Drive around any small town on a summer day, and odds are you will encounter a lemonade stand manned by a young entrepreneur and a farm stand ripe with whatever may be in season. Here at Perkins we have 14 BESTT (Building Educational Success Through Transitions) students selling not lemonade – but mint water – with the mint they have grown with their own hands. They also sell farm fresh eggs, baked goods, fresh flowers, handmade crafts and fresh vegetables.
The Perkins Farmer’s Market – now in its’ third season – is part of the BESTT career development curriculum and has helped the students learn to garden, how to balance a cash box, how to perform mental math and what good customer service looks like. “The program also instills confidence, a great work ethic and team building,” Director of the market and teacher Michelle Sparkes said.
The students are involved in all aspects of the market from seed to table and from prep to clean-up. “The kids start the seeds in the greenhouse, and follow the progress of the plant all the way to slicing the zucchini to make the bread for your table,” Michelle said. “The crafts are handmade by the students as part of their occupational therapy and all of the students are involved in some way on the day of the sale.”
Beautiful floral arrangements created with care.
“It takes a village to create a farmer’s market,” Michelle said. “Everyone is involved from the kitchen staff to housekeeping– they all play a part. Prior to the advent of the market, few of these kids could cook. Now, they all do with the help of the kitchen staff.”
The program was started as a way to teach confidence, basic math, independence and social skills and has grown exponentially. “This year, the market has expanded and is open to the community which has allowed us to use four outside vendors because we couldn’t keep up with the demand.” All of the money raised at the market is reinvested back into the market.
Through this program, Perkins has seen students blossom. “This hands- on process has really increased the kids independence,” Michelle said. “Now, instead of having to walk through each step of creating a flower arrangement, for example, I simply hand them the flowers and ask them to make an arrangement. The benefits expand outward into the school population as each student is allowed the opportunity to purchase from the market; thereby requiring them to have basic money skills as well.”
Perkins Farmer’s Market is open every Friday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. from now until the end of the summer. Come September, the market will be open monthly. Watch our website and Facebook page for hours and details.