Last week, Polson Middle School hosted their second annual Harvest Dinner to celebrate the students who tended the garden this year and to enjoy the delicious food that they grew. Over 120 community members, administrators, students, parents, teachers, and local farmers attended in support. The room was buzzing with excitement over the incredible spread of food, showcasing all of the hard work and learning that goes on in the Polson Middle School Garden.
Though our garden is small and we’ve had several incidents of vandalism, we continue to believe that it should be an inclusive space where students come together to learn and grow. The garden teachers have dedicated so much of their time and energy to working and teaching in the garden, and it certainly paid off! We had beautiful pumpkins (though a few were munched on by hungry cows), zucchinis, tomatoes, potatoes, and more. The students celebrated their produce in the best way they knew how: by sharing with the community.
The same hands that dug in the dirt for purple potatoes and patiently plucked reddening tomatoes from the Polson Middle School Garden were the ones kneading bread, chopping onions, and roasting pumpkins for the community to eat. Students cooked and baked tirelessly for almost two weeks in preparation for this event. Along the way they learned about garden maintenance, cooking and baking, science, math, culture, and community-building. These skills helped them take ownership of the school garden and be truly engaged in every aspect. It’s one thing to give a student a fresh vegetable to try; it’s an entirely different lesson to give them seeds to plant so that they are involved at every step and can harvest and cook their own beautiful, homegrown produce months later. One student’s father was moved to see his son receive recognition for all his hard work in the garden this year and to taste the pumpkin pie that he had made from scratch. It was his first homemade pie, made from pumpkins he helped grow at school. Sweet success!
As I watched tables of families and friends dig into the hubbard squash, venison and wild rice stew, pumpkin chili, roasted beets, and fry bread, I could see the value in experiential learning and everything that FoodCorps stands for. The harvest celebration was a platform to talk about healthy eating, gardening, and student success, but it also served as a safe place for students and community members to connect, laugh, and enjoy a delicious fall meal together. As Michael Pollan says, “Food is not just fuel. Food is about family, food is about community, food is about identity. And we nourish all those things when we eat well.” It was heartwarming to see students sharing their hard work with the community and cultivating connections beyond the classroom and the garden.
This fall feast was a beautiful culmination of school wellness efforts across the district. With the support of principals, the Food Service Director, the Fresh Fruits and Vegetable Program Coordinator, garden advocates, local farmers willing to share produce and lead field trips, donations of seeds, plants, and time from staff and community members, and many other committed individuals, we are moving towards a healthier school food landscape. Seeing a room packed full of healthy food champions was a great way to celebrate our harvest and build excitement for the next growing season. I can’t wait to see the garden flourish and grow in the spring and to have students digging into new projects: a mural on the shed, an irrigation system, and the start of our very own garden club!
About Lexie Gallegos
Lexie is passionate about experiential learning, working with kids, food justice, and helping others. She has worked with teenagers at a YMCA camp in the beautiful Rocky Mountains, leading backpacking and whitewater rafting trips. These trips taught campers about leadership, service, and Leave No Trace outdoor ethics. Lexie also studied abroad in India, where she learned about sustainable development and social change. She was fortunate enough to work with female farmers in the Himalayan foothills and study agricultural biodiversity preservation, which inspired her senior thesis on seed sovereignty movements as a tool for empowering women and developing communities. In ten years, Lexie sees herself living in the mountains with her very own adventure dog, eating fresh food from her garden, and planning her next international trip to learn about sustainable agriculture and the relationship.