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Measuring Our Meals

By John McDaniel, Farm Director
“Farm to table,” “farm to fork,” “eat local!” These are all catchphrases, which have reinvigorated a food movement that appeared to be lost. 

It has been extremely rewarding and powerful to see people connect with the sources of their food through farmers markets, community supported agriculture, urban farming, and growing some of their own food. At the Manhattan Country School Farm, we often say that we measure our meals in steps: walking to our gardens, greenhouse, barn, chicken coop, and orchard to harvest our fruits, vegetables and herbs, milk our cow, and collect eggs from our flock of chickens. This food is then transported (walking back to the house) in baskets, buckets, and in our hands. 

Fall Farm trips come at a time of high harvest. It occurred to us recently that we were not only measuring our meals in steps, but also in time. Most of the meals prepared and eaten by our Farm community come directly from our Farm. During 7th and 8th grade trips, students are asked to work with one partner and prepare an entire meal using only MCS Farm ingredients, for the entire group of 25-30 people. For example, a dinner of grilled steaks from our own grass-fed cattle, roasted broccoli and potatoes, sauteed zucchini and onions and of course a cold glass of milk. The broccoli, zucchini, onions, and potatoes were harvested that morning by kids in Farming Class and handed off to their two classmates preparing the meal. The milk came from our cow Dairy Queen. Once she is hand milked each day, her milk is pasteurized and chilled in the fridge. From harvest at 11:00 a.m. to dinner which is served at 5:30 p.m. A total of six and a half hours had passed from Farm to Table. 

We understand that this process comes from a place of privilege. The privilege of land ownership and of the education and knowledge to understand and execute these processes. We also understand it comes from an intentional community, a respect and celebration of physical labor, and a shared experience, which engages our school community in a social model that can be raised up and amplified.
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