The Agrarian Adventure
Ann Arbor, MI
Since 2004 the Agrarian Adventure has brought together teachers, community members, and parents to serve the students at Tappan Middle School in Ann Arbor Michigan. We know that the sustainability of garden programming depends on a rich and diverse volunteer base. Moreover we know from experience that families become engaged and volunteer as a result of the awareness, excitement, and involvement of incoming sixth grade students. It is key for us to build relationships with the students and their parents-an activity that takes time.
The greenhouse at Tappan Middle School in Ann Arbor, Michigan is a foundational resource for district-wide education programming and a unique school resource in all of Washtenaw County. With the greenhouse (which was constructed and maintained with funds from the Ann Arbor Women's Farm and Garden Association) we have been able to provide experiential education in sustainable food, agriculture (for example samples for farmer in the classroom visits) and health. With our partner, Chartwells, we were actually able to provide school garden-grown salad greens to middle school cafeterias across the district in Spring 2011, and continue to do so to Tappan students on Field Day each year.
The flagship activity at Tappan is afterschool cooking and gardening youth enrichment, the Food and Garden Club. Over the years the club has nurtured awareness of food culture and connected hundreds of students to the sources of their food. In most recent years the club meets second semester only, beginning in January with the development of a crop plan and enjoying last season’s kale cooked with garden-grown garlic, among other dishes. See our Spring 2013 video below
Some key community impacts of the club are growing and distributing seedlings for school gardens in the district, as well as the student-run seedling sale, a club fundraiser. As part of a plant biology unit seventh grade students (with parent volunteer support) come to the greenhouse in early spring to start seeds which include varieties requested by participating school gardens. After the seedlings sprout in classroom windows, students return the seedlings to the greenhouse. The Food and Garden Club nurtures the seedlings, and in May they hold a seedling sale for the community and help coordinate the distribution of seedlings to Ann Arbor Public School (AAPS) gardens (375 seedlings to 6 schools in 2013).
In the last two years the number of AAPS school gardens has almost doubled, and thus the demand for seedlings and schoolyard garden consultation has also increased. To meet these needs, a vibrant Food and Garden Club is now needed more than ever. We want to “go deeper” with consistent outreach to more students, to raise food awareness, conduct early season greenhouse cultivation, and impart hands-on agricultural skills such as seedling distribution, sales and marketing.