Much of the holiday season revolves around the table, with family and friends enjoying good food. Finding out where that good food comes from was part of the journey the Upper Elementary students took just days before Thanksgiving.
The students traveled to Down to Earth Farm in Jacksonville to see what the small family farm produces and to get their hands dirty.
Brian Lapinski owns the 5-acre farm with his family, and they sell their produce and flowers at farmers markets, such as the Riverside Arts Market and the Beaches Green Market. With the hot Florida summer finally over, many farms are starting to increase their production. Radishes, kale, kohlrabi and strawberries were just a few of the plants Mr. Brian showed to the students on a tour of the farm.
While walking through the rows of vegetables, fruits and flowers, they talked about such things as genetically modified produce and seeds, and organic farming.
Mr. Brian said they had planted Larraweed to attract the Larra wasp, which helps him to get rid of a pest – the mole cricket, which disrupts plant roots. The wasp lays its egg on the mole cricket, and the larva feeds on the mole cricket, killing it. This type of biological control allows him to grow healthier plants without the use of chemicals to control the mole crickets. He also spoke about crop rotation and the use of natural products, such as neem oil, to help control pests and fungus.
After the tour, the students and chaperones got to work. Newspapers were dipped in a bucket of water so they wouldn’t blow away, and then they were placed around blueberry trees to act as weed mats. The students then covered the newspapers with leaf mulch.
The highlight of any farm visit, however, is the interaction the students have with the animals. Down to Earth Farm has chickens, several turkeys and two pigs. The students enjoyed feeding the pigs the weeds pulled from around the blueberry bushes and feeding the chickens some leaves from the garden.
Connecting children – and adults – with where their food comes from is an important step toward their understanding of how important our farmers are and how important caring for our community and our planet are to us all.