Return to Headlines

Partner spotlight: RVF2S

 

January 30, 2024

TALENT – On an overcast, chilly weekday morning a line of third-graders forms in a clearing beside the Talent Elementary community garden, patiently waiting for their turn to contribute to an enormous pot of steaming stone soup. At the front of the line – next to the soup – is Rogue Valley Farm to School lead educator Meghan Murphy. 

Murphy, known as Ms. Meghan by TES students, supervises the students as they add a few final ingredients to the soup: salt, pepper, onion powder, etc.

“Great job …a little bit more in there,” she says. “And then pass it down.”

Later, the class sits at the picnic table under the gazebo adjacent to the school’s community garden and slurp the soup from plastic cups. The early lunch is a big hit with the students, as is the entire Rogue Valley Farm to School (RVF2S) program, which joined forces with PTS during the tumultuous 2020-21 school year and has since become one of the district’s most valuable partners in education.

“This partnership with Phoenix-Talent School District really feels like a true partnership in that the district has been so supportive and so excited to have us and to figure out how to support these programs,” Rogue Valley Farm to School co-executive director Rebecca Slosberg said. “It’s just such a great community and what we do here through Rogue Valley Farm to School is just kind of building on that and being part of this great community and this supportive school system that we have here.”

Farm to School educators lead weekly garden lessons at each of the district’s three elementary schools, while also arranging tasting tables once a month and leading seasonal field trips to local farms, including The Farm at SOU and Hanley Farm. During a recent presentation to the Talent Elementary Parent-Teacher Association, Slosberg described a recent RVF2S lesson that centered on gratitude to farm workers. The lesson covered the definition of gratitude and explained how farm workers help feed us.

Many RVF2S lessons are done indoors during the winter months, but Murphy and her fellow RVF2S educators try to get outside any chance they get for the hands-on learning the non-profit organization specializes in. Each PTS elementary school has a garden that becomes a classroom for many RVF2S lessons, and Murphy says her students are always eager to get their hands dirty.

“It’s so great for kids …they have so much energy,” she said. “They want to be moving their bodies. They’re so curious about everything and it’s really cool to be able to see the kids who maybe struggle in the classroom with sitting still and just being at a desk all day. They get out to the garden and they thrive. …They’re just so excited to do everything from cooking to planting to trying new vegetables.”

Elise Pfrommer, who teaches an RVF2S class at Phoenix Elementary, says students will approach her when she arrives on campus to ask about what’s in store for their class that day, and she’s consistently amazed at how much they remember about previous lessons.

“We get to do cooking, we get to be out in the garden, we do math integration, we do science integration,” she said. “So there's lots of variety.

“This week we were doing popcorn flavor profiles, so the kids got to make their own spice mix for their popcorn. And we grow popcorn in the garden so they get to see … how it grows. They know it's different than corn on the cob, and then they get to explore the different flavor profiles and end up with a special snack at the end, too.”

Once a month, the Harvest of the Month Tasting Tables are set up in the school cafeterias so the RVF2S educators can serve samples of a local, seasonal fruit or vegetable to all the students. After sampling, students are invited to add their opinions of the samples to a magnetic voting board which also includes a map indicating where the samples originated. At Orchard Hill Elementary’s January tasting table, students sampled carrots and carrot oat bars (check out this sheet [Spanish version] for carrot recipes and activities). As the voting wound down, “loved it” led the way with nine votes, with “liked it” coming in second with six votes and “tried it” a distant third with a single vote.

After each student made their way through the line, RVF2S educator Taylor Madden walked past the tables asking if anybody wanted another carrot oat bar. Another RVF2S educator did the same with a bowl full of carrots. 

“These big arching goals are really about relationships and connections and,” Slosberg said, “not just coming at it from, ‘Here's a plate of food.’ Here's all the pieces that connect you to your community and to each other and …knowing a little bit about your food when you're trying things.”

 


To learn more about Rogue Valley Farm to School, sign up for its monthly newsletter, check out this program summary, and explore the RVF2S website.

 

Rogue Valley Farm to School would like to get more parents involved in its programs and work towards improving school food. Please contact Rebecca Slosberg at rebecca@rvfarm2school.org if you are interested in joining an advocacy group and/or getting involved as a volunteer or member.