This year Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Farm to School Educator will be giving monthly updates on Farm to School programming in the region tied to the Harvest of the Month. Each month we’ll highlight the local food and farms’ involvement within the cafeteria and the classroom.

For December, we wanted to feature a new product to the Harvest of the Month program with a fun hands-on activity for the students. Whole Grains are an important part of school lunch programs, and students eat products made with whole grains every day, but they might not know that they can be grown locally. Field corn and wheat berries are the two most common whole grain products grown in this region, so we featured those two in the cafeteria and the classroom!

In the classroom this month students learned about the differences between whole and refined grains, the different parts of the grain, and how to identify whole grains in the grocery stores. The students then got to participate in a hands-on activity of grinding wheat berries into flour using a grain mill. In Willsboro we were lucky to be joined by local farmer and baker, Dan Rivera of Triple Green Jade Farm. Dan explained how he uses whole grains in his breads and crackers, and taught the students how to adjust the grain mill to yield different textures of flour. Finally, students got to taste crackers and flatbreads made with locally produced whole grain flour!

In the cafeteria we taste tested the field corn that was ground into cornmeal and cooked into cornbread, and the wheat berries cooked into a wheat berry salad featuring a number of other locally grown vegetables!  The students that tasted the cornbread learned about the differences between field corn and sweet corn, and that a lot of the corn growing in fields in their towns can be ground and used to make one of their favorite lunch items. The students that tasted the wheat berry salad were all very pleasantly surprised by how much they enjoyed it as the majority of them had never heard of, or tasted wheat berries.

Results from the Boquet Valley Mountain View Campus tasting. 57% of students that tasted the salad liked it

Each month we’ll be recapping the great work being done in our local schools, so check back in! Next up…Sweet Potatoes.  For more information, visit http://essex.cce.cornell.edu/agriculture/farm-to-school

Written by: Meghan Brooks