For more than three years, Veggies to Table, a grow-to-donate organic farm in Newcastle, has worked with students from Lincoln Academy’s IDEAL program in a win-win collaboration.
The Innovatively Designed Education for All Learners program, known as IDEAL, is designed to help nontraditional learners thrive. One of the most important components of the program is service-based learning.
Program director Janna Civittolo said service-based learning plays a vital role in the program’s success, with “all of our ninth and tenth graders spending their mornings off-campus volunteering to help them connect to their community by giving back while gaining on-the-job skills.”
Veggies to Table is one of the local organizations that hosts IDEAL students with great results. Learning takes place on many levels: social/emotional, intellectual, skill building, and more.
According to Civittolo, the opportunity to work and learn at Veggies to Table has enabled students to deepen their sense of community and belonging by giving back and feeling good about themselves.
“They learn how to communicate on a job or volunteer site and how to behave appropriately in community-based settings,” Civittolo said.
The students also learn no-till farming practices, planting, harvesting and see how a not-for-profit organization can help their community with their aid. This involves both hard and soft skills, Civittolo said.
Hard skills include a range of farming tasks, from planting and harvesting to weeding and chicken feeding. Soft skills can be applied to many other areas of life and work, like teamwork, planning, communicating, listening, work ethic, and self-knowledge.
Important as these learning outcomes are, the benefits of this partnership run even deeper. In addition to “trying out what it’s like to be a farmer and explore whether that’s a viable career option, they witness what it takes to run such an operation and be part of an organization that provides so much for our community,” Civittolo said. “It is important for them to be exposed to good examples of people in our community like Erica (Berman, co-founder and executive director of Veggies to Table) who are working to make the world a better place. It is inspiring to all.
“In our current society, which emphasizes instant gratification and individualism, it can be difficult to motivate students to persevere and get the job done when a particular farm task is challenging or less interesting than others,” Civittolo said. However thanks to their experiences at Veggies to Table, “IDEAL students come to recognize that it is more than just themselves they are accountable for, but our community, too. They learn to see the bigger picture and realize that they are part of something greater; that they, too, can be part of the greater good.”
The newest skill-building project the IDEAL students will embark on at Veggies to Table is taking place this winter, when they build tables for the new greenhouses that are going up this spring.
To learn more about Veggies to Table, go to veggiestotable.org.