Edible School Gardens and Farmigo go together like peaches and cream. Or hummus and pita. Or any number of classic food pairings.
Just ask Molly Wahl, the Madera Elementary School Garden Coordinator and local Farmigo Champion.
Molly’s love of food and gardening has its roots in her Italian family heritage. “My father was the incredible gardener who supplied the ingredients and my mother made the magic,” she recalled with homegrown pride.
The apple didn't fall far from the tree.
An abiding stewardship with all things organic and authentic, Molly is a devotee of Mother Nature and her bounty of local, fresh, sustainable food.
Molly is a Master Gardener, an educator, a horticulturist with a degree in permaculture; she designs and restores gardens and teaches garden-based/hands-on, dig-in-the-dirt curriculum through her Fertile Ground Designs business. She is an active member of several professional school gardening groups, including Growing West County School Gardens, a collaborative effort dedicated to school gardening in the East Bay.
A core belief the group ascribes to is that access to fresh local food along with time spent in the soil significantly impacts student health and nutrition.
While the Growing West County School Gardens group’s standards could serve as a template or model for most any school gardening program, success comes from recognizing and valuing the unique differences that abound in each school’s student population.
Not unlike Farmigo, the first online farmers market.
Farmigo creates People Powered Farmers markets; they empower on-site, independent Champions to create their own unique food community.
A Match Made in the Garden
As the independent Farmigo Champion, Molly customized the Farmigo program, putting her East Bay Fertile Ground-styled stamp on building her own food community, choosing to create a school fundraiser business. The ten percent she earns from sales to her food community are donated to the Madera School garden.
“Right away, I saw that Farmigo’s mission and goals aligned with our edible schoolyard and my Fertile Ground operating principles,” says Molly. “ I felt that immediate and visceral affinity to Farmigo’s link to our area’s food growers. I’m passionate about knowing where our food comes from. And as a Farmigo Champion I can readily bring this devotion directly to my school family,, ” she added.
The proverbial cherry on top was the chance to build community and to build it with a healthy food focus.
With vision and zeal, Molly saw these ideals fueling her hands-on nutrition and education curriculum.
To illustrate the serendipity mashup, she shared her Fertile Ground Designs’ mission objectives – the “seeds of ideas that have been germinating for many years:”
* Educate communities about where food should come from.
* Create garden curriculum full of meaningful learning opportunities that span the subject areas.
* Foster healthy food and activity choices by involving communities in the growth of their own food.
* Inspire wonder at nature’s diversity and ingenuity.
* Build spaces that delight the senses, calm the tension and stress of everyday life, and promote imaginative play.
* Grow community around our shared values of food safety and sustainability.
“It was a natural fit,” she says of joining with Farmigo.
More red tomatoes and less red tape
Farmigo made it so simple to get started. According to Molly, “The ramp-up was easy.”
Farmigo set up her Champion Dashboard allowing her ready access to her school lists and community connections that were already in place at the Madera Garden. Plus, Farmigo provided her with collateral materials, including postcards, tablecloths, Farmigo signs and team assistance with her launch. “Farmigo really goes the extra mile. They are there for me and they get back quickly with answers to any questions I may have,” she continues. That dedication, combined with Molly’s track record of leadership, passion and entrepreneurial skills proved a winning combination.
Molly helps bring local, farm fresh produce and dairy directly to Madera’s students and their caregivers. Each week, the Farmigo farmers market pick up is held right in the Madera Garden. “Now we have greater access to edibles while generating another source of funding for the Madera elementary school garden,” she enthuses.
Collaborating with Farmigo also gives Molly and the Madera school another way to teach using food as a prism and the garden as the classroom.
Molly’s teaching methodology utilizes the edible school garden and the Farmigo farm-fresh ingredients in place of the “joyless vegetables” she says are found all too often in grocery stores despite being in a fertile farming area, often referred to America’s breadbasket.
Just because California supplies the nation with the most agriculture products doesn’t mean it’s fresh upon arrival. Even here in the Bay Area. The delivery and distribution steals the freshness…
In contrast, Molly enthusiastically proclaims there is a HUGE quality difference between the food Farmigo provides and the items typically found in the big supermarkets. “There is just no comparison,” she states. “With Farmigo, a tomato tastes like a tomato – full of summer sunshine and tang, “she rhapsodizes.
Molly explains how Farmigo offers so many “teachable moments” in addition to unsurpassed flavorful ingredients.
“With our just-picked ingredients, we can teach colors showing the vibrant purple eggplant and the red, ripe tomato; taste-test the variety of yummy fruits with juice running down our chins to highlight the power of nutrition, and put basil and onion on pizza slices to teach arithmetic and fractions -- while following a recipe!”
Our third-graders manage their own farmers market,” Molly continues.. “We know how good food should look and taste.” In the same way, she says, “I can use the variety of fresh Farmigo food delivered in labeled grocery bags each week to show a child what good food can teach us. I hand a child a pluot or cantaloupe or apricot or carrots and they use all their senses to experience food as it should be -- it attracts the kids like bees, “ she says with a smile.
“Our children have gained an amazing knowledge of wellness and nutrition using the garden and the bounty of the harvests.
The fresh Farmigo food changed their world and impacts the student’s families.” The variety of food and ready access supplies Molly’s growing food community with a convenient, healthy way to plan their menus.
Members order and pay online by midnight Sunday; there is no minimum and no long-term commitment. Each member orders as little or as much as they want.
Molly says being a Farmigo Champion is a great opportunity to conveniently get good, local food to your community. ”It’s a lovely way to build community -- especially where fresh food is lacking. Farmigo allows you to start having ‘ food conversations.’”
Molly describes how her Members come together to pick up their weekly food orders in the garden and talk recipes, childcare and menus. “You don’t get that kind of community if the food is delivered and left at a door.” She believes that is isolating. “Here, the Members hang out and engage in food conversations.”
Molly’s Members frequently order the Farmigo Farmer’s Choice – where the selections are curated and left to the farmers and packing team. According to Molly, all her members order lots of fruits and parents rave about the eggs “The beets were so good recently that the Members were sharing a beet risotto recipe!” Molly declared.
More than a food conversation – as a Farmigo Champion, Molly has helped create a good-food epic story.To learn more about becoming a Farmigo Champion, and create your own food community and good-food story, please contact Miriam Mark, email@example.com