Since 2014, LEAF has had some very important clients - and they’re all 2-5 years old.
In addition to restaurants, CSA members, and culinary projects, LEAF sells some of its produce to two preschools in Carlisle. Each week during the growing season, these two schools, which serve predominantly low-income families, order produce from our farm, as well as Three Springs Fruit Farm, for their students. These high-quality, locally-grown items are sold at half the cost that they would be normally. This year, the preschool partnership was funded in large part by the USDA as a part of a grant. It allowed LEAF to fund the resources and youth time to do the meaningful work of raising the produce for these young consumers. Knowing that young people were receiving the outcome of their labor made the work more meaningful for LEAF youth. One intern had a little sister that attended one of the preschools, and so she could know that the kale, lettuce, or green beans that she harvested were headed to a destination important to her.
In addition to produce sales, LEAF also hosted two events with the preschool partners. During the summer program, about 40 preschoolers came out to the farm for a series of educational activities. They tasted new vegetables, identified the different kinds of tomatoes in the field, picked green beans, and got to cool off with some water games! The benefit of this experience was obvious; the LEAF youth had a chance to be educators for members of their community, and the preschool students had an enjoyable day outside on the farm. In the fall, LEAF brought sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, potatoes, garlic, onions, and hundreds of apples to one of our preschool partners one day in the afternoon. LEAF youth interns helped lead cooking activities and games that, just like during the summer, allowed the preschoolers to have fun while learning about and enjoying different vegetables and fruits. They made applesauce by hand, and made “root candy” by tossing root vegetables with olive oil and putting them in the oven.
The importance of a program like this, exposing young children to lots of different kinds of produce at such an early age, is just now beginning to be understood. Essentially, it takes far fewer exposures to broccoli for a three-year-old to begin to like it, than it does for an adult, even if they know broccoli is good for them. However, as many parents have experienced, it can be extremely frustrating to buy, prepare, cook, and serve broccoli (which can be expensive!) eight or ten times, with their children refusing to eat it each time. Therein lies the significance of providing produce to preschools. The children can have the experience of eating and trying new fruits and vegetables, without the risk to families on a tight budget.
LEAF is looking forward to continuing these meaningful partnerships in seasons to come!