Sarah Mele

The Yale Farm is getting ready to kick off the fall Seed to Salad program, a local elementary school outreach initiative by the Yale Sustainable Food Program. Starting Sept. 25, two second-grade classrooms from Worthington Hooker School will come to the farm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to learn about plant anatomy, seed cycles, composting and nutrition.

Started in 2008 by Justin Freiberg FES ’10, the current director of the Yale Landscape Lab, the Seed to Salad program began with the goal of engaging Yale undergraduates, interested community members, public school teachers and students in an outdoor classroom setting.

In Connecticut, second graders study a science curriculum with units on soil and plants, according to Christine Amato Prekulaj, a second-grade teacher at Worthington Hooker. She explained that lessons at the Yale Farm offer a hands-on component to what her students are learning.

“They are more knowledgeable and have more of an interest in where their food comes from,” Amato Prekulaj said of her students after they participated in the program. “We also have a school garden, which allows them to take what they learn in the fall and apply it.”

The program comprises five weekly sessions lasting an hour each. In a typical Seed to Salad session, volunteers and leaders, who are known as “Big Farmers,” meet 15 minutes before the students arrive to plan out the day. The “Little Farmers,” or students, then arrive, and begin each session with the Seed to Seed Dance, in which the Little Farmers act out the cycle of plant growth and subsequent pollination and seed production, according Jacqueline Munno, the program’s coordinator.

“As the lessons progress, we add different elements,” said Sarah Mele ’19, one of the program’s student coordinators. “We can add more detail to the dance as students learn more about plants.”

The Big and Little Farmers also review the Community Rules of Respect — to respect oneself, one’s fellow farmers and the farm itself. The Little Farmers then put on imaginary farm gear to get in the mindset of a farmer. Typical activities, which vary depending on the day, include planting seedlings, digging through compost and examining flowers.

One of the activities the Little Farmers most enjoy is composting.

“The compost is always a hit,” Mele said. “Usually the reactions are like, ‘Oh my God, I’m holding a worm!’”

For the final session in the fall, the Little Farmers harvest the vegetables that they’ve grown from seeds and host a salad party in which they share and eat the veggies.

The Seed to Salad program continues into the spring semester, with sessions taking place more frequently. Two schools — Lincoln-Bassett Community School and Strong 21st Century Communications Magnet School — and five classrooms in total participate in the spring.

The program aims for a ratio of one volunteer for every five students, according to Munno. The program is also a space for volunteers to practice language skills, she said.

“The program works with bilingual classrooms and often hosts second graders for whom English is a second language,” Munno said. “Volunteers speak Spanish, Mandarin and Arabic, among other languages with the kids in an environment where everyone is experiencing new things together.” 

Munno added that the program provides volunteers with management experience, as they run a small, education-oriented organization.

The Seed to Salad program is hosting a mandatory volunteer training session on Sept. 21. People interested in volunteering must be able to attend every session this semester.

The Yale Farm is located at 345 Edwards St.

Madison Mahoney | madison.mahoney@yale.edu