February Farm to School Partner Highlight


Becca Roe is the FoodCorps Service Member at DC Bilingual Public Charter School in Washington, DC, where she manages the School Garden Market (in partnership with DC Greens!), and gets to plan and lead garden- and food-based educational programming. This month we asked her, “When was your Farm to School ‘aha’ moment?” Here’s her reply:

‘Aha’ moment: There is not one single ‘aha’ moment that comes to mind when I think about my FoodCorps service at DCB, a year and a half in — what I have instead are a million tiny moments of change at work that on their own may seem inconsequential. The kindergartener who routinely finishes her plate in order to be in the “clean plate club;” the first grader who chooses a new veggie at the salad bar; the fourth grader who asks, every day, when we can go out to the garden next. If I ever feel despair over the state of our food system, or the environment my students are inheriting, or the health injustices they’re facing — I focus on these tiny rays of hope. In my service I have the responsibility and the privilege of planting seeds not just in DCB’s spectacular garden, but also in the minds and hearts of the passionate, brave, and loving kids I work with. My deep hope is they flourish into individuals who have the tools to make informed food choices and fight for a just and equitable food system.

March Farm to School Partner Highlight


Niraj Ray is the founder and CEO of Cultivate the City, an urban farming organization that currently helps manage the school garden programs at Miner ES, IDEA PCS and Gallaudet University, including garden- and food-based educational programming and internship programs, as well as a rooftop farm for the Washington Nationals and a rooftop garden center, H St. Farms. Niraj started as a volunteer at JO Wilson ES in 2013, where he helped start the school garden program, with a strong focus on vertical farming and strawberry growing. This month we asked him, “When was your Farm to School ‘aha’ moment?” Here’s his reply:

"I’m not sure I can pinpoint on exact moment that has exemplified the growing 'Farm to School' movement, but it has been amazing to see our community grow by leaps and bounds every year, as more DC students and residents become in engaged in school gardens and reaping the benefits of eating and living a healthier lifestyle. My passion over the past couple of years has been helping youth find their first jobs in the green sector- this spring we are starting an entrepreneurship program aimed helping at-risk youth find their calling through horticultural therapy and the interest has been amazing. One student took the initiative to reach out to me immediately after an information session, to learn how she could best support her vegan lifestyle- that student is now working with us part-time and helping get our rooftop garden center ready for spring. I also learned that she is an artist, and she is creating some beautiful artwork and murals for our gardens. I am enthused and motivated everyday by the gusto with which the next generation is taking up arms to create not only a just and equitable food system, but a thriving community around it."

January Farm to School Partner Highlight



Emily Reckard is the FoodCorps service member at Mundo Verde Public Charter School. In her role, she runs their garden-based programming including the school garden market, family garden workdays, garden club, garden therapy, and more. This month we asked her, “When was your Farm to School ‘aha’ moment?” Here’s her reply:

I have loved my role with FoodCorps and the opportunity to engage students with experiential learning around food. One of my first projects at Mundo Verde was to organize a Fall Garden Workday for families. My “aha” moment came during this workday, when a student who was harvesting beans exclaimed, “this is more fun than playing!” Over the past several months, I have seen students come alive and get so excited about learning when they are outside in the garden. Being able to work in the dirt with their hands engages students' bodies and minds and allows them to experience how food grows for themselves. I look forward to continuing hands-on lessons with students in the garden and watching them come to their "aha" moments. 

December Farm to School Partner Highlight


Kaamilah Mitchell is the FoodCorps service member at Friendship International Public Charter School: Woodridge Elementary. In her role, she helps run Friendship's School Garden Market and leads farm to school programming for students. This month we asked her, “When was your Farm to School ‘aha’ moment?” Here’s her reply:

My two years of working with FoodCorps in D.C have been amazing, to say the least. I've had the pleasure of working with different students of all ages and taste buds. My 'aha' moment came at the end of last school year. Throughout the year we had tried an array of different fruits and vegetables. Most kids were hesitant to try all of these unfamiliar and different foods, but by the end of the year, they were excited to try diverse things. During our last lesson and meal together one student proudly exclaimed: "This taste better than McDonald's!" It was then I realized food education and access is a marathon, not a sprint. With constant support and resources, we can transform students thinking about food. With programs like DC Greens School Garden Market, students are not only able to grow and try fruits and vegetables in school, but they are then able to buy and take these foods home to create a healthy meal. 

October Farm to School Partner Highlight


Jordan Carter is the Education Coordinator for DC Greens and point of contact for DC Greens' School Garden Market program. In his role, he co-manages 20 Market Champions, and coordinates SGM logistics with the 14 participating SGM Managers, and the Common Market. This month we asked him, "When was your Farm to School 'aha moment?" Here's his reply:

Cultivating a school garden is a very special thing. Students, teachers, administrators, and parents alike are brought together to reap the fruits of their labor, or bliss of what their child or student was able to grow and harvest. While implementing an 8-week nutrition intervention with 90 fourth grade students in Whittier, California the students and I were able to transition an eye sore into a green space for the school community. While this intervention got many of students to think about the food growth process, nutrition, and connected them and their families to farmers in the region, I wish I could have given the students so much more.

As the Education Coordinator with DC Greens, I've been able to champion the School Garden Market program logistics with SGM Managers and the Common Market to ensure students can deepen their connection to healthy food via a student run farmers' market. Interacting with SGM managers and students during site visits to SGM's and school cafeterias across the district has enabled me to continue the work I discovered in California, and support change makers of all ages. I'm thrilled this Fall 2017 SGM season is off to a great start, and that students across the district are gaining hands on experiences growing, procuring, and selling healthy food to their school communities.

September Farm to School Partner Highlight


Maddie Morales is the Outreach Coordinator for The Common Market and procurement specialist for DC Greens’ School Garden Market program. In her role, she partners with sustainable farmers across the Mid-Atlantic and supplies school garden markets with fresh produce. This month we asked her, “When was your Farm to School ‘aha’ moment?” Here’s her reply:

While I was working for FoodCorps, I had the opportunity to work directly in schools with students of all ages to improve the culture of health through food. We cooked, tasted and tried new things in the classroom, garden and cafeteria. The more we engaged with new foods, the more student excitement grew to keep trying new things! I quickly learned that my students were curious, open and excited about foods they had never tasted before. From hummus and green smoothies, to raw lunchbox peppers and sungold tomatoes, the students were excited about trying the things they grew and made. Many students wanted to share this excitement with their families and bring recipes home to make again.

However, I soon realized that finding the fresh, tasty vegetables, like the ones growing in our school garden was much more difficult in our surrounding community. Eating local food was a novelty and only available to certain parts of the community I was a part of. This “aha” moment, led me to my work with The Common Market.

At the Common Market, we believe that fresh, local, delicious food should be readily available to all people, regardless of zip code. We work with institutions like public schools, universities, hospitals, restaurants and retailers to get more local on their menu and help make the local choice the easy choice for everyone.

I am so excited to be able to supply DC Greens’ School Garden Markets with fresh produce from our sustainable farm partners across the Mid-Atlantic so that students and their families across DC can continue to cook and eat delicious, fresh meals together.

August Farm to School Partner Highlight


Roxanne Bentley is the Enrichment Resource Teacher and School Garden Manager at Murch Elementary. In her role, she enriches students knowledge of Farm to School, and provides an opportunity for students to strengthen their entrepreneurial skills.

This month we asked her, “When was your Farm to School ‘aha’ moment?” Here’s her reply:

“Having a school market garden is a very special thing.  It attracts all types of students.  You have your business acumen types, your marketers, your garden stand sellers, but mostly you have a venue for kids to learn what it means to move produce from farm to table. And as the students at Murch have learned, it is a process that does not always guarantee a strong profit.  For example, what was a good seller one week, may or may not be the next week.  SGM created opportunities for students to be flexible in their market plans, including growing herbs so they would be super fresh for market; and handing out recipes for “unusual” vegetables.  We can’t wait to go at it again this Fall.”

July Farm to School Partner Highlight


Jon Wirth is the School Garden Coordinator for Education Coordinator and School Garden Manager at DC Prep’s Elementary Campuses in Edgewood, Benning, and Anacostia in Washington, DC. In his role he facilitates experiential learning with a core focus on food, and produce procurement for DC Prep’s SGM program.

This month we asked him, “When was your Farm to School ‘aha’ moment?” Here’s his reply:

As the School Garden Coordinator for DC Prep’s Elementary Campuses in Edgewood, Benning, and Anacostia, I have the opportunity to garden with our young people every day.  We learn about water retention, germination, pollination, soil (err, “dirt”) and much else.  So much else that I’ve taken to framing our many lessons through a single lens:  food.  We don’t tackle large policy questions around food security or municipal waste streams, or ag production questions like, “How much can we produce?  How quickly can we produce it? Or, how quickly can we get it to consumers?”

Rather, I encourage our students to experience the garden in all of its gustatory wonder.  To think like worms, butterflies, and bees.  “Why are there worms in the soil?”  Food.  “Why are there insects in the air?”  Food.  “Why are we in the garden?” Food!  These are simplifications to be sure, but they serve an important purpose.  Urban gardens are science laboratories and exercise studios and centers of civic engagement.  But they are also the best chance we have for assuring that our young people have a healthy relationship to food.  My personal “aha moment” came in the last week of school.  A heat wave and impending summer thunderstorm kept us indoors.  We are in the middle of making a favorite guacamole recipe …


“2 cloves garlic”

Marvin’s on the garlic.

“2 juicy limes”

Nasiah’s on the limes.

Another teacher walks in, takes a whiff and asks the student next to her,

“What are you all making Duron?”

“We’re making BUG FOOOOD!”


I’ll take it.

June Farm to School Partner Highlight


Victoria Mirowski is the Education Coordinator and School Garden Manager at Cultivate the City in Washington, DC. In her role, she facilitates the produce procurement and distribution for CTC run CSA programs across the city.

This month we asked her, “When was your Farm to School ‘aha’ moment?” Here’s her reply:

In our garden, we strive to educate beyond the plants and produce, to cultivate an appreciation for the garden’s entire ecosystem. From the earthworms, to the bees, to the pests and diseases each component is playing a part. Thus, the teaching opportunities are endless, and with classes of eager students, I can say with confidence that I never have just one ‘aha’ moment. They happen often and my students are sometimes the best teachers.

Throughout the year, I encourage my students to watch the garden with mindfulness. A garden is a place full of smells, textures, and tastes, which can overwhelm our sense. Some of the most important moments come when we stop, cultivate presence of mind, and simply observe-what has changed, what is growing, what has died, and why? Recently during our garden time, a student led me to a peach tree to show me its leaves, certain that something was wrong. Sure enough, that student had discovered, before I had, that the tree was suffering from Leaf Curl, a disease caused by the fungus Taphrina deformans. This moment- where a student was able to observe their surroundings, pull from past observations, and draw their own conclusion- is magical.

Teaching children about fresh fruits and vegetables is central to cultivating healthier lifestyles. And teaching them to observe and appreciate all of the subtle details and interactions within the garden ecosystem makes them feel more invested and involved in the process. I have ‘aha’ moments daily, and if they never stop….neither will I.

April Farm to School Partner Highlight


Ryoko Yamamoto is the Garden Coordinator at Capital City PCS in Washington, DC. In her role, she connects students to their local food system with environmental and garden education.

This month we asked her, “When was your Farm to School ‘aha’ moment?” Here’s her reply:

In our garden, we grow abundance of vegetables and herbs. Herbs are widely used for cooking and craft, come in many varieties, and provide students with constant discovery of something new.

Every week in July I teach lessons with new garden-based recipes for our elementary students. To begin the lesson, I asked my 4th graders a common question: “What’s your favorite vegetable or fruit?” Students called out, “Strawberries!” “Orange tomatoes!” “Cucumbers!” Then one student said, “I like the one with red flower that you can drink the nectar from”. Among all garden foods he tried past years, he chose Bee Balm, a delicate red flower and an incredibly important pollinator, attracting bees and butterflies which then pollinate the other herbs and flowers in the garden. His answer really struck me because in years past, I spent time teaching this same group of students about how honeybees collect nectar from flowers and had students mimic their behavior. They took turns sampling small amounts of the sweet and subtle nectar from the Bee Balm and this boy had remembered the lesson.

Moments like watching students use all their senses to taste and experience unfamiliar but exciting new flavors is deeply inspiring to me. When we are introduced new flavors from real foods at a young age, we create positive associations with trying new things that lasts a lifetime. Seasonality and trying these foods amongst friends in a safe and celebrated space such as a schools garden is also important. Tasting foods is an all encompassing experience and herbs (and flowers!) are a great way to expose students to new flavors.

January Farm to School Partner Highlight


Patrick McDermott is the DC Program Manager for Common Threads. In his role, he partners with schools and community-based organizations in underserved areas across the District to teach kids how to cook and eat healthy meals.

This month we asked him, “When was your Farm to School ‘aha’ moment?” Here’s his reply:

Before I came to Common Threads, I worked in a few different restaurant kitchens throughout DC, and one of the biggest things I learned was that fresh ingredients are essential to putting out the best possible product. We worked directly with the farmers and producers to get fresh ingredients whenever possible because customers demand the highest quality. When I started teaching nutrition in schools as a Chef Instructor for Common Threads, I saw that schools haven’t made that same connection yet for the food they serve their students. It just seemed like common sense to me that in order to help children be the best version of themselves, then you need to make sure you feed them the best food we can offer them.

April Farm to School Partner Highlight


Kelly Custer is a teacher in River Terrace Education Campus. As a special education teacher working with transitions aged students, my role is to provide transitions skills such as life skills and pre-employment skills to youth ages 18-22. My class has a wide array of community partnerships that provide us with real world work experience in horticulture and urban sustainability. Here is his farm to school ‘aha’ moment:

My biggest garden market 'aha' moment was turning our market to a CSA model. This really increased our sales as staff throughout the building placed orders on a weekly basis. The CSA model really turned our market into more of a business and provided youth a wider range of jobs and tasks. This allowed for students to use their strengths, preferences, and interests to contribute to the market.

May Farm to School Partner Highlight

Janney Photo.jpg

Laurie Young is a science teacher and school garden coordinator at Janney Elementary. She uses the extensive gardens at Janney to teach environmental science, food and nutrition lessons, and lead a student run school garden market. The Janney Market was one of DC Greens’ first school garden markets! Here is her Farm to School 'ha' moment:

My “Aha” is a reflective moment I had one fall day at the Janney School Garden Market.

As I watched a 2nd grader pull out her wallet and carefully select a bag of veggies, all the while telling her mom which ones she had grown in her class garden, I realized the impact our garden program has on our over 700 students and their families. Thinking about how even our youngest students learn that their actions have a global impact as they raise, tag and release monarchs and exchange letters with a partner school in Mexico to learn when their butterflies have safely arrived. How our first graders have the opportunity to raise chickens and take eggs home to their family; all the while learning about life cycles, caring for animals, and where their breakfast came from. How our 2nd graders learn about the importance of bees as pollinators as they plant pollinator gardens, observe bees in our hives, and harvest honey to take home. How every one of our students has the chance to enjoy preparing and eating fruits and veggies that they grew right in their own garden. Our weekly market provides a time for me to reflect on the impacts of these experiences. As I watch students shop for a healthy snack or for veggies for the evening meal, enjoy tastings, prepare an in-season recipe, or just walk through the gardens to see what is growing, I feel truly heartened.  At these times I have faith that we are cultivating a generation of students who know the joys of interacting with nature, are educated about healthy eating, and will take an active role in caring for our environment.

June Farm to School Partner Highlight

Headshot (1).JPG

Sam Ullery is the School Garden Specialist at the DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education. Sam has dedicated the last seven years to supporting school garden programs through providing technical support, conducting trainings, developing partnerships, and providing resources  to the 128 school garden programs in the District. Sam wants school garden programs to be staffed by trained and certified professionals whose work is integral to student success. Here is his Farm to School 'aha' moment:

My Farm to School  ‘aha’ moment is probably when I was serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Vanuatu. I was placed at a rural boarding school where students were responsible for growing and cooking their own food. Each morning groups of students would bake bread, bring back the day’s produce from the garden, and prepare it for all of the students. Meal time was always about sharing and connecting with each other before heading back to class. This vision of school food is far from what we experience in DC today, but I am excited to see many schools make meaningful connections between the school garden and school food.

July Farm to School Partner Highlight

IMG_6825 (2).JPG

Malka Roth is the Lead Educator & Youth Coordinator with city Blossoms. She manages Mighty Greens, a high school student-led social enterprise in DC. Here is her Farm to School 'aha' moment:

My farm to school ‘aha’ moment took place several years ago while I was working in upstate New York at a non-secure juvenile detention facility. I was teaching for their summer program as well as working as an enrichment coordinator, connecting local organizations and opportunities for growth to the young men who lived at the facility. During the summer we were able to get approval to travel to a nearby college one day a week and work with them on their newly established farm. For all of my students, most of whom came from New York City, this was a new experience. This was also my first time stepping onto a farm. We were all blown away, finding joy in picking spicy radishes from the earth, stepping close to their beehives and bringing back yellow watermelon for everyone to enjoy. It was during those afternoons that I saw students who struggled to stay focused and engaged in the classroom excited by everything around them. It was in those moments that I began to see the potential of nature as a classroom.

August Farm to School Partner Highlight

Screen Shot 2018-07-23 at 12.11.15 AM.png

Ellen Royse teaches Environmental Science and Urban Ecology at Capital City Public Charter School.  In her role, she helps coordinate the 11th grade food justice expedition, the DC Food Justice Youth Summit and Capital City's school garden market. Here is her Farm to School 'aha' moment: 

As 11th grade students prepared for this year's Food Justice Youth Summit, I got to join in their research about school lunches in DC's charter schools.  It was incredible to learn from our own food service manager about the joys and struggles of feeding healthy, sustainable and appealing food to our student body.  We also got to tour a series of amazing school kitchens around the city to learn about best practices and seek inspiration.

My students and I were floored by how complex the school food system is and how hard food service managers and cafeteria staff have to work in order to feed students every day. Students and other stakeholders have to understand these systems so they can advocate for meaningful change.  In DC, we're lucky to have organizations like DC Greens and initiatives like the Farm to School Network and the School Food Advisory Board to help move these causes forward.

September Farm to School Partner Highlight

IMG_0948 (1).jpg

Karen Davison is the DC FoodCorps State Fellow, supporting DC's 12 FoodCorps service members. She is also a FoodCorps alum. Here is her Farm to School 'aha' moment:

My first couple of months as a FoodCorps service member, I was enthusiastic, passionate, and a had head full of knowledge from our beginning of year training. Who was better for the role of connecting kids to healthy food? When I started hosting monthly seasonal cafeteria taste tests, I started off with the safest of vegetables: cooked carrots. Yet students and staff alike approached my table with apprehension and mistrust — “Why are you here?” “What are you promoting?” “Is it healthy?” "Is it good?" One by one, they filed by the table, some quickly tasting the food and casting their votes and some deciding to forego trying it. Even with the familiarity of carrots on my side, the “loved it” bucket had very few coins compared to the politely-stated “tried it” jug.

Although slightly saddened and fairly overwhelmed (how was I suppose connect kids to healthy food if they wouldn't try it?), I realized that I could not do this alone. I started conversations with staff members, with parents, with students and slowly found my school food and garden champions. I found people to learn from, to grow with, and to support along the way. Together, we cultivated opportunities for students and families to grow their own food, learn where it comes from, and choose to eat it every day.

Now in my role coordinating FoodCorps programming and supporting service members placed throughout the District and northern Virginia, my Farm to School “aha” moment (read: life lesson) has stuck with me -- we can't do it alone and there is no use pretending that we can. FoodCorps leverages partnerships with schools and community-based nonprofits to support our service on the ground and together with our partners, our friends, and our Farm to School family, we can ensure our students receive the nutrition education and good food they deserve.

October Farm to School Partner Highlight

IMG_1346 (1).jpg

Since 1998, Lola has been gardening with children throughout Washington, DC., and together with Rebecca Lemos, she founded City Blossoms. City Blossoms evolved to become a nationally-recognized garden-based organization that works to build healthier communities through creative, kid-driven green spaces.  In 2016 Lola began to work with DC Bilingual in the capacity of the Operations Manager and Wellness Coordinator, overseeing food service, nutrition and cooking education, maintenance of the garden and garden-based education. In 2017 her position transformed to Director of Food and Wellness, and her responsibilities increased to creating a more comprehensive wellness strategy that includes building greater capacity, coordinating across all departments of the school, and working towards the development of a self-prep kitchen on campus. Lola shares her knowledge about garden and food education through supervising a Food Corps service member, leading workshops at DCB and conducting trainings locally and nationwide with educators. Here is her Farm to School ‘aha’ moment:

“I began my position at DCB with no prior experience in school food service, and I am still building the bus as I drive it, so to speak. One of my “aha” moments was going to my first National School Lunch Program training. I had worked for years in Farm to School with City Blossoms, so I thought I would have some connections to the world of food service somehow. However when I walked into that training, I was definitely knocked off my rocker. Here I was in a room full of the people who are in charge of making sure kids have food to eat every day, and I, with all of my years working with growing food and teaching about food in schools, knew nobody. I quickly was faced with the stark divide between the DC Farm to School world and the DC Food Service world. The food service directors at the training cared about food as much as the farm to school folks, but faced incredible challenges, limited resources, and regulations that hindered their ability to connect in the ways that I know F2s is desperate to support. I knew right away that my purpose in my new position was to figure out how to facilitate connections between both sides and creatively try to bust out of the limitations that are placed on school food (while being compliant, of course).”

November 18 Farm to School Partner Highlight


Chastity Shipp is the International Baccalaureate (IB) Coordinator for Friendship Woodridge International School located in northeast Washington D.C. As an IB school, Friendship Woodridge International aims to provide a rigorous learning environment that develops inquiring, knowledgeable, and caring life-long learners who actively contribute to their global community through intercultural understanding and respect. The IB framework focuses on the development of the whole child through learner profile traits. Our partnership with both Food Corps and DC Greens promotes the learner profile trait balanced. Friendship Woodridge is not only balanced in school academics, but also in maintaining a healthy life-style through our daily food choices. DC Greens affords our school community access to variety of fresh foods and vegetables beyond the daily school foods menu. Here is her farm to school ‘aha’ moment:

Every Wednesday we host our school Garden Market with Common Market fresh produce. The “aha” moment came this school year when thinking of new ways to promote a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Our FoodCorps’ Service Member and I decided to feature a fresh prepared, healthy after-school snack to showcase a variety of vegetables and fruits. From salads to applesauce, students, parents, and staff love our fresh, simple snacks prepared each week. We even include a recipe card! 

December Farm to School Partner Highlight

45302148_10156698151355119_4077536114238291968_o (1) (1).jpg

Lucía Ferreira Torrente is a visiting teacher from Spain at Columbia Heights Educational Campus. She works as a dual language teacher at Columbia Heights Educational Campus and runs the school garden. She is very committed to health and nutritional issues, and is a certified health coach as well a volunteer with health focused organizations both from the United States and internationally. Here is her farm to school ‘aha’ moment:

As a teacher, after working long and tedious weeks, making sure I get early to the Farmers Market every Saturday to be there and assist people with interpreting may seem something tiring, but just my first day when someone came to me and hugged me and told me how grateful she was for having someone who understands her and could make sure they have the same opportunity to access food no matter they origin or nationality, that made my day and showed me how big a simple and easy action can be for somebody else. From that moment, I committed myself to help and serve my Spanish speaking community as best I can in every way I can possibly do.

January Farm to School Partner Highlight


Amy Jagodnik is currently the School Garden Coordinator at Mann Elementary and began working in the school garden in 2006 as a volunteer and parent.  Amy is a Master Gardener and active member of the Garden Club of America. Here’s her farm to school ‘aha’ moment:

When I first started working in the elementary school garden I had hoped to inspire youth with my years of enjoyment working in the garden but, to my surprise, the tables were turned and I found myself inspired by the natural wonder of my students. Seeing their thirst for knowledge and hands-on contact with nature confirmed for me that this is the absolute perfect place to begin an environmental education and I have been hooked as their guide ever since.

February Farm to School Partner Highlight


Christopher Cox is a Special Educator at Tubman Elementary.  In his spare time, he also serves as Tubman’s School Garden Coordinator.  In this role, he manages the school garden and organizes both a weekly garden club for students as well as a seasonal farmer’s market for parents, staff, and the community. Here’s his farm to school ‘aha’ moment:

I am an avid gardener in my personal life, and love sharing this passion with others.  When I first started at Tubman 4 years ago, I would often bring in vegetables that I had grown or processed in my garden, like candied jalapenos, to share with my colleagues. They always seemed amazed that I had grown the vegetables myself--and it struck me that if they were so interested, maybe the kids were too.  What began as an idea to start a small teaching garden has turned into a beautiful outdoor classroom (thanks to the support of the DC Urban gardening and Tubman communities!), complete with a full garden, where we teach kids how to water, feed and plant vegetables and flowers; a seasonal farmer’s market, where the kids learn about running a business; and even a mobile chicken coop, with four chickens, where students and teachers alike learn about caring for farm animals (and take home fresh eggs daily!).  Each of these programs gives those students who aren’t excited about classroom learning the opportunity to ‘learn-by-doing’ -- and I’m thrilled to see their growing excitement, interest, and engagement in what I believe is an important addition to their overall learning and growth.

March Farm to School Highlight

y0rwJHY0 (1).jpeg

Judith grew up on  the green lush island of Trinidad.  Some of her earliest and most treasured memories involves her picking fresh food from her backyard. As a child she followed the footsteps of her elders, putting the freshly cut orange peel in the sun to dry for tea, throwing away food waste around the mound of the mango tree, picking a large aloe vera fleshy leaf to make a morning drink or using old bed sheets as dust towels. As an adult and a mother to a beautiful four year old, Judith realized she was taught these core principles of healthy eating, composting, using organic produce, and repurposing household items from a very early age. She wants to give her young daughter similar experiential lessons, but living in an urban city poses some challenges, as eating healthy and organic foods can be expensive and the opportunity to pick fresh fruit is limited.  When Judith’s daughter started pre-kindergarten 3 in 2017, she realized that the majority of students at Cleveland Elementary may not have had much exposure to organic fruits or vegetables and simple using available to plant food. She decided to take lead and chart a mission for Cleveland Elementary to have school garden program and partner with environmental education organizations.

In the last year and half she dived headfirst into discovering the District’s burgeoning school garden community and policies into a school’s access to healthy food. These discoveries were invigorating and propelled her to embark on building bridges with organizations like Department of Energy and Environment River Smart School program, DC Greens, Casey Foundation, OSSE School Garden and DC Public Schools. Now Cleveland Elementary is enlisted in DC Green’s School Garden Program, where 4th and 5th grade students alongside Judith sell organic fruits and vegetables at unbeatable prices to many return customers. The school was just awarded a grant to participate in the River Smart Program which has energized the school community! The future greening of Cleveland Elementary looks bright and it is because initiatives of parents like Judith who have a deep love and appreciation for nature and the willingness to encourage others to eliminate environmental degradation, because as we all know we do not have alternative planet or body so we need to take care of both. Here’s her ‘aha’ moment:

“This experience of working on bringing a school garden program to my daughter’s school has been such an enriching experience. Seeing the students watering the vegetable plants donated by OSSE and children with their parents playing in the dirt on summer day, brought me so much joy. The environmental activist Vandana Shiva said ‘Living democracy grows like a tree, from the bottom up.’  I believe democracy also has a direct relation to food, so at Cleveland Elementary we are planting the seeds of democracy and environmental action through empowering families to engage with the nature. I read once about a Japanese concept called “ikigai.” The fundamental tenet of ikigai is living and embracing human nature via holistic living and honoring this collective human-environmental-spiritual superorganism. I am truly happy I made the choice not to pursue a career in petroleum engineering as I know in my core it would not have been ikigai.. And as the late Wangari Maathi has rightfully said ‘We all share one planet and are one humanity; there is no escaping this reality’... so cultivating children to the environmental stewards is the way to the sustainable future.”

April Farm to School Partner Highlight

Priya Narang (1).jpg

Priya Narang is a FoodCorps AmeriCorps Service Member who is passionate about food, education, and community. She is currently serving her second year with FoodCorps at JO Wilson Elementary School in Northeast DC to connect kids to healthy food. Previously, she served at JO Wilson through Kid Power, a local non-profit that helps cultivate youth leadership. Before FoodCorps, Priya studied at the University of Maryland, College Park under their School of Public Health where she received a degree in Community Health. The public health program at UMD, along with the University Health Center gave Priya experience with facilitating workshops on different wellness topics and kindled her passion for education and health promotion. One of her favorite classes in the program was Health Behavior Change, which taught her the importance of how to work with communities to reach a common goal. Helping others through service or ‘seva’ has always been important to Priya since it is a core value of her Sikh faith, so she was thrilled to find an opportunity where she can be of service and give back in a meaningful way. When asked for her farm to school ‘aha’ moment, this was her response:

Although I’ve always had a strong interest in food and worked with kids before, Farm to School was a whole new world to me. My ‘aha’ moment came unexpectedly one afternoon when I saw how the garden became a safe space for a student. One day, I was walking past the main office on my way to the garden and heard screaming. There was a student who had been going through a particularly hard time outside of school and was dealing with a lot. She was having a bad headache and was waiting to be picked up. When I saw her in distress, I asked if she wanted to help me out in the garden, hoping it would be calming. The student looked up and saw a variety of seed packets in front of her and nodded her head. The next few minutes were spent looking through the packets to pick which seeds we wanted to plant together. Surprisingly, the student picked radishes, and was fascinated that they could be ready in as little as 28 days! As we walked outside and into the garden, there was already a noticeable difference in her- she was observant of the trees and plants around her, and more at ease. We picked a garden bed, spaced out rows for our seeds, and got to planting. The smile started to form on the student’s face when she had her hands in the soil and placed each of the seeds in their rows. It was astonishing to see this child go from screaming and in pain to smiling and relaxed, and all it took was going outside and ‘playing in the dirt’ like any kid should be able to do. That moment, it was clear that bringing the growing experience to students can help them feel empowered about knowing where their food comes from, but it can also be therapeutic for kids that have to grow up too early.


 May Farm to School Partner Highlight


On most milling Saturdays, Angela Kramer can be found at Peirce Barn in Rock Creek Park, running free family programs. She enjoys sharing her enthusiasm for history, gardening, crafts—and milling! Angela’s interest in milling began in Brooklyn, where she created public programs about the lost tide mills of the Gowanus. When Angela moved to Washington five years ago, she was delighted to learn there is a working grist mill right in Rock Creek Park.

Last year, she was named Education Director for Friends of Peirce Mill, and has been working closely with the National Park Service to deliver and develop school field trips and other public programs at Peirce Mill and Orchard.

Spending time at Peirce Mill, Angela has noticed how much small children enjoy watching the giant water wheel and wooden gears in action.  Her “aha” moment: realizing something that kids know instinctively. Old mills are great places to learn about the past, but because they rely on a renewable resource, they’re also places to imagine how food could be made in the future.

June Farm to School Partner Highlight

_dsc1692 (1).JPG

Rachel Harmston is the School Garden Coordinator at Lee Montessori PCS. This is her farm to school ‘aha’ momenImmediately upon moving to Washington DC, I was pained to discover how separated the worlds of farm and food seemed to be. Having grown up in a rural community, where nearly everyone harvested or gathered at least a portion of their annual food, being connected to what I consumed has always seemed second nature. As I took on the role of Garden Coordinator at Lee Montessori Public Charter School it occurred to me that many of my learners were experiencing the process of growing and harvesting for the first time. Further, many students thought the grocery store was where their food was actually made.

After noticing the alarming lack of connection, it has been one of my greatest missions to teach and explore the many angles of where our food comes from. From tasting to planting, the students at Lee absolutely adore their time exploring the garden and its gifts. Each week I design and incorporate interest driven lessons that allow students to lead their own spunky endeavors into the world of food, environment, and green living in general. Today, 200+ students from age 3-12 take part in tending to an ever-growing garden and caring for 3 egg-laying hens. With under two years of exploration, the connection they now have to their food is remarkable.

Stemming from this farm to school dilemma I have recently extended my mission to reach learners outside of the school, bringing interactive planting services to DMV homes, no matter the experience level or space available. If you're interested in learning how you can incorporate green life into your home, connect with me at mygreensDC@gmail.com. t:

July Farm to School Partner Highlight

Beth Hanna.jpg

Beth Hanna is a Program Specialist at the District of Columbia’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education. In this role, she works on school meals within the Food Distributions Program and through Farm to School. Beth loves finding ways to connect USDA Foods and DoD Fresh to the farm to school pillars of procuring local food, educational activities related to agriculture, food, health, or nutrition, and hands-on learning through school gardens. She also enjoys joining schools across the District in celebrating Growing Healthy Schools Month in October and the annual Strawberries & Salad Greens Day. As the Core Partner for the National Farm to School Network, Beth works closely with OSSE’s School Garden and Healthy Tots Specialists and Supporting Partners DC Greens, DC Bilingual Public Charter School, and FARMFRESH FoodPrints to convene District-based farm to school stakeholders from a variety of practice areas to create a DC farm to school network for resource sharing, professional development, and when lucky, really delicious local food.

Beth brings to her position over ten years of experience with school meals as a former teacher, Public Health Nutritionist, School Garden Outreach Coordinator, and Farm to School Director. Originally from Wisconsin, her favorite school meal is anything involving cheese. Here is her Farm to School ‘aha’ moment:

“When I came to join the farm to school efforts in DC, I knew the District was viewed as a national model of the powerful impacts that come from the intersection of local policy supportive of farm to school activities, high quality programming, and robust partnerships. My “aha” moment came in realizing that like all initiatives, there is always more work to be done. Farm to school is not an end point, but rather a continual work in progress. I cannot wait to see what DC farm to school looks like in the future as it continues to build on its strong foundation of policy, programming, and partnerships.” 

August Farm to School Partner Highlight

Coy McKinney.JPG

Coy McKinney obtained a history degree from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, in 2008, and a law degree from the University of the District of Columbia's, David A. Clarke School of Law in 2012. Since graduation, Coy has worked on urban farming initiatives in D.C., and currently helps coordinate a community garden in Southwest, D.C., and teaches Urban Farming at Friendship Technology Preparatory Academy. Here is his ‘aha’ moment:

I first got into urban agriculture while I was attending law school at UDC’s David A. Clarke School of Law. I was looking for some form of universal moral code that could bring people together and thought the legal system would be it… uhhh… nope. Instead, I discovered that food was something everyone needed regardless of socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, etc., and by getting involved with growing it, I could participate and contribute to discussions with a wide variety of people about the environment in which we live and try to shape it towards collective liberation. 

My spring internship with City Blossoms, where I worked with kids in urban gardens, provided the experience and deep gratification for how important it is to introduce the following generations of Washingtonians to the beauty, abundance, and importance of nature and growing your own food. Since then, every year has been more and more fulfilling as I watch students harvest strawberries, then make strawberry ice cream, overcome their fears and tend to our bee hives, write senior thesis papers on food justice, or encourage teachers to join our Community Supported Agriculture program or buy produce from our school garden market.

September Farm to School Partner Highlight

Allie Arnold.JPG

Allie Arnold has a range of food systems and community organizing experience, including managing a student-run one acre farm, coordinating a CSA-modeled non-profit bringing fresh produce to the UVA community, organizing against the fracked gas pipeline proposed to run through much of rural Virginia, and working with the Charlottesville farmers market managers to implement a research survey geared to gather data from customers to improve the market. She graduated from UVA with a degree in Environmental Thought and Practice and just finished a year serving with FoodCorps providing engaging garden and food-based lessons to the KIPP Webb campus and Center City Trinidad. Here’s her ‘aha’ moment: 

It's September and the Science teacher introduces me to a first grade class as someone who will be coming every Thursday to teach about the garden and food. All of the 28 students' eyes swivel to me. A couple students call out "who are you?," "can we go to the garden?," "what's growing out there?" My mind panics, racing to figure out who I should respond to first, if I should respond at all because they called out, and what plants are actually growing out there? I stumble through answering their questions, not really practicing great classroom management skills. 

After that class, I felt unsure and overwhelmed, not knowing if I would be able to convey knowledge and lead that many students in the classroom, much less in the outdoor garden space. And the first couple of months were tough. I was anxious before most of my lessons, hoping that I would give clear instructions, no one would cut themselves on a grater, and that I wouldn't forget the graters in the first place. As I observed other teachers in the schools and gave more lessons I became more comfortable instructing a group of kids, more adaptable when things didn't go the way I had planned, and more confident in the activities and content I shared with my students. 

By the end of the year in June, students would run up to me in the garden when their class was playing on the field and ask "can I harvest some tatsoi?" My heart has never felt so warm, knowing that these second graders know what an obscure asian green is, know how to harvest it, and want to eat it any chance they get. I'm so grateful I've had the opportunity to introduce children to growing food and excite in them a passion for trying new things.