Category Archives: Farm to School

Cooking in the garden: How to eat fresh with kids

Amy HarveyAmy Harvey has served with Garden City Harvest and the Missoula County Public Schools for the last two years a FoodCorps service member. She has led our summer cooking in the school garden series A natural teacher who brings enthusiasm and an infectious love for local food, we are excited to have her tell us a bit about her time cooking with kids in a few school gardens.

As I wrap up my second year as a FoodCorps service member, I am lucky enough to conclude the term with one of my favorite series of events. In partnership with Garden City Harvest’s Farm to School program, our team leads family friendly cooking classes in the elementary school gardens of Missoula. Families join us to experience the garden during the bounty of summer, cook a fresh meal together, and eat as a school community.

Busy hands and smiles

Last week at Rattlesnake Elementary School, we had a record breaking 34 participants, including 20 adults and 14 kids. We started things off with a choose your own adventure Herbal Lemonade station and fresh veggies with homemade hummus. On the menu was Power Kale Salad, Spiralized Zucchini Salad, Mid-Summer’s Harvest Pasta, and Fresh Summer Rock n’ Rolls with a Peanut Dipping Sauce. As families arrived, we encouraged them to rotate between the four cooking stations to try out new cooking techniques. One of our FoodCorps sayings is to “try new things” and we sure did! We mashed garlic with a mortar and pestle, spiralized zucchini into thin ribbons, crinkle cut bell peppers, massaged kale in a Ziplock bag, and strategically rolled veggies up into rice wrappers. Throughout the class we taught the kids (and parents) a few simple rules to encourage cooking safety.

Here are our food safety basics:

Learning the basics of spiralizingClaw and Saw: Stabilize the item you are cutting by clawing your fingertips against the item and your cutting surface. Then, with your dominant hand, cut the item in a saw-like motion using your knife.

Hands and Eyes: To stay safe, always keep your hands and eyes focused on your current task.

Low and Slow: Keep tools low to the table and work slowly to stay in control.

Wait to Taste:To avoid spreading germs, wait to taste any food until you’re done cooking.

To watch toddlers, elementary school students, middle school students, parents, grandparents, and volunteers work together to create a communal meal is truly a special occasion. At any age cooking is a practice of patience and flexibility, especially with kids. Your salad dressing will never exactly follow the recipe, the chunks of onion in the pasta will vary from tiny to giant, and sometimes a spring roll just won’t work. However, it will be fun and taste delicious. The Rattlesnake Cooking Class was a huge success! The food was scrumptious, we strengthened our garden community, and we created a positive food memories for everyone there. Try making Summer Rock N’ Rolls (i.e. fresh spring rolls) at home tonight with your family.

Summer Rock n’ Rolls

adapted from City Blossoms- Garden Gastronomy’s cookbook 


for the spring rolls: SchoolGardenCookingClass_Rattlesnake_2016 (2)

  • Spring roll rice paper (one per person)
  • 1 cup rice noodles, cooked and cooled
  • 1 cup of carrot peelings
  • 1 cup of shredded cabbage
  • 1 cup of grated beets
  • 1 cup of grated kohlrabi
  • ½ cup finely chopped basil (as desired)
  • ½ cup finely chopped mint (as desired)
  • ½ cup finely chopped chives or green onions (as desired)
  • Other possible fillings: cucumber, bell pepper, avocado, zucchini, bean sprouts, lettuce, tofu, anything!

for the peanut dipping sauce

  • ¼ cup peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • ¼ cup of warm water
  • 1 tablespoon of brown sugar
  • Juice from ½ a lime (more or less, depending on your taste)
  • Sprinkle of crushed red pepper or hot sauce (optional)
  1. Take a piece of rice paper and carefully dip it in lukewarm water for the count of 10. Try not to crack or fold the paper; it is delicate!
  2. Place the wet rice paper on a sheet of wax paper. It may seem a little stiff, but will continue to soften.
  3. Lay down a few carrot peels, a few slices of cabbage, and a pinch of grated beets and kohlrabi together in the center of the rice paper.
  4. On top, add a pinch of herbs (basil, mint, chives) as you desire. All of the filling should be facing the same direction and in a little mound in the center.
  5. Then, put a large pinch of noodles on top of the vegetables, but not so big that you can’t close the roll.
  6. Here’s the tricky part. Fold the left end of the rice paper over the pile of noodles. Then repeat with the right side and bottom (edge closest to you). Finally, roll the whole thing towards the top to wrap it like a burrito. A little practice is required, but even if you are not perfect, it will still be delicious!
  7. To make the peanut sauce, combine all ingredients in a non-stick pan. At low heat, stir constantly until peanut butter has melted and it is well mixed.
  8. Dip your fresh spring rolls in the peanut sauce and enjoy!
Dinner is Served
Dinner is served! The feast from the garden is ready to eat.

Show your love for the PEAS Farm

Happy PEAS Farm lesson
Kids happy to get their hands dirty at the PEAS Farm

Join us on December 9th, 6 pm, at the MCPS Business Building, 915 South Avenue West!  And help us spread the word — and invite your friends, too!

The GCH/EVST PEAS Farm sits on 10 acres of Missoula County Public School land. Over the past six years Garden City Harvest has been working with the City of Missoula and MCPS on a new long-term lease for this property, including the 3 acres of playing fields south of the farm.

The end of this long process is in sight! The School Board will be considering a 40 year lease with the City of Missoula (who would then sub-lease to Garden City Harvest) at their board meeting on Tuesday, December 9th. Help us secure this community resource for 40 years to come by showing the School Board how important this is – whether you’re a parent, teacher, student, volunteer neighbor, CSA shareholder or just a fan of the PEAS Farm.  Filling the room with PEAS Farm supporters who are willing to simply stand in support of the farm, would show the trustees how beloved the PEAS Farm is to this community.

No need to comment, just come and stand with us. Garden City Harvest Executive Director, Jean Zosel and PEAS Farm Director, Josh Slotnick will comment, asking supporters to raise their hands to show they are there in support for the farm!

Student seeding
A visiting class helps seed the PEAS Farm on a spring time field trip. Photo by Mike Plautz.

The PEAS Farm is an outdoor classroom for students of all ages, from pre-school through university. We host 4,000 kids on educational farm field trips each year, and provide bus transportation. We grow tons (literally!) of food for the Food Bank, farm CSA subscribers, volunteer workers and more. This farm is a place where community members of all stripes come together to work, eat, and grow in the fields.

How to help:

The School Board will be considering a 40 year lease with the City of Missoula (who would then lease to us) on Tuesday, December 9th, 6 pm, MCPS Business Building, 915 South Avenue West. To see the agenda (we are #11) click here, and download the agenda.

Other ways to help:
1. Share this on Facebook: “Join me to support the PEAS Farm as they ask the Missoula County Public School Board for a 40 year lease on December 9th, 6 pm at the MCPS Business Building, 915 South Avenue West.”
2.  Call five friends and ask them to come to the meeting.
3. Email 10 friends and link to this blog post, inviting them to the meeting.

And thanks for being part of this community farm.

Orchard Gardens Seed and Feed Summer Camp


Seed and Feed Campers talking about plant parts

Howdy, Sarah here.  One of the most exciting things of this season is Orchard Gardens Seed and Feed Summer Camp.  Children’s programming in many different forms has been a part of the Orchard Gardens scene from the very beginning.  This year we have hit on the most successful version yet.  Peter Kerns, a member of Montana FoodCorps, is leading a twice-weekly, month long summer day camp.

It is tremendous fun to see Peter and the kids tromping around the farm.




Here’s some of what they’ve done:

Campers weeding the fava beansWeeded the fava beans.

seed and feed campersHarvested and hung garlic for curing.

locally made popcicleMade and ate POPSICLES!

mud hutPerhaps everyone’s favorite:  Built this shelter using old corn stalks and lots of mud.

If only I could be a camper.


Poona Kheera cucumber, odd looking and amazing to eat

This week the cucumbers started going crazy.  Just in time to put their cooling properties to good use.

For a very simple and refreshing dinner last night we had an amazing cucumber salad.

These quantities are pretty much made up as we didn’t measure a thing, but some of you want numbers, so I’ve attempted a guess.

Cucumber and tomato salad

  • 3 cucumbers
  • 10 small tomatoes
  • 1 very large handful of basil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 12 0z. fresh mozzarella
  • 10 black olives you happen to find in the fridge
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 3 t good vinegar of any variety

Coarsely chop cukes, tomatoes, basil and mozzarella and olives. Crush the garlic into the bowl.  Toss in large bowl with a generous drizzling of olive oil and a liberal splash of good vinegar (any kind).   Season to taste with salt and lots of fresh ground pepper.  Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.

You could add garbanzo beans or smoked tuna or lemon zest or other herbs or even a hard-boiled egg (or two).  You could serve on leafy greens.  Substitute feta or tofu.  Add green beans.  Anything goes.  Our version was super quick, very light and delicious.  Full of summer heat, and yet so very cool.  That’s a cucumber for you.

PEAS Farm: Have you gotten to know the PEAS animals?

Mithers the duck hangs with some of the PEAS hens.

Some farm visitors stop by solely for the purpose of saying hello to our pigs, chickens, or  our (new) duck.  Often these visitors are bee-lined to the chicken coop by their kids. Kids are the animal’s biggest fans.  They are all too eager to get locked into the human-sized cage that is the chicken run.  Since we built the new run, keeping track of the kids at farm camp has never been easier.  Only the occasional CSA member is surprised to discover that we have animals, so for the familiar and the unfamiliar, I am happy to introduce you to the critters I feed each day.

Let’s start with the chickens.  At the moment we have 19 chickens and 2 roosters.  The chickens and Ernie, our first rooster, named for the cocky Ernest Hemingway, all came to us in May as teenagers.  They had been raised from chicks at Clark Fork Organics until the University of Montana Spring class finished building the revamped chicken run I mentioned earlier.

Last fall, on two separate fateful October occasions, an owl found herself hungry and picked off most of the chickens we had at that time.  The remaining hens were offered safe haven at Clark Fork Organics and we decided to recruit new chicks for our egg laying efforts of 2013.  That being said, I have yet to see an egg!  Someday soon, our hens will begin laying pullet eggs that are small and under-sized.  It’s with an eye towards the future egg bounty that I tuck the chickens in each night and let them out upon the rooster crow in the morning.

Ernie the rooster.

I did mention we have two roosters.  This is quite an unusual arrangement.  Two roosters together often fight each other viciously.  For now, Ernie is the head honcho around the coop while Cha-cha cowers in out-of-the way places.  Cha-cha came along with my favorite recent farm addition, our duck Mithers.

Mithers is a male mallard who, more and more, is acting like a chicken.  His clucks and pecks abound.  He and Cha-cha were a wedding gift to our Farm to School Director, Jason Mandala.  He got married last Friday, so Mithers is a really recent addition. We are giving Cha-cha a little time to see how he gets along with Ernie before he becomes dinner.

Male mallard Mithers getting his waddle on.

Mentioning dinner reminds me that you might want to know a bit about our pigs!  We have 7 pigs this year, most of who go unnamed but have descriptors to identify them.  There’s the ornery one and good ol’ goopy eye.  I did break down and give my two favorite pigs the well intentioned names of Fatty and Delicious.  We got our pigs in May, just two months old, from a local farmer.  They were between 35 and 45 pounds back then and will finish at about 250 pounds in October when they go to Lolo Locker for butchering.  The pigs are a great resource to the farm: they eat weeds and pests that otherwise eat or lay eggs in our crops.  They have a mixed diet of homegrown veggie waste from the farm and a high-protein seed and grain mix.  It’s working: they are getting huge.

Fatty, the fattest pig and also my favorite.

Finally, we have two cats, Ophelia and Kale, that do a good job of keeping mice from eating our winter squash or getting into the barn’s kitchen.  Ophelia has been at the PEAS farm since it relocated to its Duncan Drive site in 2001.  Kale is a bit younger and was brought to the PEAS farm by a former caretaker a few years ago.

If you haven’t yet, feel free to introduce yourself to the PEAS animals.  The cats will come to you if they want to say hello, but both the pigs and chickens appreciate some green scraps, so feed your carrot tops from CSA to the hens or pull a weed and chuck it into the pig paddock to make a new friend this week.

Can’t beet a farm visit

Chioggia beet.As the Garden City Harvest PEAS Farm Caretaker, I get the pleasure of chatting with the vast majority of farm visitors. The folks that stop by range quite a gamut.  Some are regularly scheduled, others early morning surprises. There might be a tyke towed along in a bike trailer or a senior visiting our farm site after purchasing produce from the Youth Harvest Mobile Market truck. This week, I’ll share with you one story from these early season visitors.

The spring and early summer at PEAS means field trip after field trip of grade school, middle school, and even high school students. Each group is lead by Jason Mandala, our Community Education Director, and Katie Mikelsons, our School Gardens Coordinator. They lead youth of all ages from the chicken coop to the pig pen to a very important stop at our hoop house for a beet and carrot tasting.

One Saturday morning, while the farm was fairly quiet (aside from me and a couple of University interns helping out with the watering), a father and his son rolled in the PEAS gate on their bicycles. As I greeted them, the dad let me know his son, had a question for me.

“What would you like to know?” I asked his son, a boy I’d guess is about seven.

He responded, “What kind of beets do you grow here? I was on a field trip and we got to eat beets.”

“Oh,” I said, “That was probably a Chioggia beet, that’s the variety. Was it swirled with red and pink on the inside?”

It was.

His father then offered, “He liked it more than any other beet he has had, where could we get some?” Aside from buying a PEAS CSA share, I guessed he might find this variety at the trusty ol’ Good Food Store or by asking around at the farmers market.  More so for the father’s sake than the sons, I told the boy, “Even though those beets look different than the beets that are just red, they actually taste pretty much the same. Maybe you just like raw beets more than cooked beets.”

The dad quickly mentioned that “Well he liked the beets I made last night, and they were cooked.”

Looking squarely at me, the son sharply answered his father, “No I didn’t.”

This conversation was not too surprising for me after hearing stories from other parents who want to know “Just what you did to that kale that made my kid love it so much?”

I can relate to what this young generation is feeling. Watching my food go from seed to a full plant and harvesting it fresh before dinner does make it taste better. So does eating it right off of our just dug from the ground. So stop by for a walk around PEAS some Saturday afternoon, we can say hello and you can take a look at what your kids are raving about.

What to feed baby

Mother and child
Austen Rose and me. She's about 3 weeks old here.

On Easter, I gave birth to a baby girl, Austen Rose, all ten fingers and ten toes of her. It was an amazing time to bring a baby into the light of the world – as more and more of this place comes into view, more and more things bloom and grow. Our daily walk through Greenough Park is filled with the scent of wild roses.

In the last two weeks I have also returned to work.  It has been a really nice transition, and one of reuniting with friends, plants and pests (flea beetles, for example). Plus, Austen can tag along some days.  She is strapped to my chest right now and is feeding away at her favorite current dish, breast milk.

While I’ve been filling my plate with bok choy, carrots and last year’s garlic, I’ve started wondering what will be her first meal. I am hoping you, our mamas and papas of the Garden City Harvest Family will leave a comment with your favorite baby food recipes. Any favorite food mill gadgets? What, besides rice cereal, was your baby’s first meal?

Can’t wait to hear, and so glad to be back.

diaper chnage in Glacier
Austen Rose gets a diaper change among the moss in Glacier National Park.

9-year-olds can change the world

3 young girls admire sunflowers
Admiring sunflowers

As Garden City Harvest continues working with our schools to offer nutrition education and help develop a new program to grow food for the school lunch program, here’s an inspiring story from across the globe. Martha is 9-year-old in Scotland who is not overly fond of her school lunches and started posting photos and her ratings of her school lunches. After local officials reversed a ban on her publishing the photos, she is now working with the school to improve the lunch program. Oh, and she’s raised enough money to build a school kitchen in Africa and feed the schoolkids there for a year.  Wow.
Check out the full story: