If you were one of the lucky fourth graders who had a field trip this spring via the "Kids Cook" program, you would have had your first hands-on economics lesson out in a field with a farmer--and you probably got to prepare and eat a fresh strawberry snack.
As part of the second year of the "Kids Cook" program, developed and sponsored by the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission, students learned the basics about producers, consumers and product distribution during recent field trips to local farms.
"The Kids Cook program was designed to bring students directly into contact with farmers to learn about the importance of Southern Marylands rich agricultural history in our economy," said Christine Bergmark, director of the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission, which is part of the non-profit Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland.
"Educating young people and adults about the importance of buying locally grown and produced products is what we are all about. The Kids Cook program and our marketing campaign called So. Maryland, So Good are just two ways that we support local farming and other producers in Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, Prince Georges and St. Marys counties, said Bergmark.
While at Serenity Farm in Benedict and Hydromont Berry Farm in La Plata the children learned a bit about agriculture, ecology, history and the economics of farming, all of which fit well into Maryland's fourth grade curriculum. Once they are back in the classroom, many of the students will have writing-related activities about things learned on their trip.
Students in Jackie Barrow's fourth grade Matula Elementary School class "will write in their journals about the day and write a letter to persuade someone why they should buy locally," she said.
At Hydromont, Matula Elementary fourth grader Alison Norris sat eating strawberries she'd picked and dipped in chocolate herself. She said she'd learned about how strawberries get transported from farms to stores.
"I didn't know that they [strawberries] are picked before they're ripe and shipped to the grocery store," said Norris. She added, "Strawberries are very healthy for you and it's good to eat them fresh."
Seventy-five fourth graders from Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Elementary School in Waldorf visited the Swarey farm in Mechanicsville. Sallie Ann Swarey, who runs the bakery on this local Amish farm, showed the group how she bakes using her large kerosene oven in a small trailer behind her farmhouse.
Swarey participates in these kind of trips to help build relationships between the Amish community and those who live nearby. She hopes that by seeing the Amish up close, the young students will learn to understand and respect this different culture.
Like Jim and Denise Edelen of Hydromont Berry Farm, most of the farmers that open their farms to the students are participants in the So. Maryland, So Good program, and do so because they want to educate the public about the plight of the local farmer and the many reasons its important to support this regions rich agricultural tradition.
LEFT: Tavish Smith (left), Kayla Terrell (center), and Julie Huber, of Matula Elementary, learned about local farm economics, but also picked and chocolate-dipped their own strawberries on a "Kids Cook" field trip to Hydromont Berry Farm in La Plata.
RIGHT: Alison Morey (left) and Melissa Kret, fourth graders at Matula Elementary School, pick their own strawberries at Hydromont Berry Farm during a "Kids Cook" field trip sponsored by the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission. The program teaches children about the importance of local agriculture and is open to Southern Maryland schools.
To find out more about the So. Maryland, So Good program or the "Kids Cook" program, visit http://www.somarylandsogood.com, or call the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development staff at 301-274-1922.