Checking out the sheet at Peggy Rockefeller Farm. (Credit: Jennifer Crandall)Checking out the sheet at Peggy Rockefeller Farm. (Credit: Jennifer Crandall)

Sometimes the best things are right in your own backyard.

I took over the Family and Consumer Science position at Mount Desert Island High School in Bar Harbor, Maine a few years ago after spending 20 years teaching in alternative education. My principal is committed to improving the health and well-being of our high school community and asked me to grow the program. While many of our district’s elementary schools have greenhouses or school gardens, the growing season occurs mostly when school isn’t in session, so focusing an entire course on growing our own food seemed impractical. Instead, I decided to focus on accessing healthy food that can be grown or harvested right in our region.

The goal of the course is to give students a sense of what foods are locally available to them, who grows and harvests them, and what those foods taste like. The more locally sourced foods they consume, the more money stays in their community and the smaller their impact is on the environment. The class takes field trips to local farms, learns about their farming methods, and brings back samples of their products to cook in my teaching kitchen. We even plant some greens, radishes, and garlic in raised beds in the school courtyard.

Only 10% of the food consumed in Maine is grown or harvested here, so showing students what they have access to locally, and promoting those sources, is really important to me. Most of our food comes from 2,000 miles away and has a huge carbon footprint. It’s so important for my students to understand that they can get much of their food right here.

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