For six years, Maine Coast Heritage Trust’s Teen Ag Crew at Erickson Fields has been growing and supplying fresh produce for area public schools.

This school year, Susan Boivin, Food Service director of Five Town Community School District, has been raving about Honeynut, “an awesome little squash” — as described by Boivin — that looks like a mini butternut, but is pumpkin orange on this inside.

Why is this squash so special? “It needs nothing added,” Susan stated. She found that even those who never cared for squash loved the flavor of Honeynut. This discovery has been profound for Boivin who has spent the last 13 years encouraging hundreds of students in grades K-12 to eat their vegetables.

Where did this tasty squash come from? It was developed by the Vegetable Breeding Institute at Cornell University in New York. The Honeynut that Boivin has been serving in school cafeterias was grown less than a mile down the road from Camden Hills Regional High School by local students in MCHT’s Teen Ag program at Erickson Fields.

Six years ago, Susan met Ron Howard, general manager of MCHT’s Aldermere and Erickson Farms in Rockport. At that time, MCHT was piloting Teen Ag Crew, an educational sustainable ag program for youth. Howard presented Boivin with an intriguing proposal for Teen Ag Crew to sell their garden produce to SAD 28 at a reduced rate if the school district purchased an equal amount of produce from local farmers. The contract was a win for all by providing affordable fresh vegetables for public schools and incentive for SAD 28 to support the local economy.

This year, the SAD 28 school lunch program utilized more than 1,500 pounds of produce grown by the Teen Ag Crew. For Boivin, the rewards from collaborating with Teen Ag are greater than fresh vegetables. In a world of pre-made packaged meals, Teen Ag helps youth gain a better understanding of foods systems by showing the connection between farms and the food they eat. Boivin recalled a student in the high school cafeteria exclaiming, “I grew this; you did this with food I grew!”

Squash, Apple and Onion Soup

Recipe courtesy of Susan Boivin

2 ½ lb. Honeynut squash

2 medium Spanish onion, sliced pole to pole

3 ¾ sliced apple, peeled and cored

1/8 pound unsalted butter (half stick)

Wash squash, then cut lengthwise in half. Scoop out seeds and place cut side down on a sheet pan, lightly greased and roast at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Slowly sauté onions in butter over medium heat until soft and they begin to caramelize, about 10 minutes. Add the apples to the onions and gently cook for 10 more minutes, set aside.

Scoop the squash out of the shell and add to the apple/onion mixture. At this point the soup needs to be blended. If using a stand-up blender or food processor I advise letting it cool completely first. If using an immersion blender it can be done right in the stockpot.

Heat through on low before serving.

Optional garnishes: crushed sage leaves, toasted sliced almonds, crème’ fraiche with crushed chipotle peppers sprinkled on.

Makes 12 cups.