FoodCorps Alumna Pioneering New Approaches to Education

By Sagra Alvarado, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Students who don’t think they are “into” science or who may find traditional science courses daunting should step into master’s candidate Arla Casselman’s classroom. She brings her passion for food and agriculture to life as she teaches best practices in food sustainability with her students.

In her elective classes at Medomak Valley High School in Waldoboro, Maine, Casselman works to ignite students’ interest in science through lessons and projects that are accessible. “I think when students can see how science is actually happening all around them in their own environment they are more likely to gain interest and engage,” she says, offering as example her ecology class in which 50 percent of the sessions were taught outside in the forest, “where students can physically interact with their ecosystem.”

Casselman’s path to teaching was not direct. She graduated from Saint Lawrence University in 2011 with a degree in sustainable agriculture and food systems, a multi-field major that she developed herself. After graduation, she was working as an assistant farm manager for a farm-to-table restaurant, when she decided with her fiancé to start their own farm, Ewing Fruit Company, with a focus on certified organic wild blueberries.

Ewing Fruit Company finished out its sixth season last summer. What started with 30 acres has now expanded to 60 acres. In addition to supplying close to 25 stores and restaurants around Maine, the farm sells at farmer’s markets regularly and manages orders from 150 to 200 families a year.