From Field to Table

By Sharon Rabie, Naturalist Associate

HARD BARGAIN FARM EDUCATION TRACK FOR HOMESCHOOL STUDENTS 2012-2013

Traditional skills for self-sustainability Health & Food (Agriculture connections)

homeschoolgarden_3This hands on educational workshop series explored traditional knowledge of “self-sustainability”.  Rural American farm families developed methods of providing for their basic needs by growing, harvesting, preserving, and preparing healthy nutritious foods, clothing, and handcrafted everyday items.  Social customs, values, and culture developed around these  activities.  Many of these skills were passed from generation to generation and have been lost to modern citizens.  Participants will renew their connection to Agriculture (and stewardship of the earth) by researching and participating in historical methods of harvesting, preserving, butchering, fibers, and practical handicrafts.

The first class meeting in September contained “APPLES” as our theme.  We learned about the history, nutrition, mythology, and enjoy making applesauce, apple jelly, apple butter, and other delicious apple recipes.  Students learned how to safely preserve their harvest for future enjoyment or home canned gifts for others.  There was a visit to the orchard to learn about the life cycle of the apple tree, tasting of variety of apple varieties.

October Farm to Table Lesson continued to explore traditional methods of food preservation. During the 18th century, drying, curing, sugaring, pickling, etc., were some of the most common methods of preserving food.   Students canned apple jelly, applesauce, and apple butter last month and learned about the use of sugar, heat, and creating a vacuum seal on jars using a boiling water bath to preserve the food inside jars.  In October’s session we investigated other techniques such as  smoking, dehydration. fermentation / pickling & brining,  root cellar storage used by early American farm families to preserve their harvest and provide a sustainable nutritious food supply for themselves and their livestock.  There were demonstrations, tasting, and some work to be done in the barnyard.

Each student started the day in November with a live rooster.  At the end of the day, there was a fresh chicken to take home for the dinner table.  This session was the overwhelming favorite of participants.  It was unexpected that they so embraced the poultry processing workshop since it involves butchering.  There were careful discussions of food chains, energy cycles, humane ethics, agriculture, respect for life, holiday feasts, and traditional human diets.

December was a hands on “Dairy Day” workshop which began with milking the cow, and was filled with yogurt making, butter churning, cheese making, and recipes for ice cream, kefir, and uses for buttermilk and whey.  There was a lot of tasting, discussion about the raw milk controversy, pasteurization (history and science), goat and sheep milk products, and the nutritional importance of mammalian protein for growing children.

We started the New Year by learning about whole grains and seeds. Students enjoyed a hot cereal tasting workshop with ancient grains such as spelt, kamut, buckwheat, barley, and more familiar, steel cut oats, sprouted tritcale. We visited the corn crib and seed room.  Participants learned about the “anatomy of a whole grain”, and the nutritional benefits of seeds.   We practiced reading labels carefully for accurate information about whole grains and how to avoid deceptive advertising.  Each student tasted sprouts and learned how to grow their own sprouts in a jar for a super nutritional boost at home.

February (which begins with the letter “F” like farm)  brought us to our Fiber, Fabric, Fur, Feathers, Fleece, Felt and FUN class.  Students picked, carded, and spun wool from sheep, goat, alpaca, bamboo, and angora rabbit.  The class focused upon how the fibers are harvested from animals and plants to be transformed into clothing and fabrics.  Each youngster learned to make felt and we crafted felted soap to take home.

In March, the class enjoyed “Egg-citement”.  Youngsters enjoyed a story called “Chickens Aren’t the Only Ones” to learn about oviparous animals all over the planet. There was a discussion about eggs we eat and all about chickens and their life cycle, anatomy, adaptations, and wild vs. domestic birds.  Students had an opportunity to see real eggs from many species. The importance of eggs (reproduction, nutrition, and biology) Incubation, life cycles, & adaptations were also introduced.  Hands on live animal interaction with diverse breeds of roosters & hens from all over the world,  Fertile eggs for incubation were provided to those which had incubators set up for students to participate in embryology at home.