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Marin Organic's Farm Field Studies

Bed prep
UC Cooperative Extension is happy to collaborate with Marin Organic, and welcomes their insight into their Farm Field Studies Program:

Last October, Marin Organic hosted our last Farm Field Studies field trip of the season at Green Gulch Farm in Muir Beach. Sixty students from Acalanes High School in the East Bay visited the farm to connect their classroom biology and conservation curriculum to agriculture. 95% of these students had never visited a working farm before. During their field trip, students followed farmer-educator Chelsea Young from espaliered apple trees, to pollinator-friendly plantings, to row crops of baby lettuce. Each stop included a lesson in how farmers interact with nature in their efforts to grow food sustainably, with the end goal to empower students to make healthy choices and become actively involved in our food system.

Farm Field Studies is an experiential learning program launched in 2000 by the Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT) and merged with Marin Organic Farm Days in 2012, creating an even stronger program that capitalizes on the best qualities of both. Marin Organic manages Farm Field Studies at nine local farms, ranches and dairies, and MALT remains an important partner through their sponsorship of the program.

Digging in
Historically, we have hosted K-12 students whose teachers want to give children access to hands-on knowledge of where food comes from while connecting it to a broader classroom curriculum. Teachers report that they refer back to their farm field trip throughout the year as they make connections to lessons ranging from economics, poetry, science and California history. In addition to increased outreach to underserved schools, we are also connecting with diverse community groups engaged in improving the health of their constituents through nutrition and outdoor education. A day on a farm provides powerful inspiration to eat fresh vegetables, especially for groups that participate in gleaning, or harvesting leftover crops that they can take back to their communities.

Farm Field Studies offers a wide variety of farm locations and curriculum that reflects the diversity of food production in Marin County. At Paradise Valley and Star Route farms in Bolinas, students have the opportunity to learn about the salmon lifecycle while exploring the creek that flows through these farms. At Gospel Flat Farm also in Bolinas, students learn about the nutrient cycle between chickens and the farm’s vegetables and about economics at the farm stand where the farm sells its produce to the public. At Bivalve and Tresch Dairies students learn about milking and how cows interact with the natural environment.

Farm Field Studies offers important opportunities to bring classroom
Checking out rows
curriculum to life and can provide an opportunity for meaningful community service. For example, the students from Acalanes High School who visited Green Gulch Farm in October completed their day by gleaning potatoes. Farmer Qayyum Johnson taught students how to dig for potatoes. Students plunged their hands into the soil, sorting green potatoes from white potatoes, and discarding any with gopher bites. Working in teams, they harvested potatoes that had been left behind after the initial harvest, sorting and boxing them for the Marin Food Bank. When the students left the farm at the end of the day, they knew that they had contributed to alleviating hunger for people in our local community.

Inspecting a tree
We see our Farm Field Studies program as one piece in a countywide effort to improve the health of individuals and the environment. As we prepare for the next season of Farm Field Studies, we are busy meeting with farmers and ranchers to design new lessons, planning new classroom visits to take place prior to each farm visit,  and talking with nutrition education groups that can each add new components to the program. This may even include farm visits for young chefs and the opportunity to cook on a farm using farm fresh produce!

If you would like to learn about opportunities to volunteer with Marin Organic's Farm Field Studies, please contact Liana Orlandi at liana@marinorganic.org or visit www.marinorganic.org.

By Liana Orlandi, Marin Organic