garlic harvest

Throughout late July and early August of each year, classrooms at The Center’s Thanksgiving Farm® and Community School (TF & CS) participate in the garlic harvest – an annual tradition that many students and staff look forward to. And this year, the numbers were off the charts! A core team harvested 45,000 bulbs of garlic, with students dedicating a total of approximately 200 harvesting hours. Wow!

Each day, the classrooms were in charge of harvesting and trimming 2 beds of garlic, which consisted of on average, 2,500 bulbs. Students would help pull the garlic and trim the stem to 3 inches. Two classrooms from the TF & CS, as well as one classroom from the Sports and Social Academy, participated in the harvest. Fun Fact: this year’s crop was the biggest TCFD has ever planted.

What’s so unique about this tradition is that every single student not only looks forward to the harvest, but also shines during it. Most notably during this harvest is how one student completely transformed, showing us that he was able to be independent in all aspects of the harvest.

On day one of the harvest, the student was demonstrating signs that he was a bit nervous, as this was his first day participating in the garlic tradition. A few staff from the Department of Nourishment Arts®’ team worked with the student to explain how the harvest worked, along with what his responsibilities would be. To begin, our team worked with him hand-over-hand, while an intern would hold the stalk of garlic and assist him in cutting it. By the end of just that first session, the student was independently cutting the garlic, while a staff member held the stalk. And the very next day, upon arrival he instantly sat down, grabbed a stalk of garlic and cut the bulb off himself – voila, just like that! Once he got the hang of cutting the garlic to the proper length, the farm team introduced him to the actual harvesting of the garlic. Again, the first few stalks were hand-over-hand, but he very quickly learned what to do, and was pulling garlic without help within minutes. No stranger to farm work – a true harvester, indeed!

During the second and final week of garlic harvesting, this student showed that he was able to complete every step of the harvesting process with little to no help from staff.  He learned that once he cut an entire lugs’ worth, it would be his turn to go out and harvest, while some of his classmates came in to take a turn cutting. At the end, he was fully able to participate in every aspect of the harvest, including carrying a full lug of uncut garlic to the cutting station, with very little prompting.

Having residents and students participate in harvesting on the farm is an important part of our Seed to Belly® philosophy. The garlic harvest incorporates the farm as an outdoor classroom where skill building takes place in a non-pressured, conducive environment. Harvesting things like garlic connects individuals with their food in an intimate and tangible way, away from the table, giving them an opportunity to experience it – touch, smell, interact – so that when it ends up in the kitchen and ultimately on their plate, it is familiar.  They recognize it from the work of the day, having brought it out of the ground, and they are much more likely to connect to it and enjoy it in their dinner that night.  This is the Seed to Belly philosophy in action!

We had an extremely successful harvest this year, and are already looking forward to next year!

For more information about our Department of Nourishment Arts Program®, please reach out to Richard Humleker, VP for Development, at