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Hallinan harvesters

Celebration last week teaches children where food comes from, and how tasty fresh produce can be

SUBMITTED PHOTO: HEATHER WICK - The Hallinan Harvest Party on Sept. 9 offered opportunities for hands-on learning about where food comes from. Second-grade teacher Dawn Butcher tries some zucchini bread and spends time with her students, including Tilly Siger (right) and Jack Lindsey.The second-annual Hallinan Harvest Party last week featured sumptuous treats packed with produce, educational stations complete with lots of squirmy worms and a visit from some local chefs.

On Sept. 9, Hallinan Elementary School’s Parent Teacher Organization celebrated their garden’s fall yield all day, with a harvest, tasty food and opportunities for hands-on learning. Students at the K-5 school could be found racing through the 24 raised garden beds in the sunshine, giggling and clutching vibrant sunflowers.

When it started last year, the PTO “had this idea of doing a mini farmers market at the school,” said garden party chairwoman Céline Mattersdorff, “and it could be a celebration for the community to come enjoy the garden.”SUBMITTED PHOTO: HEATHER WICK - First-grade teacher Kristi Lunde and her student, Will Paquette, peer into a garden bed.

The event also benefits the community. All the produce that the school staff and volunteers (with help from the kids) plucked that they hadn’t fixed into something delicious was donated to the Tualatin School House Pantry, a food pantry serving Lake Oswego, West Linn, Durham and Tualatin.

“Picking zucchini” was second-grader Elsie Soat’s favorite part “because I picked the biggest one.”

Parent volunteer Estee Raviv says it was an opportunity to expose kids to non-processed, “real food,” and once they see it “they’re very excited to try it.”

Parents at three tables offered bean salad, moist zucchini bread and bruschetta full of fragrant, minced tomatoes in amber and garnet shades that were served with a pita chip.

As students visited the zucchini bread station, Megan O’Toole, a personal chef, was standing by to teach them about new foods. O’Toole says she thrilled a little boy when she held up a squash flower and informed him that “you can stuff this with cheese, and you can eat it.” She says a lot of adults don’t know you can eat the flower.

“Zucchini grows extremely fast, and then, the flower dies,” she says.

Kids could not only eat, but also get their hands dirty.REVIEW PHOTO: JILLIAN DALEY - Chef Chris Starkus teaches kindergartners Lily Alvarez (left) and Mercury Karls about seed bombs.

Over at one activity table, Chris Starkus — executive sous chef at Urban Farmer steakhouse in Portland’s Nines Hotel — was using soil, water and seeds to form seed bombs. The balls could be popped into the earth with the promise of producing plants to attract songbirds and bees. He also showed off a mushroom called a maitaki that looked like it belonged in a coral reef.

Strakus says it’s important for more people to offer something for birds and bees to forage, and for kids to know “where food comes from.” It’s not the supermarket.REVIEW PHOTO: JILLIAN DALEY - A bee buzzes around a squash blossom in the Hallinan Elementary School garden.

At another table, kids were crafting bracelets, and at still another site Clackamas County’s Laurel Bates, waste reduction education coordinator, was teaching children that worms offer an important service.

“Do you know what this dirt is?” Bates asked a group of kindergartners, each playing with a pile of dirt and worms. “The worms made all of this by eating food, digesting it and pooping it out.”

Kindergartner Elliot Bresee-Hainley was simply hooked by the worms.

“These worms are nice,” she told Bates as she rooted through her pile of soil. “I’ve never touched a worm before. I’m really good at finding them.”

Parent volunteer Nancy Wakefield says she hopes that all of the children do develop an appreciation of all of the work “that goes into making food, the right soil, the light.”REVIEW PHOTO: JILLIAN DALEY - Volunteer parent Nancy Wakefield shows second-grader Emri Ahdab how to harvest corn, peeling back the husk and silk.

Second-grader D.J. Smith says he learned that “the sunflowers are really huge.”

“You water them a bunch,” he explains.

Fourth-graders Emma Massari and Isabella Huntington definitely understand where sunflower seeds come from — and how to eat their seeds.

“You can take out the insides, and it has sunflower seeds inside of it,” Emma says.

She says that’s a good thing, and Isabella agrees, “especially when toasted.”

By Jillian Daley
503-636-1281, ext. 109
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