Annual Winter Conference

13th Annual Growing Minds Through Massachusetts (and Connecticut) Agriculture Conference for Educators


Saturday, March 8, 2014


Paul R. Baird Middle School, Ludlow, MA


9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.


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Two-Page Winter Conference Flyer - PDF Version

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Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom is sponsoring our 13th Statewide Winter Conference for teachers at The Baird Middle School in Ludlow, Massachusetts on Saturday, March 8, 2014 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. For the second year, we will collaborate and co-sponsor the conference with Connecticut Agriculture in the Classroom. Titled "Growing Minds Through Massachusetts (and Connecticut) Agriculture," the conference offers offers educational and networking resources, activity ideas and framework connections that can facilitate and enhance pre-K through 12th grade classroom teachers alike and help bring agriculture to the classroom.

This year's conference will feature a choice of four concurrent workshops during each session throughout the day. Each workshop will be taught by a school teacher, farm educator or a teacher working together with a farmer. Workshops will offer specific background and activities for either elementary, middle or high school level. Topics will include: composting, school gardening, soils, nutrition, animals, fibers, connecting the farm to school, specific lessons ideas and more. Don't miss this day of discussion, interaction and opportunities for exploring new ideas for your Massachusetts classroom. The $50 fee includes all workshops, lunch, materials and 10 pdp's with a related classroom activity.

*Advanced Registration fee: for the full day, including lunch, is $50.

*Registration on the day of the Conference: $55 (Subject to space availability.)

*Exhibitor fee: $50. (An 8 by 10 foot table will be supplied; exhibitors should be set up no later than 8:30 a.m.)

*Professional Development Points: 10 PDPs are available for Massachusetts teacher who attend the full day conference, carry out a related classroom activity, and send in a brief report of their experience. We can also provide a certificate of participation for pre-school educators and teachers from other states. For More Information: call Debi Hogan at 508-336-4426 with your questions.

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A limited number of conference Scholarships are available to educators from Massachusetts and Connecticut. These Scholarships are open to teachers from urban areas, those who are new to teaching and farm-based educators. The scholarships have been provided thanks to a grant from Northeast Farm Credit AgEnhancement. Click here for Scholarship Application form.

Conference Sponsors:

We thank the USDA and the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources for funding four school gardening and composting workshops and the Massachusetts Dairy Promotion Board for funding two dairy and nutrition workshops. We also thank the Ludlow Public Schools and Randall's Farm in Ludlow for making this conference possible!


Conference Schedule: Workshops & Demonstrations

CLICK TO VIEW PDF: Full conference brochure with workshops and registration form

8:00 a.m.:

Registration, coffee, tea and breakfast snack and exhibits

8:30 - 9:00:

Introductions & Welcome Presentation

9:00 - 10:10:

Workshop Session 1 (Concurrent sessions, choose one of nine workshops)

10:20 to 11:30:

Workshop Session 2 (Concurrent sessions, choose one of eight workshops)

11:30 a.m. to 12:50 p.m.:

Lunch, Awards and Speaker, followed by the opportunity to interact and visit exhibits.

Presentation of The 2014 AgriScience Excellence Award

12:50 to 2:00 p.m.:

Workshop Session Three (Concurrent sessions, choose one of eight workshops)

2:10 to 3:20 p.m.:

Workshop Session Four (Concurrent sessions, choose one of eight workshops)

3:20 p.m.:

Evaluation and Wrap Up and Distribution of MAC Educational Materials.

Schedule of Workshops

Workshop Session 1: 9:00 to 10:10: (Choose 1 of 8 workshops)

Workshop 1: Wildlife in the Schoolyard

With every season, the schoolyard provides wonderful opportunities for you and your students to explore, discover, and learn about the diversity of local wildlife. Embrace the idea that if you plant a garden, wildlife will follow! Join Pam Landry, MassWildlife’s Education Coordinator, for an overview of local schoolyard wildlife: essential elements of habitat, natural history, identifying animal sign, native plants for attracting birds, what to do with uninvited visitors and the impact of human actions on wildlife habitat. We’ll spend some time outside using our ‘eagle eyes’ to hone our observation skills. Participants will receive copies of MassWildlife publications and be introduced to additional relevant resources & trainings.

Workshop Presenter: Pam Landry, Education Coordinator, MassWildlife

Workshop 2: Making Cheese in the Classroom

Cheese making involves time, temperature and a choice of additions which stimulate change in the composition of the milk. Dairy farmer Marjorie Cooper from Coopers' Hilltop Dairy Farm in Rochdale will make Queso Blanco. Queso Blanco is the easiest cheese to master. Milk, vinegar and heat are necessary. This batch will hang for 2 hours and be available for lunch. Heidi Van Auker, who works in sales at Coopers' Farm will prepare Mozzarella Cheese. Mozzarella is the unripened, stretch pizza cheese. Physical and chemical properties which allow fluid milk to become soft and hard cheeses will be explained. There will be references to the new Dairy Lessons that will be presented in Session 3.

Workshop Presenters: Marjorie Cooper and Heidi Van Auker, Coopers’ Hilltop Dairy Farm, Rochdale

Workshop 3: Why You Should Get Involved With 4-H

4-H is the nation’s largest youth development and empowerment organization, reaching more than 7 million 4-H youth in urban neighborhoods, suburban schoolyards and rural farming communities. Fueled by University-backed curriculum, 4-H’ers engage in hands-on learning activities in the areas of science, healthy living, and food security. Kathy Dugan, Program Director for 4-H in Worcester County and Erin DeCoste, 4-H leader and teacher at The Bromfield School in Harvard, will offer an overview of the program in Massachusetts, including curriculum resources and ways to get involved. If you have a group of students who would increase their learning through participating in projects, 4-H can be of assistance. The National 4-H Program offers curriculum for all ages.

Workshop Presenters: Kathy Dugan, Program Director for Worcester County 4-H and coordinator of the 4-H Ambassador Program and Erin DeCoste, 4-H leader in Lancaster and teacher at the Bromfield School, Harvard

Workshop 4: Getting Started in the School Garden

This workshop offers an opportunity to share ideas, successes, challenges, and overall know-how with others who have some experience with planning and developing a school garden program at their school. Participants are encouraged to bring questions with them to the workshop any information and materials that they believe would be helpful to fellow school garden leaders. Target Range: all grades.

Workshop Presenters: school garden educators

Workshop 5: Wool Science 101

Wool is an incredible, natural fiber! It has some very unique characteristics due to its protein structure and chemical properties. During this workshop, Ally Hunter, Instructor at Worcester Polytechnical Institute, will provide background on the science of wool. Then explore the fibers while she demonstrates the unique attributes of wool. Try out a hands-on felting activity. Target grades: middle through high school. Bring a bar of your favorite soap.

Workshop Presenter: Ally Hunter, Science Teacher at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, MA


Workshop 6: From Carrots to Conifers: Teaching Kids Science Through the Wonder of Plants

Participants will be guided through interactive activities focused on plant propagation, the origins of our food, and facilitating self-guided journeys through a natural ecosystem. Jamie Samowitz, Youth Education Coordinator for the Berkshire Botanical Garden will offer hands-on activities with hand-outs of lesson plans will be provided. Curriculum is targeted to elementary and middle school, but the activities are adaptable for a range of grade levels. Registration limit of 15 participants.

Workshop Presenter: Jamie Samowitz, Youth Education Coordinator, Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge, MA


Workshop 7: Popcorn Production

Come learn with Dan Dzen as he explains the science behind growing popcorn. Dan has experience growing popcorn on his family's Christmas Tree Farm. He will discuss how to plant, cultivate, grow, process, and market popcorn. Dan will give you different materials to help you facilitate growing popcorn in your classroom! Appropriate for all ages.

Workshop Presenter: Workshop Presenter: Dan Dzen, Dzen Tree Farm, Inc., South Windsor

Workshop 8: Teaching Soils in the Classroom

An understanding of the importance and nature of soil is essential for agriculture, growing healthy plants and for conservation and environmental education. Try out a sampling of fun and easy hands-on activities to teach how to identify and describe soils characteristics such as texture, color, drainage and parent material. Appropriate for middle and high school. Topics will include soil layers (horizons), soil components, physical properties, improving soil structure, and soil pH. Appropriate for middle and high school.

Workshop Presenter: Rebecca Bottomley, Environmental Science and Horticulture Teacher, Quabbin Regional High School, Barre, MA


Workshop Session 2: 10:20 to 11:30 (Choose 1 of 8 workshops)

Workshop 1: Growing with Books: Linking Literature to Classroom Farming and Gardening Activities

Immerse yourself in children’s books that use agriculture and gardening as a theme as you learn how to use these books as a jumping off point to enhance your classroom curriculum. Early Childhood Curriculum Developer, Karen Daughtrey from Holyoke, will share some of her personal collection of 1,600 kids books. As you explore and “play” with the collection, you'll explore standards-based, cross-discipline  lessons plans developed for this workshop...and for you to add to your "teacher toolbox." Target Grades: Pre-K through Grade 2.

Workshop Presenter: Karen Daughtrey, Early Childhood Curriculum Developer, Holyoke


Workshop 2: Plant Propagation Workshop

There are numerous propagation techniques that you can use in the classroom, garden or small greenhouse that will increase the number of plants that are available for use with your students and to sell to support your classroom. Warren Leach, horticulturist and owner of Tranquil Lake Nursery in Rehoboth will show you how to plant seeds; make leaf, petiole and stem cuttings, how to divide and more. He will discuss planting medium for the classroom and will offer a variety of botany and horticultural activities to accompany your propagation lessons. Suitable for K-12.

Workshop Presenter: Warren Leach, horticulturist, Tranquil Lake Nursery, Rehoboth


Workshop 3: Beekeeping in the Classroom Workshop

Teacher and Beekeeper, Ken Oles, will offer ideas for introducing the topics of bees and pollination in the classroom. He will provide an overview of raising bees and producing honey and beeswax products. You will also learn about the life cycle of the honeybee, pollination and what it takes to raise bees in Massachusetts today with associated classroom activities and curriculum connections. Additional discussion will cover plants that support pollinators. Target grades:

Workshop Presenter: Ken Oles is a retired 5th grade teacher, a MAC Board Member and a Master

Workshop 4: Goat Cheese and More!

Jennifer Poirier of The Shepherd's Gate in Holland, Massachusetts raises dairy goats and makes a variety of products from their milk, including Chevre, Yogurt, Gelato, Feta, Mozzarella, Queso Blanco, Ricotta, fudge, cheesecake and pudding. Jennifer will offer an overview of raising dairy goats for milk, and will also demonstrate how she makes some of these dairy goat products. She will also offer some tips for utilizing dairy goat milk to make cheese in the classroom. Jennifer milks a large herd of goats and has several sales outlets for the various products that she creates. Information on the purchase of cheese making equipment will be provided.

Workshop Presenter: Jennifer Poirier, Shepherd’s Gate, Holland

Workshop 5: Growing and Using Flax

This year, add flax to your school garden, while making connections to the classroom. Michelle Parrish, 1st and 2nd grade teacher at the Common School in Amherst, is also a weaver, dyer, and spinner who has been cultivating flax for a decade. Flax has been a valuable source of fiber for over 30,000 years. It is a fascinating plant to study, whether your focus is economic botany, history, sustainable agriculture, or chemistry. Learn about different seed varieties, and how to plant, grow, and process flax for fiber. Finally, Michelle will make connections to the Common Core Standards aligned to related activities.

Workshop Presenter: Michelle Parrish, 1st and 2nd grade teacher at the Common School in Amherst, Dye and Fiber Gardener and Weaver

Workshop 6: The Grange: Agricultural History and a Resource for Your Classroom

Join members of the Massachusetts State Grange, a fraternal, community organization with a focus on agriculture and community service, to learn more about the history of the organization and how teachers can make connections with their local Grange. Founded in 1873, the Massachusetts State Grange has launched a new program, Grange Roots, which encourages local chapters to more actively promote agriculture in their community. There are many ways that Granges can serve as a resource for teachers and students that will be highlighted in this workshop. Suitable for grades K-12 in both MA and CT.

Workshop Presenters: Members of the Massachusetts State Grange

Workshop 7: Classroom Hydroponics: A Great Way to Grow

Hydroponics is an exciting way to demonstrate an alternative viable form of farming to your students. Using some easy-to-find and inexpensive materials you and your students will literally be able to enjoy the fruits (and leaves!) of your labor. Kate Bars, Connecticut’s 2012 State Science Agricultural Teacher of the Year from Pomfret Community School will provide an overview of the basics of hydroponics, discuss how it can be applied in the classroom, and show you how to make a “mini- hydro planter” to take back to your class! Suitable for grades K-6.

Workshop Presenter: Instructor: Kate Bars, Pomfret Community School, Pomfret, CT

Workshop 8: Growing School Farm Gardens for Curriculum, Carrots and Peas

Though the growing season appears short in New England, there is still plenty of time to grow an edible botany lesson with sugar snap peas, study the three sisters plantings in Fall and discuss the life cycle of a plant with a garlic crop in Fall, Winter and Spring. We will look at these and other in-the-school-year crops and connections to the classroom and see how classrooms, teachers and the community can benefit from an educational school farm garden. Target age: Grades K-8.

Workshop Presenter: Jon Belber, Friends of Holly Hill Farm, Cohasset

Workshop Session 3: 12:50 to 2:00 (Choose 1 of 8 Workshops)

Workshop 1: Gardening Activities and Resources for All Ages

School gardens offer endless educational opportunities for teachers, of all grade levels, to engage their students both inside and outside the garden. This workshop will show how easy it is to incorporate the school garden into the classroom through curriculum and hands-on activities. The Regional Environmental Council's School Garden Coordinator VISTA, Katie Rozenas, works to manage and maintain twenty-three school gardens throughout the city of Worcester, as well as hosts experiential garden lessons and workshops focused on strengthening gardening skills among participating teachers. Farm and nutrition educator Vittoria Buerschaper, from Community Harvest Project in North Grafton works with school groups on the farm and in the Worcester Schools. Together, they will demonstrate two hands-on activities that are connected to the garden, one geared towards younger students, and the other for older students, to show how activities can be adapted for specific grades. They will also provide a sampling of resources available online and in books for curriculum, lesson plans, and garden activities.

Workshop Presenters: Katie Rozenas, School Garden Coordinator AmeriCorps VISTA, Regional Environmental Council, Worcester and Vittoria Buerschaper, Nutrition Education Coordinator AmeriCorps VISTA, Community Harvest Project, North Grafton

Workshop 2: Fiber to Fabric Workshop

In this workshop, Brenda Loescher, experienced spinner, will provide information on howw different textiles have been made through time and how they are being made today. Try your hand at spinning using a drop spindle and a spinning wheel. Take a sample kit back to your classroom that includes instructions to make a CD drop spindle, a drop spindle, fiber samples and internet links to historical information as well as modern day technology. Appropriate for all grades. (Limited to 15 participants.)

Workshop Presenters: Brenda Loescher, experienced spinner from Leicester


Workshop 3: Worm Composting in the Classroom

Worm composting provides a terrific gardening opportunity for the late fall and winter months and is easy to do in the classroom. Licensed Child Care Educator Carrie St. John from Northampton has devised an effective plan for housing the worms in the classroom and in hobby home use. She will take participants through the steps of worm composting and also offer numerous educational materials ideal for use in elementary classes. Learn how to create a small worm bin for easy use in the classroom, effective ways of feeding the worms food waste from classroom snacks, ways to use compost in classroom science observations, how to handle the worms, compost separation and more including what to do with the worms at the end of the school year.

Workshop Presenter: Carrie St. John, licensed Child Care Educator and Worm Composter.


Workshop 4: An Introduction to Dairy Farming

The study of dairy provides a perfect opportunity to integrate agriculture into your curriculum. Thanks to a generous grant from the Massachusetts Dairy Promotion Board, MAC has been developing dairy lessons to be used in elementary classrooms. In this workshop, meet several dairy farmers to learn about the life of the dairy cow, dairy nutrition, dairy economics and the history of the dairy farming in Massachusetts. Then peruse a lesson on each of these four topics that you can download from the Mac website. Target Grades: 1-4

Workshop Presenters: Christopher Szkutak, Teacher and MAC Technical Assistant; Marjorie Cooper, MAC President and Dairy Farmer, Cooper’s Hilltop Dairy Farm in Leicester; Darryl Williams, Dairy Farmer, Luther Belden, Inc. in Hatfield; and John Kokoski, Dairy Farmer, Mapleline Farm in Hadley

Workshop 5: Extending the School Garden Season

TThe first fall frost need not herald the end of the School Garden. There are numerous ways that you can extend the season through the fall and into the winter, and also get an early start in the spring. At the Mullen Hall-Elementary School in Falmouth, students are raising crops through the winter using low tunnels. These 3-foot-tall structures resemble miniature hoop houses and can be constructed in any length. They are cost effective, kid-friendly in construction and use, easy to store, and have given great results. Alice Posner, MAC’s Garden Mentoring Coordinator will join Josh Leveque from Mullen Hall to provide and overview of crop varieties, planting schedules, and other garden practices to extend the growing season in your school garden and get an early start on te season.

Workshop Presenters: Josh Leveque, school garden coordinator, Mullen-Hall Elementary in Falmouth and Alice Posner, MAC’s Garden Mentoring Coordinator and School Gardener Coordinator and School Gardener.

Workshop 6: School Beautification with Students

Join Tera Harlow as she discusses the art of School Beautification with students. Learn about the process of orchestrating a landscape project at your school with the help of students. Spend some time learning safety requirements and what is required of the teacher and students. Gain some tips and tricks on how to work with the community to generate project ideas as well as how to help people develop projects and refine complicated ideas. Targeted to high school students but all are welcome!

Workshop Presenter: Tera Harlow, Rockville High School, Vernon, CT

Workshop 7: Gardening for All Learners: from Seed to Harvest

The garden at the Leicester Primary School is more than a living classroom, it also provides a therapeutic medium for therapeutic activity (while making curriculum connections.) Michele Connor, the school’s occupational therapist and speech therapist Sarah Mahoney join forces to utilize gardening activities to meet therapeutic goals for their students. They will offer an overview of this garden that provides fresh produce for the Leicester Food Pantry and will also provide a number of adaptations that they bring to gardening (in order to differentiate instruction and help all children access this beneficial activity).
Workshop Presenters: Michele Connor, Occupational Therapist & Sarah Mahoney, Speech Therapist, Leicester Primary School

Workshop Presenters: Michele Connor, Occupational Therapist & Sarah Mahoney, Speech Therapist, Leicester Primary SchoolSue Quincy, CT Dept of Energy and Environmental Protection

Workshop 8: Incorporating Miniature Horses Into Your Curriuculum, It Works!

Students will learn to identify harness parts, and parts of the horse and carriage. Cynthia Chotkowski from the Smith High School will bring a “life size” model of the miniature horse, allowing participants to observe the use of the model in the classroom for anatomy, physiology, parts and muscle labs. Learn how students learn to braid and try animal behavior and clicker training. In addition, activities will explain the use of pvc pipe and hula hoops for obstacle courses. Other topics such as horse handling skills, bandaging and first aid. Appropriate for all grades.

Workshop Presenter: Cynthia Chotkowski, Edwin O. Smith High School, Mansfield, CT

Workshop Session 4: 2:10 to 3:20 (Choose 1 of 8 Workshops)

Workshop 1: Young Farmers Present: “Facts and Stories Relating to Current Agriculture"

A panel of members of the Massachusetts Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers will offer a conversation relating to Current Agriculture in Massachusetts. They will offer an overview of local farm products and practices across the state and dispel some myths that are associated with growing food and raising animals. They will also consider the huge challenge of feeding everyone while protecting the environment.

Workshop Facilitator: Jamie Cruz, Young Agricultural Leader State Chair and Young Farmer members of the Massachusetts Farm Bureau.

Workshop 2: Planting a Garden for Pollinators

Pollinators are everywhere and they play and extremely important role in our lives and habitats, from pollinating the foods that we eat to initiating the development of the seeds that ensure survival of native plants. Warren Leach, horticulturist and garden designer, will review pollinator needs and offer a selection of ornamental trees, shrubs, perennials and vines with flowering characteristics that will benefit pollinators and also complement the school calendar. These beauties will add ornamental beauty and interest to the schoolyard, while also offering opportunities for classroom study. He will also provide suggestions for care and culture.

Workshop Presenter: Warren Leach, horticulturist, garden designer, Tranquil Lake Nursery, Rehoboth.

Workshop 3: Horse Heredity: Exploring Genetics with Coat Colors

Have your students explore veterinary genetics by figuring out the genotypes necessary to produce "A horse of a different color"! The basic coat colors of horses are controlled by the interaction between two genes: Extension (E) and Agouti (A). However, the effects of ten other genes can modify these pigments to provide an amazing array of colors ranging from white to black, and everything in between! In addition, certain mutations can even cause lethal color changes. Students explore the world of genetics through a very visual way while making critical decisions about breeding possibilities to create healthy, colorful offspring! Workshop appropriate for middle and high school. Meets Massachusetts Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Frameworks: Life Sciences, Grades 6-8: Reproduction and Heredity Learning Standards 7, 8, 9 Biology, High School: Genetics 3.4, 3.5, 3.6

Workshop Presenter: Dr. Cassandra Uricchio, Director of Equine Management, UMass Amherst and MAC's 2010 Teacher of the Year

Workshop 4: Growing and Using Natural Dye Plants


This year, add natural dye plants to your school garden, while making connections to the classroom. Michelle Parrish, 1st and 2nd grade teacher at the Common School in Amherst, is also a weaver and spinner who makes her own natural plant dyes. She planted a small dye and fiber plant garden adjacent to the school, where she has been growing dyeplants and flax for several years. Learn about recommended dye plants to grow and how to set up the garden. This workshop will also cover harvesting, storing, and using plant-based dyes. Finally, Michelle will make connections to the Common Core Standards aligned to related activities.

Workshop Presenter: Michelle Parrish, 1st and 2nd grade teacher at the Common School in Amherst, Dye and Fiber Gardener and Weaver.


Workshop 5: Making Power from Organic Waste

This workshop will offer a power point overview of the organic waste problem (animal waste and food) and how we can best reuse these wastes to close the loop” on the food cycle in a sustainable way using anaerobic digestion. The workshop will cover: the amount of waste, what can be done with the waste, what is anaerobic digestion and how does it work to produce energy and the benefits of anaerobic digestion, particularly on farms. Participants will try out an sequencing card activity comparing anaerobic digestion to the digestion in a cows stomach. A role playing lesson plan will also be provided as well as a live experiment showing gas in food using yeast, water and a balloon.

Workshop Presenter: Julie Cammarata, VP of Government Affairs, GPS, Inc., CT

Workshop 6: Chicken Math and Smashing Rocks for Social Studies

This workshop will focus on how to integrate a school garden into the daily curriculum of classrooms. The Touchstone Community School expanded its flock of laying hens this year as part of a multi-step, multi-age ongoing project that has been used as a lens for teaching math, literacy and science. An in depth study of corn has been implemented with a 3rd-4th grade classroom to bolster their study of the Ancient Maya. This workshop will show how curriculum built around gardening can help meet Common Core Standards. Target Grades: 2nd - 8th
Workshop Presenter: David E. Cantler, Garden Teacher, Touchstone Community School, Grafton

Workshop Presenter: David E. Cantler, Garden Teacher, Touchstone Community School, Grafton

Workshop 7: Sudsy Expressions Natural Handcrafted Soap

Rebecca Edelman started her soap making business when she joined FFA and needed a Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) project as a Sophomore in High School. Soap making sounded like a fun an creative experience, and she already had an herb garden at home which she could utilize in the project. In this workshop, she will offer a slideshow presentation describing her soap making process and her soap business. She will also give a mini-tutorial showing how to make soap, allowing participants to take home some of these samples. Limited to 15 participants.

Workshop Presenter: Workshop Presenter: Rebecca Edelman, FFA member and soap maker, E. O. Smith High School,
Storrs, CT

Workshop 8: Food Choices and Global Warming

This workshop will offer a brief overview of global warming and some simple choices to reduce our carbon food footprint. Topics will include modern agricultural methods and their impact on climate change including irrigation, farm equipment, agrochemicals and processing methods. The look at food choices that can make a difference from growing your own to supporting CSA’s and local farmstands, shopping at coops and supporting stores and restaurants that buy local. The workshop will also cover organic farming, eating lower on the food chain, reducing food waste, cooking at home and energy production and food systems.

Workshop Presenter: Sonia DeMarta, Kids Cooking Green, Lexington