FARM TO FORK
Empowering youth to do real work, and gain life skills to become valuable partners in the local food system
The Farm to Fork Program is an innovative agricultural and entrepreneurship program for high school students. The Cornucopia Projects hires and trains Farm to Fork Fellows to develop and manage a small year round agricultural operation and associated business plan. In the summer of 2016, four young women constructed a 30’x96′ hoop house, planned and planted a growing zone of 6,000 square feet, and set up a small business to sell local produce to community vendors. The fellows continue to cultivate organic produce through the winter and spring, and have a growth plan to expand their business into a niche market that promotes healthy eating and engages local producers
How does it work?
- Starting with a 10-week summer intensive session where the students work 5 days a week 4-5 hours a day.
- During the school year, fellows continue to work after school 2 days a week to maintain the vegetable production, but to also work on planning, business and development.
- The Farm to Fork requires a three-year commitment from students beginning in their sophomore year, with incremental increases in responsibility and compensation. Each year a new class of sophomores joins the program and are mentored by the previous fellows. This approach puts the program entirely into student leadership, and grows our next generation of farmers and young community leaders.
- Additionally, the Farm to Fork highlights an exciting shift in the public school system that is increasingly prioritizing community partnerships and student-centered learning. This past year, the high school launched a new sustainable agriculture program. hoop house is directly across the street from the high school, providing students direct access to this hands-on outdoor classroom and agricultural learning lab.
- Students develop a business plan to market the vegetables and over time, use the produce to develop high quality value added products for sale in the community.
The aim of the Farm to Fork Fellowship are two-fold— to ignite students’ passion for healthy and sustainable living, and to give them life-skills and tangible economic training. We want to create a community of land stewards, to carry Cornucopia’s mission into the future. But we want to do more than that: we want to pioneer a program that empowers burgeoning leaders to integrate sustainable farming and gardening practices into their lives and the lives of others in the community.
Through the seasons- “A day in the life”
In the Summer
Over the summer, we meet with Hannah, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 8 in the morning to 12 noon. The morning usually starts out with a discussion of the day, including prioritizing our tasks. Our work consisted of building the hoop-house, planting/harvesting/tending to the plants, squishing bugs, organizing workspace, visiting other farms, etc. Since this is the season in which we have the most time and outside freedom, we have a wide range of options to choose from.
In the Autumn
During the fall, our hours lessen as school kicks up and the sun sets sooner. Generally we work Monday, Wednesday, and/or Friday from 2:30 in the afternoon to 4:15 pm. These hours work perfectly in correspondence to the high school and transportation schedule. When at the hoop-house, we mainly focus on harvesting the last of our crops, and pulling things up as they finish. Another big project was finishing the hoop-house plastic covering and overall production. Mainly, the fall consisted of preparing for New Hampshire’s tough winters!
In the Winter
In the winter, fellows usually work two days a week instead of three. Due to snow, many days are spent at the office doing analysis, planning, and decision making for the future. The winter has been a good time to focus on marketing strategy and different potential products to sell. When the weather is less harsh, fellows are in the greenhouse harvesting and protecting the crops from the cold. Though the winter isn’t ideal planting time, it has proven to be ideal planning time.
In the Spring
A busy and exciting time, this season we will be working two to three days a week after school to be starting seedling, putting plants in the ground, amending the soil to maximize nutrient health, and finishing up the last of our planning. By summer, our fields will be in full swing and bursting with food!
Since June, 2016, I have been a fellow for the Farm-to-Fork program, and along with the produce, I have grown tremendously. During my time at the farm, the other fellows and I have met several amazing people who have been eager to inform us on the importance of sustainable agriculture. As more food-chains pop up, we feel very positive about the work we have done to incorporate local grown wholesome food into the diets of our community, and the spark of awareness we have risen up. One of the best feelings is watching the dirt covered seeds grow into green, orange, red, yellow, purple surprises. For one of the only times in my dietary life, I take pride in the phrase “you are what you eat”! Not only have I found joy in the growth of the vegetables, but the growth of our plot, the business, and the people involved. Cornucopia is a family that is growing together, and I couldn’t be happier to be a part of. – Daisy Young, Age 16, FTF 16′
From a young age I was fortunate enough to be a part of the Cornucopia project and have exposure to the wonders of local agriculture. Having access to this changed my view on food for the rest of my life. Working for Farm to Fork has helped me to continue this passion for local, organic foods into my job. Being a fellow encompasses many different experiences. There’s the experience of building something amazing- like a hoop house- that gives you a sense of accomplishment. There’s also the education portion, which comes throughout the process as you begin to understand and research more. Another aspect is that of community. Being part of the Cornucopia Project introduced me to so many amazing local people who are just as enthusiastic about the local food revolution as I am. From this sense of community also comes a sense of reward from knowing that I’m doing something important to my fellow community members and helping to create change. – Kelley Akerley , Age 16, FTF 16′
Check out the latest updates from the FTF crew at the Farm to fork blog
We offer year-round produce to the community. Here is a look at some what you can expect to come out of our fields and hoop house. We are excited of offer the residents of Summerhill Assisted Living local food, and YOU can purchase Farm to Fork Produce at Maggie’s and Roy’s market’s in downtown Peterborough.
Winter: Spinach, salad greens, stir fry mix, and winter carrots
Spring: Kale, Mizuna, Claytonia, Spinach, salad greens, spring onions
Summer: Tomatos, Eggplant, Peppers, celery, basil, potatoes, carrots, salad greens, spinach, kale
Fall: onions, winter squash, potatoes, dried corn and beans, kale, spinach
Farm to Fork, Farmers and Chefs Go High Tech
With Innovative Tomato Project
Is it possible to tell how a tomato tastes before buying it? That’s the question to be answered over the next eight months during an innovative research project being launched in our area engaging local students, growers, chefs, distributors, retailers and consumers all along the food chain.
Thanks to some visionary local sponsors and internationally known technology partners, Cornucopia Project’s Farm to Fork program has launched the “tomato project” at ConVal High School. This ground-breaking research project uses cutting-edge technology to measure what’s in our food and how all of that ultimately correlates to taste.
Led by Cornucopia’s Hannah Bissex, Farm to Fork Fellows have partnered with ConVal’s sustainable agriculture class, Co-Creation Ventures, and local community partners along the food chain in using field monitoring equipment, produce and distribution sensors, and block-chain technology to create a radical transparency in our food. These technologies are being donated and supported by Analog Devices from Boston, MA and ripe-io from San Francisco, CA. By means of cutting-edge technology and research-based analysis, students have the ability to follow local tomatoes across their entire life cycle and show how their value compares to imported tomatoes.
Cornucopia’s Executive Director, Karen Hatcher commented, “Cornucopia is excited to be coordinating this innovative project. We are fortunate to live in a community that understands the importance of and invests in growing our local food system. We’re extremely grateful to James Kelly for providing the initial funding for this project, and to all of our local partners: ConVal High School, Farmer John’s Plot, Roy’s Market, Monadnock Menus, and Aylmer Given at Summerhill Assisted Living, for their participation.”
At the launch, ConVal’s sustainable agriculture students received an introduction on the analysis they would be conducting over the next nine weeks. They learned how to calibrate and measure Ph, sugar, and salt content using traditional refractometers, as well as new infrared sensors made by Analog Devices to nondestructively measure these metrics. The following week, students started collecting data in earnest on cherry and vine tomatoes from local markets. A small but mighty force tested 40 tomatoes in just over an hour. Tasting the tomatoes was the best part as students tried to quantify various aspects of flavor. The goal of this collection was to define a scientific process to connect flavor and ripeness with measureable quantities in the tomatoes. As the local tomatoes begin to arrive in the region, these too will be measured and compared with industrialized tomatoes by Cornucopia’s Farm to Fork student team.
Students will also be looking at the data collected with environmental sensors located at the Cornucopia hoop house located across from ConVal High School and Farmer John’s plot located at Nubanusit Neighborhood & Farm. These sensors will follow tomatoes from seed to fork measuring air and soil temperature, humidity and light to closely monitor the growing conditions of local tomatoes. Jason Woodworth, from Farmer John’s Plot said “(we are) excited to see how we can better implement technology to help the farmer improve systems as well as educate the public about the importance of buying local, fresh, healthy veggies.”
Additionally, ripe-io’s blockchain technology will connect all data together as well as associate the players along the food chain to better connect our food system. This community based initiative can energize the local ag-food ecosystem through the help of technology and empower consumers to purchase healthier and tastier tomatoes. Look out for more information coming your way as these young scientists aggregate their data into action.