What’€™s the best way to teach kids about how their food choices affect the planet? Let them get their hands dirty, working on the farm that grows the food they eat every day in their school cafeteria.

It’€™s called a hands-on, experiential learning. And it works, according to the folks at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center (ELC), near OCA’€™s home office in Finland, Minn.

The Wolf Ridge school farm took root four years ago as a joint study project coordinated by local farmer David Abazs and a group of Wolf Ridge student naturalists. Abazs, now the Wolf Ridge farm manager (and an OCA board member), hatched a plan for a seven-acre organic farm atthe ELC, where kids from the schools that visit Wolf Ridge could participate in growing the vegetables being served in the dining hall.

The group was able to take the project from vision to reality last year, thanks to grants from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) and the OCA. That and the muscle provided by volunteers and interns who cleared brush, poured concrete and planted the first seedlings.

Abazs says the farm’€™s long-term goal ‘€“ besides connecting students with the biological systems that produce their food – is to provide all of the vegetables for the 300,000 meals consumed each year at the ELC. For now, they’€™re all just looking forward to their first September harvest.

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