Recently a group of 5th grade scholars visited New Ark Farms in Asbury, NJ to learn about farming and witness sustainability in action. Students heard about beginnings of the cider industry in Newark, and the farm’s effort to reproduce the Harrison apple, a crop native to the city. They planted watermelon seeds with farmers Derek, James and Samantha. They harvested salad greens – collards, Swiss chard, kale, and Asian greens – and mushrooms, and brought their bounty to the kitchen to prepare a healthy farm-to-table family style meal under the guidance of professional chefs Alrik, Ben and Reigna. Students mixed honey mustard marinade for the grass-fed chicken from a nearby farm and a green salad dressing with fresh picked dill, made a strawberry rhubarb cobbler and whipped the cream by hand for the cobbler, cut locally made bread, and barbecued chicken on the outdoor fire pit (with close adult supervision of course). Once everything was prepared, the scholars sat down to enjoy the lunch along with fresh apple cider from the apples on the farm, and reflected on the texture and flavors of their lunch fresh from the farm. Many scholars were challenged a bit – eating radishes for the first time, tasting the greens with which they were not familiar, and even sampling grilled octopus!
In between harvesting and cooking, scholars enjoyed the fresh open air – feeding fish in the pond, identifying plants and weeds, and racing down the hills with the farmers. Just when the day was about to end, students witnessed Chef Alrik, whose regular job is as a natural resource analyst, assemble a drone as he prepared to capture aerial footage of the farm. It was a full day of outdoor learning, exploring and eating!
New Ark Farms practices regenerative agriculture, a land management practice that uses plants to naturally make the soil and crops more nutrient rich and minimize carbon dioxide in the air, to repair the environment and urban communities. This farm experience dovetailed with Link’s 5th grade science curriculum on sustainability. Special thanks to the Rosen Family, the New Ark Farms farmers and crew, and Link Education Partners for a memorable day filled with new exposures for our scholars!