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.

Winter in Northern New York means lots of storage crops, so we highlighted sweet potatoes in January since fresh items can be hard to find. Many people think that sweet potatoes are a type of potato, but in fact sweet potatoes are a part of the morning glory family. Sweet potatoes aren’t grown from a seed or a cutting, but rather a slip. These slips are the sprouts that sweet potatoes produce when they are trying to reproduce and grow new plants. The sweet potatoes grow on vines under the ground, and most farms use large harvesters to dig them up when they’ve grown large enough.

In the classroom this month we learned about how sweet potatoes grow, how they are harvest, and all the different varieties that exist. We then attempted to grow vines out of locally grown sweet potatoes that had begun to sprout. For the remainder of the month students are watching and observing the vines grow. If done right, these vines can be cut and planted into the ground to grow more sweet potato plants. We’re excited to see if we’ll have success growing these vines!

In the cafeteria we taste tested sweet potatoes and beets, which are the Harvest of the Month for February. Most schools chose to combine them because the already short month is shortened even more by the winter break. When combined, most students preferred the sweet, starchy root vegetables to their earthier counterpart.

Results from the Boquet Valley Lake View Campus tasting; some students had strong opinions about the beets!

Each month, we’ll be recapping the great work being done in our local schools, so check back in! Next up…Beets.

For more information, visit http://essex.cce.cornell.edu/agriculture/farm-to-school

Written by: Meghan Brooks