Here at Hassett, we think one of the most delightful things in this world is the marvel of food growing beneath the surface where we walk. Pulling a carrot from the ground is pure magic whether you’re six or 60.
But what if you didn’t know (because you’d never seen) hat food grows in the ground? Or what if you knew, but had no idea what to do with it once it was out of the ground? What if no one had ever taught you how to saute a carrot, or poach asparagus, or just chop it all up to make a salad?
Hassett Hardware is proud to support The HEAL Project (HEAL), as they answer those questions, living out their mission to “provide everyone access to quality food systems education,” for nearly 4,000 second and third graders, not to mention teachers, parents and the other visitors they get to their farm each year.
“Having HEAL growing up really instilled in me an appreciation for fresh, healthy food. We got to plant veggies and harvest them when they were ready, and the food always tasted so much better. The work that the HEAL Project does helps connect kids to their food and creates more conscious consumers.”-Carly B. (Former Intensive Garden Program student)
HEAL opened its educational farm site in El Granada in 2010, where kids grades K-12, from all over the county, not just local Coastside kids, can take a field trip (the first one was 12 years ago), “With their whole class to learn about healthy eating and the connection between our environment and how we grow our food and our health,” says Fiona Benjamin, Associate Director at The HEAL Project.
HEAL focuses on providing as many field trips as possible for free to high-need schools. Benjamin says, “A lot of them are coming from over the hill, South City, East Palo Alto, Redwood City, and it’s the only day trip program to a farm where the kids get to cook on the farm”
Some of the funds raised by HEAL go to the time and resources it takes to mine statistical data that helps them reach out to schools that need HEAL’s programs the most, relieving the overburdened schools from having to advocate for themselves. Benjamin says, “If they’re a high-need school and they sign up, they just automatically get the trip free, and then we offer the bus stipend. We even reach out directly to these schools to make sure that they know about our programming and can access it.”
“Do you know something- this is actually my first time hiking before and now I LOVE hiking.” – Second grade student fall field trip, 2023
During the field trips, kids get to pick or pull fruits and vegetables and HEAL walks them through a no-cook recipe. “The kids get to decide what they like, what feels good for them,” Benjamin says. She adds, “The vast majority of second and third grade kids have never been invited to actually cook. And students report that it feels really meaningful.”
Benjamin says that kids will tell her they loved the field trip because it was their first time on a hike, or their first time preparing fresh food. And they want to go home and share this experience and information with their families.
HEAL has now expanded that first farm site with satellite gardens at all four of the Coastside’s elementary schools: Hatch, El Granada, Farallon View and King’s Mountain.
Starting in the winter of their second grade year, kids at each of these schools get to participate in the HEAL garden class, learning the cycles of planting, growing and maintaining the garden. They stay in the program for a full year, through to winter of third grade.
Benjamin says, “I’m meeting these kids again as high school students, or they call me in college and they’re studying something in food and culture, or food and racial justice.”
It doesn’t stop there for the kids, the parents or HEAL’s supporters.
HEAL has several ways to participate and support its programs.
- Jr. Marketing Program
As kids get older they can help sell HEAL produce at the local farmer’s markets. Students get to share with the community what they learned in garden class and then practice soft social and selling skills.
“We see a lot of local high school kids who have volunteer hours they have to complete come visit the farm.” – Fiona Benjamin
- Community Farm Day at the HEAL farm
Every second Saturday of the month from 9:00 a.m. to Noon (HEAL asks that folks RSVP) everyone age 10 and up has the opportunity to get dirty and help out the farm. Volunteers pull weeds, spread mulch, plant trees, clean up and work on the educational spaces
“We definitely operate the farm on a shoestring. Farming is a lot of work, which is part of what we want our students to experience. And so it’s really helpful to have days where we know we’re going to have a dozen extra pairs of hands, because usually it’s just one full time farmer and one part time farmer that run the whole thing,” says Benjamin.
“I brought my 4th grade class here last fall. Many of my students have never had the opportunity to visit a farm before so it is a very rewarding and eye opening experience for them. At the end of the year, many students remember this field trip as being the highlight of the school year.” – Lisa H. 3rd Grade Teacher
- Summer Camp – Registration opens on February 8, 2024
For kids six to 10, the summer camp is reasonably priced and it sells out every year. Heal offers scholarships and all people have to do is ask. “It is very important to us that camp becomes accessible for people of all socioeconomic backgrounds,” says Benjamin.
- March Spring Ahead Gala Fundraiser – Tickets go on sale February 5, 2024.
HEAL’s annual fundraiser is a farm-to-table gala event hosted by Kim Levin, owner of Pasta Moon on Main Street in Half Moon Bay. “For anybody who is into farm to table dining, it is a very magical dining experience that is graciously hosted by Kim,” says Benjamin.
All of the money raised at the gala goes back into The HEAL Project’s programs and is especially important for the upkeep of the farm as well as the administrative work of outreach and keeping the program accessible to those who need it most.
My daughter comes home inspired creatively, eager to cook and plant! She enjoys spending all day on the farm, being so close to nature.” — Farm Camp Parent
For more information, to support The HEAL Project, sign up for camp or buy tickets to the gala, please visit the HEAL website.