2nd Annual Connecting Local Farms and Schools Conference – Summary

On Friday, January 27th, Real Food Colorado and a number of co-sponsors held the 2nd Annual Connecting Farms and Schools Conference in Brighton. Local members Judith Rice-Jones, Gail Johnson, and Craig Johnson attended. In addition, there was a significant presence from local school districts (D11 and D49). It is expected that more detailed info, including videos of the sessions should be posted in about a month. D11 has a page dedicated to resources for Farm to School.

Key takeaways:

Regional Hubs in Greeley and Colorado Springs continue to make progress.

School gardens and local purchasing continue to progress. Denver Public Schools (DPS) purchased ~1.8M of local food last year. Denver now has 42 school gardens up and running. A great resource is their School Garden to Cafeteria Protocol put together with Slow Food Denver. They are also in the early stages of planning for more extensive food production on the ~50 acres of land that DPS controls that appear to be suited for ag production.

A couple of really great stories. First, the Denver Zoo is using locally sourced food to feed animals. Second, the Montrose Memorial Hospital is using locally sourced food in a big way, as evidenced by the Lobby Grill section of the 2011 annual report.

Lots of good resources for all: Colorado Market Maker, Colorado Farm to School, Colorado Farm to School Task Force, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.


Lowe’s Donates Money for Spanish Courtyard Classroom

The vision for a wonderful outdoor learning classroom was inspired by Sydney Nelson of Mrs. Palatinus 5th grade class. It is to be built in an unused asphalt courtyard that is between our Spanish room, media center and 5th and 2nd grade classroom wing.  The district is encouraging schools to create sustainable outdoor learning spaces.  These spaces will support environmental education, reading, ecology, biology, horticulture and natural science. They will directly support vertical articulation of the Colorado k-5 science standards as the teachers reinforce student understanding of 21st century learning.

Teachers will incorporate the space into their curriculum and there will be many opportunities to make improvements over the years.  We envision this project to be just the beginning phase of a decade long commitment to this outdoor classroom.  The activities and projects that can be developed using the learning garden are too numerous for an exhaustive list, however our ideas initially include: Creating permanent mosaic student art, observing bushes and the flowers cycle throughout the seasons, studying migratory song birds and butterflies; and a project to plant and monitor the growth of tulips from seed to blooms in the spring.

We’re looking forward to starting the project in March 2012 and will post pictures as the project progresses.