It started in South Los Angeles at Manual Arts High School yesterday when we got to take some precious class time to meet the kids who will be coming to McGrath Family Farms this year. As well, we began to cull out a smaller group of students who will work as our Youth Leaders.
Twice during the day, Megan dragged into the classroom, her ridiculously goofy giant hand drawn mural depicting the food system changes in our country - the transition from whole foods to processed foods. The students were suspiciously kind, not making fun (at all?) of her stick chickens and cows.
These 10th graders were excited about the prospect of heading to a farm AND they agreed to come wearing ugly shoes and toting their own fork and spoon for lunch. These kids are savvy. When asked to tell a story from the stick chicken mural, the students threw out lots of terms they'd been exposed to - factory farms, hormones, organic, healthy. Those word were all on their radar screens yet they had a lot of questions about what those things meant. We'll work on figuring that out this year.
The depth of the conversations that unfolded, in the classroom and during lunchtime and after school meetings with potential Youth Leaders, was unbelievable. One student had built a cottage industry pomegranite business before she moved to South LA. A flurry of ideas for other food businesses ensued. Several students bragged they are the primary cooks in their families. One student felt compelled to tell us that he has been eating pretty much JUST cereal all his life; he's nervous because several people in his family have diabetes. He's coming back next month for a private lesson on making even the most seemingly hideous vegetables palatable.
Today, when the bus pulled up to McGrath Family Farms and the kids poured out, we were uncertain how they would react to the scene. Ducks waddling about, the hot sun blaring down, farm workers washing giant bins of greens and piling pumpkins for the roadside stand sales. The kids didn't skip a beat. They easily took up tasks moving pumpkins, picking red, purple and green tomatoes and multi-colored beans. Four students collaborated to cook an incredible lunch - a giant pot of chili and gorgeous salad of beets, greens, carrots - all from the farm.
At the end of the day, Katy shared with us what she'd overheard one student say as he sat with his plate of food, watching his friend pick up a baby bunny, "This is GREAT." Simple as that. This was their school day. And it was great. For the students, the teachers, the farm staff, and for us. Thanks to all of you, for helping us get this off the ground.
We'll end with a wonderful string of thoughts and impressions Judy McGrath, (Farmer Phil's sister) wrote to us after our visit today. She's in one of the pictures, with a bunny and Phil.
"Thoughts about today's farm tour... Incredible enthusiasm and motivation. Lots of willingness to return to the farm. I witnessed gentleness in handling a baby bunny, encouragement from peers to LISTEN to their peer group speaker. Nutrition and diabetes were discussed among a group of students, as were store bought healthy foods, and "hard work" in relation to a student telling me she had picked beans. Students asked if there was a compost area and were courteous with clean up. The overall feeling was positive vibration with everyone." - J McGrath.