The biennial Orchard Harvest Festival in October combines the efforts of the Farm-to-School program, the PTO, parents, teachers, students and community members.  The community dinner is prepared with almost all locally harvested ingredients, some picked by the students themselves during field trips to outside farms and some from the gardens right on the school grounds. Jack-o Lanterns decorated by the classes add festive light to the evening.

Autumn Harvest Celebration

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Thursday November 13, 2014

Orchard School wraps up the season with a fruitful Harvest Festival

As we gear up for the Thanksgiving season, we reflect back to Orchard School’s Autumn Harvest Celebration held in October. Orchard School PTO and staff, local nonprofit Common Roots, farmers and chefs, classroom teachers, parents and students all came together for a much-loved tradition to mark the end of the growing season—the biannual Orchard School Harvest Festival. Families sat down to an abundant harvest featuring vegetables their children helped plant, harvest and prepare, and games, crafts, and music ruled the night.

The festival has always been a fun way for families to connect over great food, but its mission has clearly expanded. “The Festival has truly transformed over recent years to be much more connected with classrooms, school gardens, and trips to local farms,” explains Orchard first grade teacher Carol McQuillen, who is also the board chair of Common Roots.

“There was something for everybody,” noted Orchard parent Janette Hasenecz, who along with many parents, organized a variety of fall-themed activities. “Families enjoyed participating with their children.”

A Community-Wide Effort

The event was a team effort that involved many players in the Orchard community: Common Roots’ Farm-to-School educators and Orchard kitchen staff led the way, with coordination by Rhonda Ketner, director of South Burlington Schools Nutrition Services.

Several Orchard classrooms prepared for the harvest meal by washing and preparing most of the food. “I can’t believe I washed those veggies!” one Orchard student exclaimed proudly, with an ear-to-ear grin.

All of the food served was locally sourced. The chicken in the hearty chicken stew entrée came from South Burlington residents Jamie DePalma and Matt Gough, owners of Freshies Farm in Cambridge; an assortment of fresh vegetables came from the school gardens at Orchard School, the Common Roots garden at the Farm at South Village and MR Harvest Farm in Grand Isle. First grade students brought apples back from Hackett’s Apple Orchard in South Hero, which third graders then used to prepare the thoroughly enjoyed apple crisp dessert.

During the event, parents organized several outside activities that were enjoyed by all, including making nature necklaces, a scavenger hunt, a nature walk, donut “fishing”, and make your own bird feeder, just to name a few!

As the evening came to a close, the Jack-O-Lanterns were lit and Orchard music teacher Amy Frostman led the children in a sing-a-long to close the educational and fun-filled Harvest Festival evening, a wonderful way to celebrate the beginning of the new school year and the changing of the seasons.

“The students practiced these songs all week with Mrs. Frostman,” said Beth Ross, another Orchard PTO parent who helped organize this evening. “This was a huge highlight for them, to sit with their friends and share some of their favorite songs.” Adding to the celebratory feeling were 20 jack-o-lanterns (one carved from each class in the school) decorating the stage. “There was an incredible feeling of community.”

Submitted by Emily Lester UVM ‘16, for Common Roots