One of the best part of my job at GCREC is hosting tour groups from local schools. We recently had the opportunity to entertain a group of 45 STEM students from a local school, R. Bruce Wagner, and we introduced them to something new called the Farm to Table Experience. After a wagon tour of the fields, the students were divided into six groups. We had several different hands-on stations available for them including a tomato DNA demonstration, butterfly pollination station and craft, owl pellets to dissect, entomology tables with microscopes, and we invited the Ruskin Tropical Fish REC to have a table as well. Groups of about 5-6 kids per group rotated throughout the auditorium visiting each station.
The new Farm to Table Experience was set up on the opposite side of the auditorium and was quite a fun project to put together. We had several areas featuring “produce” grown here at our center. Note the quotation marks here. We didn’t have real produce available, but instead we created all the fruits and vegetables so we can store them and use them for future groups. There was Florida sweet corn, Tasti-Lee tomatoes, strawberries, blueberries, Florida honey, daisies, and watermelon.
So here’s how it worked. The kids were given a harvest list. They went from crop to crop and harvested the items on the list. They were then instructed to sort the produce at our GCREC Farmers Market. Once they completed that task, they were treated to food items made from the produce they collected – mini blueberry muffins, Bit-O-Honey candy, watermelon fresh from our farm that morning, and salsa with corn chips. We then asked the students to go into a video photo booth and record a message regarding their experience. Hilarious to watch afterwards.
A list of local farmers markets was distributed so the students could venture out and become real locavores in the community. We were sure our Farm to Table Experience would be a big hit and being able to sample actual food made from produce grown here in Florida gave them some insight on what it means to support local growers. We’re looking forward to giving other students the chance to visit our Farm to Table Experience in the coming years.