We Like Big Broccoli and We Cannot Lie

by FoodCorps Service Member Susie Burton

This blog post also appears on the FoodCorps Friday feature on Georgia Organics’ Daily Dirt

Avid readers of FoodCorps Friday on the Daily Dirt might remember that in September, the FoodCorps Georgia team visited Level Grove Elementary in Habersham County to teach a lesson and help second grade students plant in their garden (and if you don’t remember, don’t worry, because I just told you).

After months of careful waterings, gentle tucking-ins under ground cover, and hopeful watching, the broccoli planted by Mrs. Laura Traudt’s second grade class flourished into big, beautiful crowns.

A few weeks ago, the second graders harvested their hard work, plucking florets from the stem and carrying them inside to cook.  Practicing knowledge of fractions and kitchen skills, they made greek yogurt broccoli salad and lemon zesty broccoli with pasta (two recipes from Level Grove’s taste test repertoire).

Everyone tasted both recipes–after a year and a half of school wide taste tests, we at Level Grove know the benefits of a “try things” attitude–and wrote a persuasive paragraph about why their preferred recipe is the superior recipe.

This experience from seedling to plate has me thinking about the reciprocity between the broccoli, the students, and the service member.  The students grow the broccoli by watering, weeding, and watching.  The broccoli grows the students by offering experiential learning opportunities and expanding their palates for healthy foods.  The service member grows the students by facilitating those opportunities and creating a safe, inclusive learning environment.  The students grow the service member–my students grow me–with constant reminders of small and essential truths.

Small and essential truths like the privilege of watching a plant grow from a slight seedling to a hearty harvest–and to know that one’s own hand had a part to play in that growth–is one of the purest and most reassuring joys of life.

Small and essential truths like that of our ultimate vulnerability–our ultimate dependence on minuscule molecular processes and the tender loving care of other creatures.

Small and essential truths like how that ultimate vulnerability makes relationships of reciprocity–like those between the broccoli, the students, and myself–the great happiness and the great purpose of service.  I’m grateful to FoodCorps, Georgia Organics, the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia, my teachers and my students for the opportunity to live in that happiness and that purpose every day.


September sunshine welcomed our broccoli seedlings to the garden



Chilly temperatures over winter break were no match for Level Grove’s farm to school dream team and our love of big broccoli



Everyone say, “Broccoli!”



As always, farm to school lessons help us practice cooperation and sharing, whether we’re sharing our harvest or cutting board real estate



Lots of little hands make light work



Closing our eyes to practice experiencing new flavors



It’s a hit…



… with some of us. But we know it’s okay not to like something, as long as we do our best to be adventurous eaters


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