Vermont Farm To School Program Provides Inspiration To Kenya School Leaders

From Fairfax, VT to Nairobi, Kenya: BFA-Fairfax Farm To School Program Inspires Agricultural Development Project in Kenya
by Gina Clithero, Vermont Agency of Agriculture

Vermont’s Farm-to-School Program serves as a model for schools across the globe. Bellows Free Academy in Fairfax is one of the schools that has a built a robust program from the ground up. Friday, BFA-Fairfax students opened up their gardens and classrooms to representatives from schools in Kenya who want to start a farm to school program in their own community.

Brother Kennedy Oronjo, Caitlin Allan, junior BFA-Fairfax, Shanon Mahoney, senior BFA-Fairfax, Florence Maina)

Students leading BFA Fairfax’s farm to school club gave a tour of their grounds, orchards and facilities, shared about their projects in their farm to school class, and told the story of how their program grew into the multifaceted collaborative project it is today.

Farm to school programs increase students’ access to local, healthy foods, helping to address hunger and connecting students to where their food comes from to promote local agriculture and healthy eating habits. Brother Kennedy Oronjo and Florence Maina run two schools in Kenya for economically disadvantaged children, most of whom are orphans, one in Nairobi and one in rural Rodi-Homa Bay. The communities they serve struggle with food insecurity, economic challenges, and gender inequality, and they are building a farm to school program to address these issues and provide opportunities to young people. Their goal is to address hunger and food insecurity within the community through education and applied learning while at the same time boosting their rural economies. In the end, they envision a system similar to the one BFA-Fairfax and other Vermont schools have developed.

Students in Fairfax started their farm to school program only two years ago, and the program has since expanded rapidly. The students, both in farm to school classes and in the farm to school club, manage an apple orchard, a greenhouse, vegetable and herb gardens, and plan to add a chicken coop, a hoop house, and a pollinator garden this spring.

The project has been funded by two Vermont Farm to School grants, in 2016 and 2017, but the true success in their program comes from the creative integration of agriculture into the school curriculum and the deep community connections students and teachers have fostered with neighbors, student families, and the local agricultural community.

BFA-Fairfax was chosen this year as one of Vermont’s exemplary Farm to School grantees and is featured in the 2018 Farm to School & Childcare Program Report. After seeing a successful farm to school program in Vermont, Brother Kennedy and Florence hope to bring tools and lessons learned back to Kenya to inspire the development of their own farm to school programs.