As the school year is winding down and I have two short months of my FoodCorps service remaining, I often find myself reflecting about my experience. As FoodCorps service members we teach students about topics ranging from nutrition education to the agricultural history of Montana. I feel confident that I have passed on valuable knowledge to my students during the school year. However, I would like to share a few of the lessons I’ve learned during the last 10 months.
In the fall, I learned:

digging in the dirt

Volunteers planting at the MCPS Central Kitchen Garden

  • How to convince students to take at least one bite of a new fruit or vegetable in the garden and to not yuck other people’s yums.
  • The basics of classroom management and how challenging it can be.
  • How to let go when things don’t go your way during a lesson; thunderstorms included.
  • The ins and outs of the school food system, including the hard-working individuals that make it function every day.
  • How to coordinate a fall harvest feast with three second grade classes, cooking with knifes included.

In the winter I learned:

  • How to coordinate a high school culinary competition with a vibrant group of community leaders.
  • How to run a functional and successful cafeteria taste test.
  • Putting too much ginger into a root vegetable slaw can be detrimental to a taste test.
  • How to correctly use an InterWrite board with the help of my 2nd grade classes.
  • How to use Google Calendar to organize my work life.
  • Ask for help.
helping hands

Helping hands mixing compost into the garden at Chief Charlo Elementary School

In the spring I learned:

  • Spring is the CRAZIEST season!
  • How horrible rotten potatoes and squash smell after being left in a school garden shed for six months…
  • How to coordinate a garden work day with volunteers ages 8 to 70.
  • How to plant a school garden in 4 days with 350 pairs of helping hands.
  • Kids LOVE eating raw rhubarb if you challenge them to eat it without making a sour face.
  • How to secretly unplant kale starts, so that 4 classes can plant the same transplants. (Please don’t tell them!)
  • How horrible and incessant bindweed is.
  • How wonderful and touching thank you notes can be.

This summer I am looking forward to learning:

  • How to to maintain 7 school gardens with the help of coworkers, parents, staff, and teachers.
  • How to run a fun-filled and sun-filled farm summer camp.
  • How to plan and lead family cooking classes in the garden.
  • How to take a deep breath and enjoy the bounty of the summer season.

I could make these lists could go on and on. Every season, and really every week, has brought me a new challenge and learning opportunity. I will be returning to my FoodCorps service next year as a second year service member and I could not be more excited to see how these lessons learned will evolve and strengthen in the future.

Amy HarveyAmy is a Montana native who grew up on an organic dairy farm where she learned the value of a healthy lifestyle, hard work, and community connections. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Planning and Policy from Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA. Prior to serving with FoodCorps, Amy was an AmeriCorps volunteer coordinator for a neighborhood farm and community garden, a research assistant at an environmental consulting firm, a Food Bank volunteer, a farmers market vendor, and a farm volunteer in New Zealand. It wasn’t until after these recent life experiences that Amy fully realized her passion for local food and her desire to integrate it into her career path. She is an outdoor enthusiast, skier, cook, and traveler. Amy is serving in Missoula, MT where she will build upon a foundation of previous FoodCorps service by working on school food service procurement and recipe development, “Farmer in the Classroom” educational lessons, and school community garden coordination.