SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT:  Mary Valley State School  a finalist for Paddock to Plate, School Harvest Table announced December 2011

Its hard to think past our great celebration lunch – Paddock to Plate held in September 2011.  The school is also part of a Agriculture program and therefore we have the pleasure of having farm animals at school as well, since the Edible School Garden program began 12months ago I have seen the students care for cows, sheep and of course our chickens.  All the manure from these animals and their bedding goes into our compost or new garden beds, so nothing gets wasted.   Food scraps go into our chickens.  Meat chickens were especially raised for our Paddock to Plate Harvest event and extra garden beds were made in full winter sun so that we would have extra fresh organic food to compliment what was coming out of the main Edible Garden.  While chicken, salads, herbs and vegetables were all growing beautifully it was time to do some planning.  I contacted Max Porter a local chef from Native Sun Cruisine  to see if he would be part of our harvest celebrations and cook with the students – Max didn’t hesitate and cherished the idea of working with young students.   Max met with the year 6 teacher Lisa James in the gardens and chicken pen to see what would be available to cook with on our Harvest day.

Below you will see the menu that Max Porter came up with – there was so much excitement at the thought of eating such an extensive menu of such quality food and we were not to be disappointed.

On harvest day students were broken into teams, some in the garden to harvest food, others to start preparing in our kitchen (our tuckshop/canteen room) and many tables outside as well to work on.  Baskets of fresh organic vegetables, herbs and salads were picked and taken to our Kitchen.  Our chickens had been butchered earlier in the week.  For hours we all worked on preparing this incredible menu, the students engrossed in their job and seeing all this food come together.  In the breaks, teachers and students came by to see our progress and really wanted to help us as well.  We had enough students in the kitchen but we would  have food for everyone at lunchtime.

Just before lunch, Bevan McLeod from McLeods soil conditioner arrived with Organic oranges and pineapples for the students to juice and cut up for lunch.

Tables were set with real tablecloths, knives, forks and spoons, cups etc and students set about decorating it with flowers from our garden. This was also to be a minimal waste event.  The atmosphere was set for a very special lunch.  Our prize winning cow had even arrived for the event.

At 1.30pm all students had arrived to taste our banquet of food and the year 6s were seated at their table eager to taste the food they had been preparing all day, and nurturing for months.  It was a very special moment.  Then everyone started to eat – there wasn’t a bad word to be said for this meal - soups, entree, many mains and some fruits for dessert (if you still had any room in your stomach).  Max did an incredible job with the students bringing together this extensive menu and the students learnt so much from this experience.  As for the rest of us, especially year 6 teachers Lisa James and garden teachers  Di Harris and myself, this was the best harvest day we had ever experienced – so much food and every student and teacher just savouring every mouthful and the students were involved in the whole process from egg  hatching, harvest cooking and eating.     They weren’t so keen on washing the dishes though!

Harvest Day is one of the most important days of the Edible School Gardens program it’s not just about growing food, but learning to cook it and to experience new foods and without a big footprint on our earth.

Leonie Shanahan

 Edible School Gardens thanks Queensland Gambling Community Benefit Fund for sponsoring Mary Valley State College.