Kids taught how to grow food, cook healthy meals at farm school

Kids taught how to grow food, cook healthy meals at farm school

A popular Huntington farm and market has opened a school to teach students the importance of sustainability, organic farming and healthy eating habits.

Kerber’s Farm School launched its first set of classes last week, with students young and old getting hands-on experience with the farm’s vegetable gardens and assorted livestock, including hens, ducks, pigs, goats and more than a dozen beehives.

A 32-seat classroom also doubles as a cooking studio where students are taught how to prepare healthy meals while learning about the carbon footprint of their food choices.

“I realized this would be a great canvass for children to come and learn,” said Nick Voulgaris, owner of Kerber’s Farm. “So, they can get classroom training and background on sustainability and farming and then go out to the field and harvest the bounty.”

Why a farming school for kids?

Voulgaris said the idea spun from the growing problem of food insecurity on Long Island — a problem heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic — and the realization that most children didn’t fully understand where their food came from.

The school will focus, in part, on what Voulgaris describes as “the McDonalds dilemma” — where families in marginalized and low-income communities often rely on cheaper fast food to feed their children rather than fresh fruits and vegetables, which are healthier but often cost more.

“In a day and age where processed food is such a prevalent part of the menu and of student’s diets, being able to understand how to grow your own food, and what’s involved in cooking, is paramount,” he said.

What kind of classes are offered?

Classes include Ladybug Math, where students use math skills to graph a ladybug’s spots and investigate the symmetry of their design, to Discovering Worms & Composting, where little scientists explore the farm to search for live worms, investigate their anatomy and conduct experiments.

Additional classes focus on honeybee hives, the life cycle of the butterfly, exploring eggs and chickens, flower and vegetable gardens and making bath bombs. Future classes will include raising chickens and making your own jam.

“It’s been a lovely way to segue students from being online during the past year to actually being out in the physical world,” said Blake Dunne, the school’s administrator. “There’s been a great response.”

Who’s the target audience?

The school’s main enrollees are young children, primarily ages 4 to 8, Voulgaris said, although courses are open to all ages. They range from Mommy & Me, pre-K to 6th grade, middle and high school and continuing education for adults.

As many as 10 classes, each lasting about 90 minutes, are taught each week both outdoors and indoors by state-certified teachers specializing in science, farming and cooking.

There are a series of individual classes as well as multiweek themed workshops, similar to a summer camp. The inaugural semester kicked off May 25 and will run through Labor Day — the most abundant farming season on Long Island.

Pricing for each class range from $35 to $50 and scholarships will be available for those in need, Voulgaris said.

Is there interest in a farm school?

Voulgaris said nearly all classes offered to date had sold out.

“Parents are really eager to let their kids play in the dirt and play outside, especially coming out of a pandemic,” Voulgaris said. “And then also to learn about sustainability and growing your own food.”

Farm school lessons

  • Students get hands-on experience with the farm’s vegetable gardens and livestock
  • A 32-seat classroom doubles as a cooking studio where students prepare healthy meals
  • Students learn about the carbon footprint of their food choices
  • Classes cost $35 to $50, with scholarships available