Last week, students at BFA Fairfax welcomed visiting school leaders from Kenya into their gardens and classrooms. It was an incredible opportunity for the visiting team to learn how to start a farm to school who want to start a farm to school program in their own community. The 10-day trip to Vermont was made possible through the generous support of VT Center for International Learning Partnerships (VCILP) and the Bay and Paul Foundation.
” It is incredible all they are doing from saving orphans to building economic communities to building equality between genders.” – Grace Zelazny, BFA Fairfax student
Students leading BFA Fairfax’s farm to school club gave a tour of their grounds, orchards, and facilities, shared about their projects in their farm to school class, and told the story of how their program grew into the multifaceted collaborative project it is today.
“The work Brother Kennedy and Florence Maina are doing in Kenya is wonderful. They seek economic sustainability and gender equity through education. Creating a food system where people learn to garden in sustainable ways is at the heart of their work” – Fred Griffin, BFA Fairfax High School Language Arts Teacher
As part of the effort to build capacity and strengthen rural community development efforts in Kenya, Dr. Mary Lynn Riggs, VCILP’s Program Coordinator, arranged for Brother Kennedy Oronjo and Florence Maina to visit the Farm to School program at BFA Fairfax.
“We know something about how hard things are in parts of the world. It was eye-opening to hear specifically what was going on in Kenya and Brother Kennedy’s school.” – Hannah Rainville
Farm to school programs increase students’ access to local, healthy foods, helping to address hunger and connecting students to where their food comes from to promote local agriculture and healthy eating habits. Brother Kennedy Oronjo and Florence Maina run two schools in Kenya for economically disadvantaged children, most of whom are orphans, one in Nairobi and one in rural Rodi-Homa Bay. The communities they serve struggle with food insecurity, economic challenges, and gender inequality, and they are building a farm to school program to address these issues and provide opportunities to young people. Their goal is to address hunger and food insecurity within the community through education and applied learning while at the same time boosting their rural economies. In the end, they envision a system similar to the one BFA Fairfax and other Vermont schools have developed.
“We want to find ways to link not just our Farm to School program, but our school with the project in Kenya. Heifer International was adopted by BFA Fairfax four years as a care-giving mission. Last year our student body purchased a water buffalo, two flocks of chickens and a sheep for Heifer to distribute. Livestock are a vital part of a sustainable food system. We are going to explore linking Heifer, Brother Kennedy, and our school by targeting his project as the beneficiary of our animal gifts.” – Fred Griffin, BFA Fairfax High School Language Arts Teacher
Students in Fairfax started their farm to school program only two years ago, and the program has since expanded rapidly. The students, both in farm to school classes and in the farm to school club, manage an apple orchard, a greenhouse, vegetable and herb gardens, and plan to add a chicken coop, a hoop house, and a pollinator garden this spring.
“It’s great that they are trying to improve their lives.” – Anna Spiller, BFA Fairfax student
The project has been funded by two Vermont Farm to School grants, in 2016 and 2017, but the true success in their program comes from the creative integration of agriculture into the school curriculum and the deep community connections students and teachers have fostered with neighbors, student families, and the local agricultural community.
“I think it is pretty cool that they are looking at Farm to School here in Fairfax as a way to build a sustainable program of their own.” – Quentin Stoneburner, BFA Fairfax student
BFA Fairfax was chosen this year as one of Vermont’s exemplary Farm to School grantees and is featured in the 2018 Farm to School & Childcare Program Report. After seeing a successful farm to school program in Vermont, Brother Kennedy and Florence hope to bring tools and lessons learned back to Kenya to inspire the development of their own farm to school programs.
Special thanks to Gina Clithero at the Vermont Agency of Agriculture and BFA Fairfax High School Language Arts Teacher Fred Griffin for contributing to this story.