BY KAREN CAMPBELL
Weakley County Schools Communications Director
WEAKLEY COUNTY (January 19) – According to Weakley County Schools’ student-illustrated Harvest of the Month calendar, greens are the highlighted vegetable for January. To make the jump from page to plate, the local Farm to School Team has arranged for Martin Primary and all the county elementary classrooms to get a taste of greens and discover how to regrow this source of numerous health benefits.
Farm to School Team members Trista Snider, Weakly County Schools Nutrition Director, and Samantha Goyret, Executive Director of the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network, worked together to supplement nutrition funds with NWTN LFN grant monies to purchase the hydroponically grown greens from Blackberry Pond Farm in Martin. Delivery to schools is set for the last week of January.
Accompanying the produce will be an activity sheet explaining how eating greens can address health issues and step-by-step instructions on how to regrow the rooted sample. A video of the farm will also be available online.
The Miller family, led by James and Sue Miller, operate the farm that now includes four greenhouses where butter crunch lettuce, kale, arugula, Napa cabbage, Bok choy, tomatoes, cauliflower, radishes, microgreens, and other vegetables are harvested for sales locally and in Memphis. The family moved to Martin seven years ago and began what was then a hobby with a single greenhouse and sharing their bounty with friends. The enterprise has grown into a business that participates in the local farmers markets, offers CSA (community supported agriculture) weekly box subscriptions, and is soon to receive USDA Organic Certification.
Snider underscores the value in the tasting and discovering of what is grown in the students’ “backyards.”
“For a child to be able to first see where the food comes from, then taste it in their classroom, next learn about the health benefits, and finally realize that they can regrow it themselves in their window seal with water is awesome,” she noted. “Hopefully they’ll make the connection that they can do the same thing with romaine heads that they purchase at the grocery store and then may even be able to teach their parents something.”
NWTN LFN board chair and UTM Dean of Agriculture and Applied Sciences Todd Winters, NWTN LFN Outreach Coordinator Caroline Ideus, and Weakley County Schools Communications Director Karen Campbell joined Goyret on a tour of the local farm to capture information and video to share with students. Currently, the Millers are developing curriculum on food safety in greenhouses for Obion County Schools. Tours of the farm are also available to the public.
After concluding the tour, Winters observed, “We need to expose our young people to the relationship between food and agriculture. Activities like this are very, very important. A lot of our kids nowadays really don’t understand where their food comes from, and agriculture is obviously something we all need because food is agriculture. It’s wonderful to have something like this in Weakley County, a source of very nutritious food that is safely cared for and only miles from the farm to the table. It’s right here.”
Goyret also underscored the nutritious value of having a “Taste of Tennessee” nearby.
“Locally grown vegetables offer a higher nutrition content due to the products being recently harvested, and less packaging and travel times,” she explained. “The value of taking small, considerate steps to source and grow local, supports a circular economy allowing our food dollars to stay within our community. This creates a ripple effect not only within our communities by connecting farmers products with schools but teaches children how to improve their nutrition and that of their family, as well as help reduce our food carbon footprint overall.”
To discover more about local farms, download the NWTN Local Food Guide at nwtnlfn.org. To tour the Blackberry Pond Farm or subscribe to the seasonal CSA boxes, visit blackberrypondfarm.com.