education

Food Awareness Field Day at Spy Pond Field

Though not about our garden, I submit the following as being entirely consistent with our outlook about food and community. It appears I'll be giving one of the talks the story refers to, but for the record, I was already pursuing the story when Kareem, the organizer, suggested I speak.

 

Two years ago, Kareem Bouhafs, 23, of Arlington would have been wary of someone who wanted to warn him about genetically modified organisms, the use of pesticides on foods, or the many additives present in today’s food.

 

Saturday, he’ll not only be one of those people, he’ll be doing it on a grand scale by not only presenting but underwriting the first Food Awareness Field Day, scheduled for 1-7 p.m. at Spy Pond Field in Arlington. The event will combine children’s games, a young-adult-focused slate of concerts interspersed with brief talks about food issues, and, surprisingly, not much food.

The event is the first production of Project U-Knight, which Bouhafs conceives as a recreational events company that promotes causes. “I’m trying to make it a nonprofit, so we're still filing IRS paperwork. It’s not just about food. want to have festivals, field days, concerts... It can be a very profitable business, but take the profit out of it and add the awareness aspect and you can have very cheap events that serve a mission.”

Entry will cost $5 ages 13 and older; for those younger, entry is free until 4 p.m., when the fee changes to $2. For younger visitors, games will include Red Light, Green Light, Capture the Flag, and a scavenger hunt for toy bees that will have been salted around the site.

“We’re trying to inject information amid all these fun things. In terms of the hunt, we’re trying to present the information that a lot of bees are dying as the result of pesticides being used on food plants,” Bouhafs said.

Bouhafs, a former deejay at the Middle East nightclub in Cambridge, has also assembled a roster of musical acts that he hopes will draw his contemporaries. Performers will include DJ Doubletake, rappers, Philly G and G-Riot, and the band Score the Record.

To spread the word to families, about the event, Project U-Knights has been leafletting, putting up signs, and going door-to-door. Bouhafs said he is relying on social media, including a roster of e-dresses he built during his time at the Middle East. “I have a network of people who like to go to concerts. I have probably over a hundred people trying to promote it on social networks.

Typically, such events use food — very often heavily weighted toward high-calorie indulgences — not only to help draw crowds but to encourage spending, but not the Food Awareness Field Day. Only two options will be available: Dean’s Beans organic coffee will be sold from a truck outside the grounds, and Skinny Pop Popcorn, which has been donated by the manufacturer and will be parceled out for free. The corn is free of genetic modification, its owner says.

Bouhafs partly attributed the lack of food purveyors to relatively late approval for the event by town fathers. “We had to jump through a lot of hoops with the town, and food was a big issue. It had to be approved by the board of health. We just decided we would go to the vendors directly and let them deal with the Board of Health themselves.“

“We got the thumbs up from the town less than 2 weeks ago — we weren't even sure of the date two weeks ago.”

Bouhafs said he decided to start with a food event because beginning a couple of years ago, “I kept seeing more and more news articles, more and more studies, more and more on Facebook, and I started clicking on it. I wasn't the first, and I'm not the last.

“It's alarming, that's what it is. Once people know about it, they don't forget about it. That's why I’m doing this, to add to that pool of people who know about what’s happening with food.”

Michael Prager, a member of the garden, writes most often at michaelprager.com/blog, where this story first appeared.

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Arlington EcoFest 2013

A big thanks to Alan, Lisa, Steven, Mike and Oakes for their help with the Robbins Farm Garden table at this year's EcoFest. This uniquely-Arlington event is a terrific way to let more people know about the garden and to learn more about what others are doing around Town.

Oakes' trademark tri-fold poster boards with the wonderful array of garden scenes really drew people. The dual-screen slide show Alan put together looked really great -- especially with the Ken Burns-style auto-zoom-in and auto-zoom-out effects. And our supply of garden leaflets held out despite the high demand.

Many people stopped by to find out more about the garden. All were invited to visit and those with children were encouraged to bring them to participate without worrying about membership (allowing kids to get a hands-on experience without the parents having to get their hands dirty).

A Brackett Elementary School Green Initiatives Group "Pizza Garden Starter Kit" finds a home at the Robbins Farm Garden

One example of the Pizza Garden Starter Kits

A Pizza Garden Starter Kit

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To help support activities of its Green Initiatives Group, students and parent volunteers from the Brackett Elementary School sold "Pizza Garden Starter Kits" in early June. The Group began this project, assisting third grade teacher Jenny Brown, by reclaiming a greenhouse at the school that had been used for storage. With help from the children and staff of the Brackett After School Program, BASP, USDA certified organic seeds were planted in pots (using organic potting soil) in late April and cared for over the next 6 weeks.  Each kit consisted of 4 seedlings including a cherry tomato, basil, oregano and sweet pepper plant, marked with individual artful hand-made signs. Also part of the package was a note with care instructions and sauce recipes. (The seeds were from Botanical Interests). 

The Robbins Farm Gardeners were delighted to purchase a Pizza Kit and to give it a home in the Garden. We hope that the students and parents who gave these plants their start will visit the Garden to watch their progress!

The Green Initiatives Group at Brackett Elementary School fosters projects including composting and recycling to raise awareness within the school community about our impact on the environment and to promote more ecologically sustainable practices.  The Green Initiatives Group anticipates, through its current school year efforts, diverting 10,000 pounds of cafeteria waste from the waste stream, and saving 500-1,000 large sized trash bags. The Group is interested in more growing projects for the school and wider community next school year, including another pizza garden project. 

The Brackett volunteers report that 45 Pizza Kits were sold, raising approximately $540 dollars to support these programs.  If you'd like to help support the Green Initiatives Group at Brackett, or to help form one for your school, contact the group through gig.brackett@gmail.com.  (Thanks to Kim Kapner, Erika Riddington, and Robin Varghese for their contributions to this post.)

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"Green and Red" pepper plants, growing in the Brackett Elementary greenhouse.  (This variety produces green peppers that will eventually turn red and sweeter.)

Several Pizza Garden Starter Kits, ready for sale

Our Pizza Garden Starter Kit, planted in the Robbins Farm Garden and covered with a shade cloth to protect the young seedlings from the hot sun.

The Learning Garden

Discovering potatoesThe Robbins Farm Garden is a learning resource, but we're sometimes asked how the learning actually works. This is how - on a typical nice gardening day, we're visited by a continuous stream of other park users, often families with young children who walk down from the playground. We give tours, talk about what's growing, how we plant, what we plant, how we manage problems, and we hand out samples.

Wow, potatoes grow underground?

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We get visitors

Steven and I shared some time at the garden on a very hot Wednesday afternoon (May 24) but few families came by and they mostly wanted to enjoy the sprinkler and have water for their pails.

About 10 families came by Monday and Tuesday for short periods. One grandfather and small boy entered where the grandfather remarked his charge didn’t like veggies. But upon seeing the red of the radish the boy responded, “But I do like radishes!”

I was on hand Thursday and Friday from 2:30 to 4:30, more or less. On one, two 7-year-old girls walked all the paths as a maze. I showed them the new bean and squash seeds just coming up, and crushed a mint leaf for them to smell.

With a Chinese woman carrying a baby, I exchanged the names of the veggies in our respective languages, and also I gave her a mint leaf and a pea tendril.

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