From teaching high schoolers how to bend conduit pipes to showing kindergarteners the power of the sun with UV beads, our ReVision Energy climate education team has found that the best way to teach kids is through hands-on learning. That’s why we were so excited to learn about Cornucopia Project, led by Executive Director (and solar champion!) Lauren Judd. A hands-on nutritional education nonprofit based in New Hampshire’s Monadnock region, Cornucopia Project focuses on “farm-to-school learning” which includes garden education and healthful food prep, using locally grown foods.
“Learning about nutrition through agriculture and food preparation is fun and effective,” explained Judd, who started as a part-time garden educator five years ago, and is now the Executive Director. Cornucopia Project started a micro farm across from the (solar-powered!) ConVal High School, where student farmers grow food for their local cafeterias as well as a CSA open to the public. They use organic growing practices, and use the farm to show the whole ecosystem surrounding food production and distribution.
The micro farm is situated in the greater Peterborough area. The farm, along with eight elementary school gardens, serves students of the ConVal school district. Cornucopia Project also provides nutrition education in the Keene area district schools and regional private schools. They will bring garden education to any school that requests it and, thanks to recent grant funding by the USDA, they are massively scaling up youth impact, expanding their network of volunteers and partner organizations. When they started out, they were reaching 250 students a year; now they are at 1000 students and on track to reach 2000, as part of the national effort to address childhood nutrition.
“We’ve grown through meaningful partnerships with schools, partner nonprofits, and other organizations throughout the region to include as many young people as possible,” said Judd, “When we teach in gardens or at our farm we’re exploring from an interdisciplinary approach to make connections with nutrition, environment, agriculture, and community. “
ReVision Energy and Cornucopia Project also share a core value: stewardship. At ReVision this desire to protect the nature around us often takes the form of volunteering in our communities – trail cleanups or beach cleans. Cornucopia Project spreads a similar message about respect for our local land.
“We want to make sure that whatever activities we’re doing in this space ensures that this land and this place can be enjoyed for a very long time,” explained Judd. “So that means having that responsibility, teaching responsibility for food, land, soil, and what it means to really caretake for this place that provides us with everything we need.”
While Cornucopia Project has emphasized the role of the sun in their garden lesson plans, the educational farm has not required much electricity until recently. With such high demand for the Student Farmers Program and CSA, the farm has started to expand into a year-round project. They recently acquired high tunnels through a USDA NRCS agreement to extend their growing season, and are starting to explore their energy needs.
Judd herself is a solar champion, with solar being installed on her barn roof this spring, and the nonprofit’s board is also excited about renewable energy. “There is definitely an increased need for electrical resources at the farm, and we think solar energy can best represent our mission as a nonprofit and continue our presentation as a demonstration to the community of what your own micro farm can look like. We want folks to come visit, for this to be a resource and an example for members of the community,” she said.
Want to help Cornucopia Project further its mission and bring more hands-on nutrition education to the Granite State? Here are some ways to get involved.
Donate to their year-end appeal. This helps them show how much impact they can deliver in 2023.
Volunteer! If you’re local to the Monadnock region, they can organize group or individual volunteer projects for you.
Bring Cornucopia to your school! If you’re a teacher or have an affiliation with a school or youth group and want to get involved in hands-on nutrition education, reach out to Admin@cornucopiaproject.org.
Jill McLaughlin is the Digital Content Manager for ReVision Energy, an employee-owned solar company based in Brentwood, NH
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