By Anna Minsky
Gearing up for the Highland County Fair this Fall, we spent some time in the garden last week reflecting on the local fruit and vegetable competition with some of the youngest members of the Highland community. Every couple of weeks this summer two fellows have ventured off the mountain to help facilitate Nutrition in the Garden, a summer youth program at the local schools. Nutrition in the Garden is run by Paxton Grant and Thea Klein-Mayer and is a weekly program in which elementary through high school aged students come together to spend some time learning about nutrition and working in the garden. Students who come regularly and build up enough hours throughout the summer are eligible for a Junior Master Gardener’s award.
The day is broken up into three parts:
First, students gather under a big apple tree next to their bountiful raised beds and discuss a relevant food, gardening, or nutrition topic.
Next, students make a healthy snack together.
Lastly, students bring it full circle and spend some time working and harvesting in their garden, coming to understand, firsthand, the connection between growing food and eating it.
Last week we decided to spend some time learning about how fruits and vegetables are judged when entered into competitions. Up on the mountain we have had an abundant summer apple harvest that we can barely keep up with. We brought an array of apples down to the garden and the students each awarded blue, red, yellow, and white ribbons to four different apples. They discussed the characteristics they were looking for when selecting winners and we discovered the wide range of traits to consider. One of the main takeaways from this lesson was that sometimes fruit that doesn’t look beautiful on the outside can still taste good on the inside. In fact, sometimes the most bruised fruit is the sweetest. We thought we would put this theory to the test and moved on to snack time…
In the kitchen we cut open the winning four apples and sampled away. We found that the bruised ones were extra sweet and so we snacked on the smooth green apples and then blended up the bruised ones to sweeten up a smoothie.
After we were all sufficiently fed, out we moved to the garden where we explored the various beds and harvested the bounty. It was a joy to watch the students’ satisfaction in their cucumber scavenger hunts, tending to their garden beds and eagerly showing off their past projects.
Nutrition in the Garden has been a wonderful way for us to get to know some of the younger members of the Highland County community this summer as well as to remind us of the relevance of the work we are doing up on the mountain.
Many thanks to Thea and Paxton for the wonderful work they are doing and for having us out this summer, and don’t forget to visit the Highland County Fair later this fall!