This week, just as he has done for many years, State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball visited 3rd grade students at Schoharie Elementary School as part of the New York Farm Bureau Foundation’s “Feed the Hungry” Program. The goal of the program is twofold: to educate students about growing food while supporting needy families.
Commissioner Ball brought enough butternut squash seeds with him for three 3rd grade classes. There, with the help of four local FFA students, he explained the process of growing butternut squash to the third grade classes, a process that begins with seeds. Students then planted and tagged their own seeds as part of their very own “Ag in the Classroom” experience.
“I’m a farmer who has proudly participated in the Farm Bureau Foundation’s ‘Feed the Hungry’ program for many years and I’m proud to keep the tradition going this year,” Commissioner Ball said. “It’s for a good cause and it’s totally gratifying. Students get a firsthand view of how food is grown and where it comes from, and families are provided with nutritious, locally-grown food.”
“The Feed the Hungry Program promotes a greater understanding of not only agriculture in New York but also the value of supporting your neighbors in need. Commissioner Ball was the first farmer to take part in the program, and we are proud he is continuing the tradition of feeding the minds of children in New York with valuable life lessons,” said Paul Bencal, New York Farm Bureau Foundation Board Chairman.
The seeds, which are personally tagged by students and faculty at Schoharie Elementary School, will germinate at the school for about ten days, at which time Commissioner Ball will pick them up to plant in the fields at Schoharie Valley Farms. Every plant in the field will be tagged, showing which student planted which seed.
This fall, when the students are in 4th grade, they will take a field trip to Schoharie Valley Farms to see how their plants are doing and learn more about where their food comes from. Once ready, Commissioner Ball will harvest the crops and Schoharie Valley Farms will match what was grown by the students. The butternut squash will then be donated to the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York and distributed to needy families throughout the Capital Region.
Later in the fall, Commissioner Ball will bring a bushel of butternut squash to the school, which will be served on the menu for students to enjoy that day.
Maryellen Gillis, Principal at Schoharie Elementary School, said, “The ‘Feed the Hungry’ program connects students to our community and to the environment through a positive "growing" experience. Our students have gained an appreciation of how vital farming is in our lives and the importance of participating in a project which benefits others. The excitement of the students as they plant the seeds and the care they show when harvesting the squash is heartwarming. All of our lives have been enriched by our partnership with Mr. Ball and participation in the program.”
Mark Quandt, Executive Director, Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York, said, “The Feed The Hungry program is a wonderful resource for children to learn how food is produced and the importance of helping others in their community. In my role at the Food Bank and as a resident of Schoharie, I’ve seen the positive impact of the program and deeply appreciate Commissioner Ball’s continued commitment to the feeding the hungry through his support for the Regional Food Bank and the other New York State food banks.”
From planting and harvesting to preparing the food and making donations to a local food bank, there are a number of valuable lessons that teachers can incorporate into their instruction plans. This is an exciting way for students to learn through a hands-on approach. Ultimately, the experience can also establish healthy habits that they can carry with them long after they leave the classroom.
For more information about the Feed the Hungry Program including a step-by-step guide for educators, please visit:
If you are a farmer interested in participating a “Feed the Hungry” program in your area, please call New York Farm Bureau at (518) 436-8495.