The 2017-2018 Northeast Farm to School Institute kicked off with a retreat at the beautiful Shelburne Farms in Shelburne, Vermont during the last week of June. The institute is a unique year-long professional learning opportunity for twelve school teams from New England and New York. Two of our staff at the Food & Health Network, Erin Summerlee, Director and Christian Dirado-Owens, Program Coordinator had the opportunity to attend the retreat as part of a Johnson City School District Team. They were joined by their fellow team members Adam Frys and Jane Halladay from Johnson City School District, Bryan McCoy of Broome Tioga BOCES Food Service, and Kelly White from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Broome County.
Can you give a brief overview of your experience?
Christian: Shelburne Farms is a very beautiful place, it provided us with a space for our team to come together and also gave us many resources and questions to bring back to our farm to school work. It took us away from our daily work responsibilities and gave us a place where we could be free to focus on exactly what we wanted to achieve. Overall, it was really helpful for us to connect and talk with each other about farm to school and made us feel comfortable moving forward with programming and asking team members to work toward a vision. It was a really good communication builder for the team, and left us with a sense that there are a lot of things happening in other places that gave us an optimism of what’s possible.
Erin: It was really a space away from our work responsibilities to come together as a team, not just those of us who always work together on the school foodservice and nutrition education side of things but different key people within the schools. It was a mix of group time where we could dig into developing our own action plan for the following school year and then learning opportunities and workshops where we could hear from farm to school programs across the northeast and the country. We also had time to plenty of free to time to meet new people and informally learn from the different school teams. In the end we came up with an action plan and a vision statement for the Johnson City Farm to School Program and are excited to put it into motion throughout the year. Continue reading