|Ally is a fellow dietitian and basically my Farm-to-School hero.|
At 6:30am, before even the sun shows its face to Fayetteville, I park out behind Owl Creek School. Ally, a previous FoodCorps member, now a consultant for Fayetteville’s Farm-to-School program pulls up right after me and we enter into the school’s kitchen. A pleasant cafeteria staff welcomes us as they work diligently to get a warm breakfast prepared for the students. As we set up our graciously appointed corner of the kitchen we find sharp knives and clean cutting boards for our work processing fresh local peppers that we plan to vacuum seal and freeze for “Educational Lunch” events we will put on in November for middle schools in Fayetteville. We slice green pepper strips for an hour before I notice it is time to head to my next event for the day.
|Luke and Dana sorting the research.|
Although I feel bad leaving Ally to cut peppers alone, I welcome the break and the chance to tour the University of Arkansas (U of A) Research Farm. Once there, I meet up with my co-service member Sean and my supervisor Dana, the sustainability coordinator for Fayetteville Public Schools. Luke, a Program Technician for the berry research going on with the U of A Farm, joins us as well. Luke shows us the raspberries and blackberries that we are to help pick as part of the high tunnel research.
|Students love the raspberries; some tried them for the first time!|
While picking we record the time as well as yield for each variety. Once the field trials are finished, U of A will compare these numbers between berries grown under a high tunnel and those grown in open farmland right next to the tunnel. Luke says I can eat the berries growing in between the research rows so I taste test as I go. They had a few different varieties of berries growing which was a treat, because I’m used to “fresh or frozen” not “Nantahala or Autumn Bliss.” Two hours later we finish up our farm tour/volunteer session and Luke informs me that I can use the raspberries for my 4th and 5th grade garden club at Asbell Elementary. We planned to plant berry bushes this week, making this berry snack a perfect addition!
|Planting 4 blueberry bushes at Asbell.|
As I drive back toward Owl Creek, one of the other farm researchers stops me and offers me a huge brown bag full of apples for free! With apples in my tote, I park and chop pepper with Ally for two more hours. We lay the slices on sheet pans to avoid clumping and place them in the walk-in freezer to fully freeze before we vacuum seal them tomorrow. The rest of the service day includes planning for garden club tomorrow and making sure the guest “fruit-growing expert” Guy Ames from our state host site, the National Center for Appropriate Technology knows all of the details before tomorrow’s meeting.
|Kelsie bring berries, smiles, and nutritional |
super powers to the kids of Asbell.
I end my day with sore wrists and berry stained hands, going around to my apartment “neighbors” handing out grocery bags of apples (a great way to make friends in my new Fayetteville home!). A month and a half in, and I am so thankful for my FoodCorps position. I love the balance between planning and hands-on service, and I relish the days like this one where I can use my quick knife skills and feed my passion for agriculture.
|High tunnel raspberries and blackberries at the U of A.|
by Kelsie Shearrer