October 2013 Health Beat

Karen’s Kolumn is written by Karen Dolley, R.N. and Grange Friend… we appreciate her knowledge and her willingness to share! This month’s column is written by Walter Boomsma as Karen is very busy with her work!

October is Farm to School Month!

FTS LogoFarm to school is broadly defined as any program that connects schools (K-12) and local farms with the objectives of serving healthy meals in school cafeterias, improving student nutrition, providing agriculture, health and nutrition education opportunities, and supporting local and regional farmers. Farm to school programs exist in all 50 states, but since farm to school is a grassroots movement, programs are as diverse as the communities that build them. In fact, the collaboration “GrowME” might qualify as we attempt to create agricultural literacy with classroom activities.

I’m willing to bet it’s not a coincidence that this is the month when many families make trips to pumpkin patches and apple orchards. Fall is a great time to think about the role farming plays in our health and in our communities. In the broadest sense, the harvest season starts with county fairs and may not end until spring when we open the last jar of veggies canned from our garden.

Chances are there are some activities taking place in your child’s school that fall under the “farm to school” heading. But it’s also a good time of year to consider the concept of “farm to family.” An outing to select pumpkins for the traditional jack-o-lanterns can be a healthy family event because it includes fresh air, sunshine, and an opportunity for the family to simply “be together.” These opportunities become increasingly important as the societal trends pull us in different directions or have us sitting silently together while we stare at our cell phones and tablets.

Visit a farm market–not only for the fresh produce but also for a chance to talk with the people who have grown what you’re purchasing. Most of these folks are happy to share information–some are very entertaining–and you’ll often get recipes and suggestions for preparation.

Most dictionaries define harvesting as the gathering of crops and, with a little creative thinking, we can find much to harvest. When we rake the leaves in our yards, we might be harvesting–as long as we are putting those leaves to some good use–perhaps as compost. (Personally I think a big pile for jumping in would qualify.) Rainwater collection systems allow us to “harvest” rainwater–not something we’d traditionally think of as a crop, certainly.

What can you harvest this fall to improve yours and your family’s health? Henry David Thoreau found much to harvest. ““The true harvest of my life is intangible – a little star dust caught, a portion of the rainbow I have clutched.

Some resources:

University of Maine Cooperative Extension

National Farm to School Month Information

National Farm to School Network

Eat Maine Foods Coalition

Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association