116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar River Academy students tried farm-fresh kale, chard and grapes — which tasted just like grape juice — at Matthew 25’s Urban Farm in Cedar Rapids.
Each grade level visited the farm at 437 G Ave NW, in Cedar Rapids, to learn about agriculture and environmental stewardship and enjoy hands-on exploration and taste farm-fresh produce earlier this month. The farm is operated by Matthew 25, a nonprofit in Cedar Rapids working to improve the health of people and neighborhoods by investing in quality affordable housing, healthy food, educational opportunities, and community building.
The fresh produce can be purchased at Cultivate Hope Corner Store, a small, nonprofit grocery store at 604 Ellis Blvd NW, Cedar Rapids, from June through October.
“This is how we get good food in to the community,” said Matt McGrane, Cultivate Hope Director for Matthew 25
McGrane gave students a tour of the farm’s greenhouse where plants can get started in “good soil” with sunlight and water, he said. Bees and butterflies in the greenhouse pollinate the plants, which helps them produce fruit and multiply.
“Even in the winter when it’s too cold outside, the greenhouse is the perfect environment to start our seeds in,” McGrane said.
The students learned about how drying food — like a pepper — can make it last two to three years versus fresh vegetables that last only a few weeks. Hay bails in the greenhouse are spread on vegetable beds to keep the soil in place to avoid erosion.
The students also learned about sweet potatoes, which are bright orange on the inside with a sweet taste and creamy texture when baked, and green tomatoes, which are picked at the end of the summer even though they are not yet red and ripe. If they were left on the vine, they would die in the cold, McGrane explained.
Green tomatoes can be used in recipes like relishes or fried. “We try not to waste food on the farm,” McGrane said.
After touring the greenhouse, students made their way outside where they tried freshly harvested kale and chard — which are green, leafy vegetables that are a good source of energy — and grapes with seeds.
Kale tastes like broccoli because it’s a cousin of broccoli, McGrane said.
Mi-Khale P., 8, a third-grader at Cedar River Academy, said he wouldn’t eat kale as a snack because it has a bad aftertaste. Even so, he ate a bunch of kale without protest.
“It’s sweet, and sour and a little spicy,” Mi-Khale said.
Next, the students tried chard, which many of them took seconds of, describing it as “salty.”
The grapes, which they picked off the vines, were smaller than store-bought grapes and sweeter like grape juice, the kids said.
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