At the heart of the new Edgartown Farmers’ Market is the booth run by the Edgartown School’s PTO. And at the heart of that booth are students at the school.
As part of the Island Grown Schools (IGS) program, Edgartown School established a garden behind the school in the fall of 2008. That winter, at a meeting with the PTO, Principal John Stevens suggested creating a farmers’ market. And why not? A market would be a logical extension of the IGS mission, “…to connect children on Martha’s Vineyard with the local food system.” Or, as Melinda DeFeo of Island Grown Schools put it, “We teach the kids about food, agriculture, planting, harvesting, and the history of crops.”
IGS also integrates gardening into the classroom. “We use the garden as an experiential tool to bring real world life to the mandated curriculum,” Ms. DeFeo said. For instance, after sixth-graders planted potatoes this spring, they studied the potato famine in Ireland, which became an access point to European history in general. And when they harvest the potatoes, they will study the ratio between the seed potatoes and the harvest.
The evolution to a farmers’ market seemed like a natural one. “The garden was geared to the school year, but with the summer market, we can now grow crops for summer,” said Lucia Hayman, chairman of the PTO and the main mover behind the new farmers’ market. “We started it last summer, and it’s grown steadily.”
Last Friday, Ms. Hayman had the help of four students. When they ran out of potatoes, or kale, or basil at the booth, the kids would go right out to the garden and pick some more. Talk about fresh!
Aside from the educational and nutrtitional benefits of growing vegetables at school, the kids are discovering that gardening is fun.
Fourth-grader Kazara Aldeborgh beamed when she described the most fun part of gardening. “Getting really big potatoes,” she said, as if it were obvious.
Classmate Addy Hayman had a different take. “Getting our hands dirty,” she said, “except for the dirt in your nails.”