ISHPEMING, Mich., (WJMN) – Partridge Creek Farm announced an expansion to their farm to school education program on October 24.
The program includes food education in elementary and middle school and an agricultural technology program for high school students. May Tsupros, director of people and partnerships, says currently, the farm to school program engages 5th graders in food education.
“One day a week we see them for their full hour and we trade in their science class for farm to school class on Wednesday,” said Tsupros. “And even now with the students going virtual we’re still meeting them every day, all the fifth graders every day on a virtual zoom classroom.”
Fifth graders learn about nutrition, gardens and community. Tsupros says they focus on eating healthy and growing their own food.
“The kids are really loving it,” said Tsupros. “We’ve actually cooked a lot in the garden this year this fall and 88% of our students reported trying a brand new vegetable this fall, 70% of our students reported liking or loving a vegetable they previously did not like and 62% of them reported liking or loving fresh salad.”
According to Tsupros, they’ve been changing behaviors and attitudes toward healthy food. She says the program for elementary and middle school students will continue to focus on nutrition, gardens and food education. The high school program will be a career technical education preparing students for careers in agriculture.
“We really will be growing our future farmers in the U.P.,” said Tsupros. “So teaching agriculture skills, food business entrepreneurship, kind of a whole package that’s focused on career technical education in agriculture.”
Partners for the program are Marquette Alger Regional Education Service Agency, Ishpeming School District, 906-Central Region MiSTEM Network, Northern Michigan University, and Haan Development. Tsupros says their fall fundraising campaign and a grant she is applying for will help start developing the program and tailoring it to the community’s needs.
“The career technical education that MARESA has that’s actually a Michigan program, they actually have agriculture standards for a technical program for ag,” said Tsupros. “But we want to embed that and cross that with standards specifically related to sustainable growing to this area, to the U.P. specifically so those standards right now don’t necessarily align to this growing climate so what does it look like to include season extension and indoor agriculture growing.”
Partridge Creek Farm is also breaking ground on new farm space soon. They announced in August that they would be expanding to a two-acre space next to the Jasper Light senior housing project in Ishpeming.
“We’ll be developing that space at Jasper Light, that two and a half-acre space to really house this program,” said Tsupros.
The program will be the first of its kind in the area. Bay College has an agriculture program but no high schools. Tsupros says to get started they are fundraising and hope to start in 2021 with a pilot program.
“Next fall in 2021 I think we’ll be able to maybe launch a pilot with a couple of students but really hitting full force hopefully the school year of … 2022 I guess school year,” said Tsupros.
To donate toward this program you can visit Partridge Creek Farm’s website. Taste the Local Difference is partnering to provide a dinner for donors who give more than $500.
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