by Pete Mazzaccaro
It’s a scorching hot Friday morning – 95 degrees and climbing by 10 a.m. – and Howard Brosius is preparing his famous veggie sandwiches and apple cookies for a class of 4-year-olds at Mt Airy’s Child Space day care at 7500 Germantown Ave.
The sandwiches are all veggie, no bread. There are cucumbers, lettuce, celery, radishes, peppers and tomatoes. There are even Vidalia onions.. They are chopped up and handed out in chips and on romaine leaves. There is Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing to help the vegetarian offering taste even better.
And to the surprise of many, the children each greedily gobble up nearly two pounds of the veggies.
Lorena Barbour, a teacher in the class, said many of the children’s parents were suspicious that their child was eating so many vegetables.
“We had to videotape it to prove it to parents, “she said.
Brosius said the children’s’ age was perfect for getting used to eating veggies.
“Four-year-olds are the best, ” he said as he began to serve some fresh basil.” I’m developing their palates. Any older and it is difficult. I had a class of fifth grade girls – impossible.”
Brosius’ Child Space class is just one of many that the former stockbroker works with as part of his nonprofit, Chipping Hill Micro Farms. The organization runs classes all around the Philadelphia area, including upcoming programs for children at Morris Arboretum and the child care program at Christ Ascension Lutheran Church.
His organization is a nonprofit with some funding coming from Chestnut Hill, including the Green Tree Community Health Foundation, which recently granted Brosius $5,000.
Brosius does more, too, than just fed children veggies. He has a 25-part lesson plan that includes books, gardening and the science of farming.
“It’s interesting how much botany and genetics a 4-year-old can learn and relate to,” he said.
After the veggies feast, Brosius brought the class outside to tend to a micro farm he has provided, containing tomatoes, oregano, beans and peppers that the children have planted. The micro farm is a special box built by Brosius that can be converted into a mini greenhouse in the winter. It extends the growing season, and thus his classes, for months.
The children tug at “Mr. Howard’s” pants legs for a chance to plant seeds or to water the tomato plants.
“Bringing him here in the summer has been great,” said Child Space Director Edith Appel. He’s been doing a wonderful job here.
Brosius didn’t stumble into his current occupation. He grew up on a farm in Chester County and even got a degree in agriculture from Penn State. He went on to become a stockbroker, retired and then began volunteering with a nonprofit that would later become Chipping Hill.
“I realized that there were no programs teaching children about agriculture – I had the right skill set,” he said.
For more information about Chipping Hill Micro Farms, visit the organization’s website at www.chippinghillmicrofarms.org. Brosius is currently offering classes around Philadelphia and Montgomery County.