First Peas to the Table

First Peas to the Table is a friendly competition between the City Schoolyard Gardens at each of the six Charlottesville city elementary schools. The competition takes place each spring as first graders take to the garden to see which school can produce the first peas.

The lesson is a nod to Thomas Jefferson’s similar competition with his contemporaries in the 18th and 19th centuries. In his competition, whoever could harvest the first bowl of peas had to host the rest of the competing farmers for dinner. On many occasions a farmer named George Divers won the competition, however there is some evidence that Jefferson himself won a few times but hid the truth to allow Mr. Divers the glory. In the same vein of neighborly competition we set out to plant around the same time and measure around the same time. Schools help each other build trellises and come up with ideas of how to get a better outcome. In the end, it is all about learning in the garden and eating lots of peas!

0a4555ef-4fdb-444b-ae06-3fdf01c3ba8dThe lesson is built around the book “First Peas to the Table” by Susan Grigsby. Each participating class reads the book and studies the story of Maya and Shakayla’s competition at their school to see who can harvest the first peas. In addition the lesson can include observation skills of measuring, describing, and noticing. Scientific skills can be added like comparing differing treatments (inoculation, soaking, etc.), pea types, locations, and conditions on the growth and harvest of the peas. It can also include mathematic skills of measuring with non-typical objects, and graphing out results. In other words, like most garden-based learning, it is no one trick pony, but rather a cross-curricular gold mine of activity.  See more about the lesson in the description below.

Check out this Monticello blog about the origins of First Peas to the Table.

Lesson Resources

Click here to download the CSG First Peas to the Table Lesson Plan

Click here to download the CSG First Peas to the Table Observation Worksheet

Click here to go to the Ag in the Classroom First Peas to the Table Lesson



Here are pictures of each schools progress during the 2017 friendly competition!

Jackson-Via Peas Flowering 5/8/17  Clark Peas Flowering 5/8/17 Greenbrier Peas Flowering 5/16/17
Burnley-Moran Peas Flowering 5/1/17 Venable Peas 5/3/17    Johnson Peas Flowering 5/15/17


And we began to get the data to see progress and determine the winner. Here is the information that we got from each of the schools regarding their pea growing process!


This year the celebrations took place at Jackson-Via Elementary and Burnley-Moran Elementary because they tied for first place. They both had 3 peas totaling 10.5″!


Click on photo for more information.

 2016: Venable Elementary

2015: Greenbrier Elementary

greenbrier 2015


2014: Jackson-Via Elementary

2013: Johnson Elementary