This autumn, the Suyematsu and Bentryn Family Farms opened its gates to hundreds of preschool and elementary school groups to explore the pumpkin patch and the greater working farm. For many students, this is their first experience coming to the historic Bainbridge farm, but for others, this is one of many experiences they will have as part of the ongoing farm education program. I had the pleasure of leading the lessons, which as someone who grew up on Bainbridge Island, I particularly enjoyed.
The experience at the Suyematsu pumpkin patch helps children see pumpkins as more than just a Halloween decoration on their front porch – the tour honors both the diversity of the pumpkin and squash varieties grown on the farm as well as their countless uses in the kitchen. Using a pumpkin that has been cut in half, I help the students explore the anatomy of a pumpkin. They examine the stem, skin, meat, seeds, and pulp and discuss which parts are edible, as well as their favorite pumpkin recipes. Pumpkin pie seems to be the favorite, but students also list other creative dishes including pumpkin scones, pumpkin butter, and pumpkin soup.
After the anatomy lesson is completed, I lead the students in a pumpkin scavenger hunt and museum. Each student is given a card with a picture and the name of a pumpkin that can be found in the pumpkin patch. It is their job to explore all of the different varieties until they locate the one on their card. Once each variety has been found, we open a pumpkin museum to encourage all of the children and parents to explore the different names, shapes, sizes, and colors of the pumpkins that can be found at the Suyematsu Farm.
For classes who participate in an extended walking tour of the forty-acre farm, students are given farm maps to identify their location and to understand the greater layout of the farm. As harvest continues into the fall, the students see other foods that are grown at Suyematsu and observe how the farm offers a complete farm-to-fork-to-cork experience.
As a treat upon finishing the pumpkin curriculum, students get to navigate their way through a hay-maze and finally pick out a sugar pumpkin to take home. Many of these pumpkins will find their way into the kitchen, and not just the front porch. It has been a pleasure to see the children learn more about pumpkins and enjoy the experience of being on the farm.