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Ah, to see and feel the wonders of a farm, through the eyes and fingers of young children.

My friend, Sheri Larsen, owner of Hurley Farms recently invited me to join her and to meet a group of 27 kindergarten students, their teacher, Mrs. Floyd, and several of the moms on the children’s first “farm to table” field trip.  

The children’s visit began with the fun of running their fingers through a small hill of lovely, loamy soil.  

It was such fun, watching the children, led by farm owner, Sheri and teacher, Mrs Floyd, walking through the vegetable gardens, picking beets and radishes, and running their hands over the plants.

After touring the farm and learning about the growing of vegetable and the making of honey, they were seated at a picnic table, where Sheri answered questions that the children had about good bugs and bad bugs, plants that can be eaten, such as sunflowers, roses and green pea flowers. They discussed whether a vegetable was a “root” or a shoot,” meaning: did they grow above or below the soil. Roots would be carrots, for instance, and lettuce would be shoots.

After Sheri and a few of the mothers took the boys, and then the girls on a tour to see the brand new baby chicks, everyone settled down around the table.

While Sheri left to gather treats in the kitchen. Mrs. Floyd got the children to settle down, and I soon learned what makes her such an outstanding teacher.

First of all, as you would imagine, the children were  excited about being at the farm and all the adventures they were enjoying, but their teacher was firm about good manners, quieting down and listening to their teacher. She was amazing. It worked like a charm, and she was soon conducting her class and asking questions of her students on what were some of the high points for them, and what were some of the questions they would like to ask of Sheri when she returned.

I learned later, from Lisa, that Mrs. Floyd’s method of teaching is called, PBL (project-based learning.) It’s a hands-on technique of learning, making the children think “outside the box.”

She explained that students are encouraged to ask questions in the form of  “I wonder” statements, such as:

“I wonder if worms, (slugs, roly polys, ladybugs, bees) are good for the garden?

“I wonder if flower petals can be used after they flowers are dead.”

“I wonder if a gardener needs to know math.”

“Does it matter how close together you plant the seeds?”

Students were researching the question, “How do gardens help us? How can we use our garden to help others?”

“Once they finish their research, they will have to find a way to serve others using our classroom garden,” Mrs. Floyd said. “It might be through creating garden art, or providing food, or it might even be harvesting seeds to share or planting to take care of the bees.”

My guess is that what the children learned at the farm today will stay with them for all of their lives. Today’s field trip will certainly make a more lasting impression than simply being taught about eating healthy foods.

Mrs. Floyd made sure today that each student was totally involved in the process of how things work and they were encouraged to try new things, and to always ask questions, to always use good judgment.

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But, back to the group at the picnic table. Sheri, her mom and sister provided wonderfully fresh foods from the garden. Everyone had great appetites for the fresh honey, and the picture-perfect kale, carrots, pea’s lettuce and fresh strawberry jam.  

What a difference it made to the children, to be eating vegetables that they had just seen, and touched in the gardens. No picky eaters in this crowd. They were delighted to be enjoying this fresh fair. These youngsters discovered the great difference in the taste of freshly picked vegetables right from the garden.

I’d like to thank Sheri’s friend, Kaci Smith, for her great idea of inviting Mrs. Floyd and her kindergarten group to one of my favorite places in Napa Valley, Sheri’s Hurley Farms.

You just can’t beat produce being raised and harvested, with the tender, loving care of Sheri, her mom and sister. Plus, of course, honey canned jams, eggs, etc. all the things you expect to be raised on a farm.

Hurley Farms is just off Trancas Street at 2083 Silverado Trail.

Give Sheri a call at 257-3683, or visit HurleyFarms.com

Eat healthfully.

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