From Field to Table: First Grade Boys Learn by Visiting Working Farm

First grade boys were fortunate to spend the better part of Friday in Queens at the Queens County Farm, a 47-acre working farm that dates back to 1697, complete with farmhouse, greenhouse, windmill, barns and a shop where fruits and vegetables are sold. Their teachers, Chelsea Rossman and Julianne Rowland, as well as Taylor McKenna, associate teacher, accompanied the boys along with parent chaperones who had as much fun learning about the farm as the boys did. Director of Publications Melanie McMahon accompanied the group and offers this report:

This historic site and working farm, which attracted 17th century European settlers, offered Browning’s first graders a first-hand look at how food is grown, as well as the chance to see many of the animals they may have only heard or read about. The boys saw steer (“Jethro” and “Dexter”), alpacas (“Salt” and “Pepper”), sheep, goats, chickens, pigs and honey bee hives. They learned that each hive contains more than 1,000 bees, that hens lay only one egg per day, and that the fur on just one alpaca is worth about $800!  They also learned that by shaking a container of cream for about 15 minutes, they can make butter. The color, either white or yellow, is a result of the kind of grass the cows ate…that produced the cream…that made the butter! Their guides, Mr. Marty and Ms. Renee, also explained how cows consume their food by chewing their “cud” and gave the boys handfuls of alfalfa to feed to the friendly, ever-hungry goats.

In addition to its livestock, the farm boasted a wonderland of produce and flowers, including many of the foods served in Browning’s dining hall, such as quinoa, lettuce, radishes, squash, pumpkins, tomatoes and various herbs. Many of the boys and adults were surprised to see how quinoa looks before it’s harvested – a combination of corn stalks and cat tails. Mr. Marty and Ms. Renee encouraged the boys to see, touch and taste the garden’s bounty; the chives and mint were pungent and fragrant, while the lamb’s ears plants were so soft! They also learned they could eat the large yellow flowers of the squash plants.

A hayride gave the boys a chance to see the layout of the farm, including fields of corn and compost piles – quite a sight when juxtaposed with the high-rises of the city in the far background. One of the Browning boys provided an impressive explanation of how compost is created and what its purpose is. Due to just the right weather conditions, the compost at the farm was actually “steaming” that morning! That’s because carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and water provide beneficial bacteria that work with the nutrients to heat up the pile; water is released as vapor or “steam.”

In the course of the morning, the guides showed the boys posters of various types of fruits and vegetables, particularly those they could expect to see there. Before heading to the pumpkin patch (the grand finale and favorite part of the day) to pick one of these colorful orbs, the boys discussed various ways to prepare and serve this food. Their guides passed out photos of the growing stages of a pumpkin and asked the boys to put them in the proper order. The boys were proud to show their knowledge of how a Halloween classic is “created – from seed to jack o’lantern!