Introducing Locally Grown Produce to Childcare Centers during Winter While Promoting Sustainable Nutrition through Education and Marketing
The first year of our project was fun as well as a learning experience. The children came out to the greenhouse, planted pea seeds and tomato transplants to take home throughout the year. I also visited the children numerous times at the childcare center, bringing them vegetables to taste, discuss and learn about. Overall, the children did learn some important facts about what it takes for a plant to grow and survive. They also learned to try different types of vegetables that they are not exposed to on a regular basis and ended up liking them. We also got a chance to hear from some of the children’s parents what a positive impact the greenhouse experience has been for them.
We are extremely excited about our objectives and work plan for next year. We hope to continue working with the center already involved. It is our goal to routinely sell the center produce for the children to eat. However, as stated in our project we are going to involve a second childcare program for the second year. This will be the Fredericktown, MO R-1 Preschool. School officials have already been talking with us about bringing the students to our greenhouse and we have assisted them with tilling a garden plot at the preschool for their own garden this summer. We also started seeds with one of the classrooms which has 20 children. We feel that the Preschool is more able to assist us with the classroom education and, hopefully, be a routine purchaser of our produce. We plan to have at least two to three field trip visits to our greenhouse and our high tunnel. Plus, classroom visits will be made to discuss the types of vegetables and how they grow and why they are good for us.
We began our grant project by deciding what types of vegetables to grow for the project. Some vegetables, such as tomatoes, lettuce, and carrots, had already been planted prior to being awarded the grant. More seeds were purchased, such as lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, peas, and a few varieties of herbs like basil. Most of these items were planted between April and May of 2012. In early July, a site visit was made to the childcare center to discuss with the children all about vegetables, how they grow, and the types of food made from vegetables. A coloring activity was also done with the children. This activity was a schematic of a vegetable plant showing the various names of the parts of a plant. Actual vegetable plants were brought into the childcare center and children were asked to identify each type. It was very clear the children were not sure what the plants were and they needed help identifying the various foods that are made from vegetables. The children were able to taste each type of vegetable brought to the childcare center.
The first field trip for the childcare center to our greenhouse took place in late July. Seven children were involved with this visit (pictures attached). The children were allowed to walk around inside the greenhouse and we asked them to identify the different plants. Again, we needed to help them with this identification. A carrot plant and tomato plant were removed from the soil so the children could see all the various parts that make up a plant including the root system. Each part was described in detail. We also showed them how we watered the plants and how important water and nutrients were for the plants to survive. We taught the children what a plant needs to be able to survive and grow. Once we discussed how the greenhouse works and how a plant survives, the children were allowed to plant their own seeds. Each child was given a six-pack container, which they filled with a seed starting soil mix. Next,the children were given pea seeds to plant in the container. Once this was done, the seeds were lightly watered and the child’s name was placed onto their container. We kept the containers in the greenhouse to be transplanted when ready. After this was done, the children toured the outside garden area and were given a snack before leaving. Three more visits were made to the childcare center.
During these visits pictures were brought in to show the children how their pea plants had grown. Samples of lettuce, grape tomatoes, peas, and green onions were brought in for the children to eat. Pictures of the children at the greenhouse were given in a poster frame to hang up in their classroom so that their parents were able to see what took place at the greenhouse. Then, a final visit was made to the greenhouse in April 2013. During this visit the children were allowed to tour the greenhouse again and we asked several questions to see if the children were better able to identify the plants. There seemed to be an improvement with identification. The children were also able to harvest leaf lettuce. Once this was completed, each child was given a container to fill with soil. Then they took small tomato starts and transplanted them into the larger containers. Each child took their plant with them to grow at home. The third and final visit to the childcare center will be made in May 2013 to deliver coloring books that have a plant life cycle, and nutrition as the main theme. This will be the wrap up for year one.
One of the other accomplishments is that this project year, I was able to present our project at the Women in Agriculture Conference in Greenville, Missouri. This conference was sponsored by USDA Farm Service Agency. Sixty people attended the conference. A power point presentation was given concerning Farmer’s Markets and our personal experience with this grant project. Several pictures depicting our greenhouse operation were shown. It is our plan to have a demonstration field trip in the fall of 2013. We decided on this time because we are more confident in our growing techniques and feel we can provide a better experience for those attending, plus there is an abundance of produce at this time.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Only two site visits to our greenhouse were done the first year and we were not successful with marketing the vegetables to this particular childcare center. The main reason this occurred was due to the center being sold to new owners right before beginning our project. Although the new owners allowed us to continue with our project, they were not able to contribute as much as we would have hoped. The center did not have enough employees to run the center and bring the children out to the greenhouse during the winter months. However, we appreciated their cooperation and still feel we made a positive impact on these children. We saw an increase in their identification of plants, their excitement in planting and transplanting, and the many positive comments received from the children’s parents that we spoke with. We also learned the difficulties of growing vegetables over the winter months and the amount of time involved with even a small operation. Another important lesson is the importance of automated ventilation. We hope to purchase a thermostatically controlled ventilation system for a second year. In fall and winter months, when the sun is shining, even if it is 20-30 degrees F outside, the temperature can quickly reach 90-100 degrees F inside the greenhouse.
Kountry Kidds Childcare
400 Graham Street
Fredericktown, MO 63645
Office Phone: 5737830055
Rhodes Mountain Greenhouse
1600 Madison 527
Fredericktown, MO 63645
Office Phone: 5737833912