Detroit’s “School to Farm” Project

Kid planting in greenhouse

FoodCorps members in Detroit are helping educators bring schools to the farm. Brooke Juday and Shannon Zandee, serving with Detroit Public Schools, developed lessons for field trips to Drew Farms, the school district’s production farm. Drew Farms grows fresh produce for Detroit school lunches, delivering an average of 500 pounds of salad greens to 11 schools every week—or at least one serving at each of those 11 schools each week. School leaders are now working to incorporate the farm into curriculum—with half-day field trips and shorter “walking field trips”—and to serve as a learning space open to all 141 DPS schools. 

Brooke and Shannon have been “instrumental” in the preparation and leading of activities, says Monica Degarmo, Program Manager for DPS’ Office of School Nutrition. “There is no way we would be able to take this next step in our programming had it not been for their service and the passion and skillset they bring,” she says.

The first five field trips, held for groups ranging from kindergarten to 7th grade, have been a hit, featuring lessons adapted from FoodCorps activities in classrooms and school gardens. “Teachers are absolutely grateful—especially science teachers—for the opportunity to be exposing their student to real hands-on learn activities that are meeting their subject standards,” Degarmo adds. “And they’re doing it at a Detroit Public School right here in the city.”

Founded in 2012, Drew Farms is the result of a collaboration with the DPS Office of School Nutrition, Michigan State University Extension, and the Drew Transition Center. With four acres of farmland and six 96-square-foot hoop house, the farm regularly provides produce—including lettuce, spinach, broccoli, yellow squash, and zucchini—to 11 of DPS’ 141 schools. “The past two years we have grown a crop that has allowed us to feed all our schools for one day,” Degarmo notes. “In 2014 it was corn, and it 2015 it was butternut squash.”

DPS and Drew Farms are now looking at opportunities for summer school and the greater community. Parents, grandparents, and other student chaperones have appreciated the field trips as much as the students, Degarmo says. “This has sparked a new program called Family Farm Days, which we will pilot this summer on six Saturdays between July and October. Brooke, Shannon, and future FoodCorps members will be integral in creating, adapting, and implementing this exciting new opportunity for our school families.”