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SCUSD Farm to Table Camp a Summer Success

One of the hidden gems of the summer curriculum in the Santa Clara Unified School District (SCUSD) is the Farm to Table Camp. It’s a week long program on the district’s farm behind Peterson Middle School. The program teaches students anywhere from first through sixth grade about farming.

“We’re more going into the history of farming and why farming is important. And then we try to give them as much knowledge so that when they go home, and they are grocery shopping with their families, they have the ability to pick out good fruits and vegetables from the store,” said Natacha Costa.

Costa wears several hats within SCUSD. During the summer, she’s the farm’s site supervisor. During the school year, she helps manage the district’s extended learning programs. Costa says one of the big goals of the camp is to get kids to try new foods.


“This year, we had eggplant, kale, zucchini, cabbage. And these kids tried everything,” said Costa. “I’ve had my nephew come to the camp, and I know that he doesn’t eat certain things at home, but when he’s here, he eats and tries everything because they’re involved. They’re involved in cooking the food and picking the food and they want to try their own creation.”

All aspects of the camp are kid-centric. The meeting area is shaded to keep kids cool and water breaks are frequent. Outings into the farm are short but informative. Best of all, the group’s leader, Mr. Carter is stocked with as many dad jokes as he is with knowledge.

“The Native Americans would roast the cherries…Our cherries are a lot of meat. A lot of fruit, we don’t roast them,” Mr. Carter told the class as he showed them how to plant a new holly leaf cherry tree on the property. “These cherries are a lot of pit with just a little bit of cherry on the outside. Native Americans would roast them and eat them because they grew there in the forests.”

The mix of knowledge and entertainment works. The recipe of the day called for zucchini so the students ventured into the farm to pick their own zucchini.

Emma, a student at Central Park Elementary School, knew exactly what to look for.

“Do not pick one that’s too big and don’t pick ones that are too small and that have brown spots,” said Emma.

A trio of other students weren’t as thrilled with the day’s vegetable. They guessed that the zucchini would taste like “crops,” “lettuce” and “gross.”

Bowers Elementary School six-year-old Logan went a step further.

“It looks like a hot dog combined with green, like a healthy hot dog,” said Logan.

Even with the doubts, the students still tried the zucchini in the end. Throughout the week, they’ve cooked up eggplant, mushrooms and experienced popcorn cooked from the farm’s corn crop. Other memorable class experiences include a walk by the hen house, where Rudy the Rooster runs the coop.

SCUSD runs four single-week programs during the summer. In each course, kids learn about all aspects of farming and come away with a new appreciation for fruits and vegetables. The recipes are kid-friendly and hand selected by the staff. What’s more, virtually all of the food is sourced directly from the farm.

SCUSD plans to build up the site soon. The district recently received grant money from Stanford and Ardmore Institute of Health, which will help the program build a new greenhouse on site. Meanwhile, the public can buy crops from the farm every Friday afternoon between 3:30 and 5 p.m. at the gate on Dunford Way.


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