planting by a 13-season moon calendar and what the Abenaki call the four seasons:
- Siguan (See-g-wan), Spring
- Niben (Nee-ben), Summer
- Tagw8go (Taag-wohn-go), Autumn
- Peban (Pah-bon), Winter
After this introduction, the students divided into groups for an interactive activity placing common farm tasks in chronological order. The tasks included steps like buying and renting land; tilling/plowing; buying seeds; planting; watering; feeding the soil; weeding; harvesting; washing; sorting; and selling. The activity helped students think about the many factors involved in owning a farm and getting products to consumers.
The activity focuses on growing produce, so Celeste also emphasizes the many other types of food producers. These included: aquaponics; greenhouse growing; raising livestock; maple sugaring; beekeeping; growing mushrooms; orcharding; fishing; and so on. By exploring the myriad knowledge and skills required to farm, the activity positions farming as a reputable profession which deserves respect and gratitude.
Next, the students took drawings of common foods like french fries, ketchup, pizza, cheese, and pickles and worked backward to trace where the food came from—before the store that is!
While some of the students commented that they were familiar with produce through their family or, often, their grandparents gardens, many students were surprised to learn that pickles are made from cucumbers; that french fries come from potatoes; and that cheese can come from a goat or sheep in addition to a cow.
Afterward, the students received a tour of the SAMM van. The mobile market helps showcase how the work of a farmer extends well beyond the field; including tasks like washing, packing, cooling, pricing, transporting, and displaying product at a market. In the van, the kids also took a close look at in-season produce. At the time this included: hakurei turnips, asparagus, rhubarb, varieties of head lettuce, greens, radishes, potatoes, broccoli, strawberries, scallions, head lettuce, arugula, and spring garlic. As a surprise, they also each received $10 worth of these ingredients during the last session.
When school begins in the fall, Celeste and SAMM will return as well – this time to meet with the Kindergarten, first, and second grade classes at Idlehurst Elementary School. In addition, Seacoast Eat Local has facilitated a field trip to Tuckaway Farm for the sixth and seventh graders at Maplewood Elementary.
In testimony to his enjoyment of the program and a burgeoning excitement over local food and farming, one third grade boy said:
“I really love all of this. And I really think this is the way to go. I think there should be more vegetables and fruits that we can eat.”
We couldn’t agree more!
Celeste and SAMM also completed a second session of the crEATe pilot program in partnership with Red’s Good Vibes and the Mary C. Dondero school in Portsmouth.
The crEATe program has proven to be a successful model that kids, parents, and teachers are excited about. The program will return in the fall for a final session. To keep kids and families engaged with local food over the summer, every family in the school also received two $20 vouchers to use at any of Seacoast Eat Local’s summer farmers’ markets. The vouchers can be redeemed for fruits and vegetables at market. The school is also encouraging the students and parents to use the hashtag #donderodoings as a way to share about their farmers’ market visits with each other.
This program is generously funded by the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation’s Thomas W. Haas Fund. If you are interested in piloting a crEATe program at your child’s school, please contact Celeste Gingras at [email protected].
School may be out for the summer but the SAMM van will keep on rolling!
While school visits are on hold, SAMM still has a full schedule ahead! Be sure to stop by and say hello to Celeste and SAMM anytime you see the mobile market.
Seabrook Library in Seabrook, NH: four consecutive Thursdays beginning on July 14 from 9:30-11am
White Heron Tea in Eliot, ME: four consecutive Fridays beginning on July 15 from 11-12:30pm
Watch for SAMM at the Dover, Durham, Portsmouth, and Exeter Farmers’ Markets as well!