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Strawberry Fields Celebrates ‘Farm to School’ Week

Seth Boyden students enjoyed demonstrations of locally grown foods as well as a lesson in civics on Sept. 25 when Assemblyman John F. McKeon and Assemblywoman Mila M. Jasey came to Strawberry Fields to celebrate “Farm to School Week.”

McKeon is the sponsor of a measure that designated the last week of September as “Jersey Fresh Farm to School Week.” He and Jasey picked Seth Boyden to celebrate the designation because Strawberry Fields, Seth Boyden’s working garden, is among the top 20 finalists of the inaugural ‘School Garden of the Year’ award from the New Jersey Farm to School Network and Edible New Jersey.

McKeon and Jasey were joined at the event by Beth Feehan, director of the New Jersey Farm to School Network; Lorraine Gibbons, one of the founders of Strawberry Fields; and Seth Boyden Principal Mark Quiles.

Before the speech making began, students visited tables staffed by PTA members where they sampled foods which were either donated by “Jersey Fresh” local farmers markets or grown in Strawberry Fields by the students.

Students tasted yellow squash, green cauliflower, yellow and red bell peppers, broccoli, cucumbers and more. (Said one 5th grader, “I didn’t know broccoli could taste this good!”) They sniffed and identified herbs. They made rubbings of leaves. Notably, they lined up in droves to taste some swiss chard sauted in a pan with garlic by Virginia Lamb Falconer.

“They were chowing down on it!” said Falconer. “They like food that they grow.”

Moments later, McKeon had a group of 5th grade students cheering for New Jersey as he named the fruits and vegetables for which the Garden State is one of the top producers (agriculture, noted McKeon, is New Jersey’s third largest economic sector after pharma and tourism). After McKeon asked questions such as “Who’s third in blueberry production?,” students shouted, “New Jersey!”

Jasey called it the “best speech” ever given by McKeon.

Afterward, Jasey presented a proclamation from the State Assembly. Jasey wisely chose not to read the proclamation to the well-behaved but fidgety fifth graders. The proclamation read in part that Seth Boyden “stands as a beacon to the heights to which education can aspire” — particularly in reference to the multiple uses of the Strawberry Fields garden in educating students about biology, agriculture, nutrition and other sciences.

McKeon also received a special recognition from the New Jersey Farm to School Network’s Feehan for sponsoring the legislation.

McKeon also invoked the name of Seth Boyden during his comments, noting that the inventor owned the original property on which the school is built and cultivated the modern strawberry. After retirement, Boyden spent his time hybridizing strawberries and, in fact, many strawberries today originate from the seeds of his garden.

Quiles thanked Gibbons and other PTA members for transforming the former “dust bowl” that was the garden area into a rich and vital part of the Seth Boyden educational experience today.

Click here for Patch coverage.

Click here to see photos of the day’s action.