Gardening and cooking lessons hit the road in new Farm Explorer

The outside wrap on Greener Partner's Farm Explorer. The mobile gardening and cooking truck launches in early April. | Photo from Greener PartnersA new kind of food truck is rolling into town. One that isn’t just serving meals, but that allows diners to harvest and cook their food too. In April, Greener Partners, a five-county, Greater Philadelphia-based nonprofit that connects communities through food, farms and education, is launching their Farm Explorer – a 24-foot trailer that holds living vegetable beds and a community kitchen all hauled by a biodiesel Ford F-150 truck.

“The raised beds on Farm Explorer will mimic the (seasonally changing) raised beds in the fields of Hillside Farm, creating the most authentic farm experience we can,” says Helen Nadel, education specialist for Greener Partners. “Allowing children to have the experience of pulling food from the dirt and tasting how delicious it is can be a real ‘Aha!’ moment.”

Farm Explorer was inspired by research that found a curriculum combining gardening and nutrition education improves student attitudes and preferences for fruits and vegetables. Greener Partners hopes to connect children and families to their food through physical, sensorial and practical experiences. The end goal is to increase general health, reduce obesity rates and reconnect people with the pleasures of real food.

The mobile farm, created through a partnership with the IBC Foundation Healthy Futures and The Junior League of Philadelphia, will also enable Greener Partners to expand their seed to plate education efforts in the Greater Philadelphia region. Farm Explorer will be visiting 15 schools in the School District of Philadelphia this spring (in addition to the 25 schools Greener Partners reaches through their Seed to Snack program), as well as senior centers, health centers, community events, summer camps and birthday parties.

For some, this will be their first time pulling a carrot out of the ground and seeing that small harvest transformed into a simple, healthy dish. “We want to bring the farm experience to folks who might not otherwise have access to seeing how fresh food grows,” says Meg McCurtain, education director for Greener Partners. “The youth have a great voice in this healthy food movement, and will really be the ones to move it forward.”

Farm Explorer will make its public debut on Sunday, April 7th from 12-2 p.m. at Nectar Restaurant & Bar in Wayne, Pa. This is an invitation only event. To get on the guest list, email Laura Vernola at Laura.Vernola@GreenerPartners.org.

Farm Explorer will also be at The Longview Center for Agriculture, in Collegeville, Pa. on Saturday, April 20, as well as at Villanova University’s 43rd Annual Earth Day Celebration on Monday, April 22. Farm Explorer can be requested for school and community events by contacting Greener Partners.

JULIANNE MESARIC is a food & farming writer and communications professional. She recently returned to Philadelphia after studying at Slow Food's University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy.