Roots Farm - McDonogh School

Roots Farm

Hands-on Learning at Roots

Roots Farm started as a community garden in 2009 and has blossomed into a 10-acre vibrant outdoor classroom on the edge of McDonogh’s campus. With its ever-changing landscape, airy barns, greenhouse, beehives, and personable chickens and turkeys, Roots is a popular teaching and learning space used by faculty in all disciplines from prekindergarten through twelfth grade.

On any given day, you will find students cultivating and harvesting crops; studying the plant, insect, and animal life; and preparing recipes in the Roots Culinary Kitchen with ingredients grown on the farm. They delight in getting their hands dirty, discovering how food is grown, and working together to sustain the farm operations. As a result, they gain a greater appreciation for the connection between the environment, health, society, and food.

The bulk of produce harvested by our students and community volunteers is donated to the Maryland Food Bank’s Farm to Food Bank program. The produce is also served in our dining halls, and a portion is sold to local restaurants with proceeds supporting our seed-to-table program. 

The flavors of ROots Expand to Area Merchants

The flavors of the farm are popping up in other locations!

In addition to the full line of products in the Roots Farm Store on campus, we are proud to share that our signature Roots pasta sauce and delicious peach salsa and jam are now available at Chester River Wine and Cheese in Chestertown and Welcome Home in Annapolis. 

Meet the Team

Sharon Hood, Director of Roots Farm

As a young girl, Sharon Hood (AKA Farmer Hood) dreamed of living on a farm and teaching. Today, as Director of Roots Farm, she is living her dream—sharing her passions for science and service by helping young people understand where food comes from and inspiring them to be good citizens and responsible stewards of the land. 

Farmer Hood, who holds a bachelor’s in communications and a master’s in education, had been teaching in McDonogh’s Lower School for more than a decade when the concept for Roots was born in 2008. She jumped at the opportunity to be part of the grassroots effort, and her involvement ever since has been integral to the farm’s evolution. Under her leadership, Roots has grown from a communal garden to a 10-acre agricultural haven for learning, service, and community engagement. 

From sunrise to sunset, Farmer Hood is responsible for every aspect of the farm’s operations. She cares for the animals; maps out planting and harvesting seasons; hosts classes from every division, organizes volunteers; coordinates food donations and partnerships with local restaurants, collaborates with McDonogh’s dining staff, plans special events, and so much more. In every endeavor, she passionately adheres to the farm’s guiding principle of “doing the greatest possible amount of good.”

Mallory Staley, Roots Farm Chef and Assistant

Mallory Staley (AKA Chef Staley), our culinary extraordinaire, works with students of all ages to cultivate a connection between the produce they plant and harvest at Roots and the food they consume. She blends 20 years of experience as a professional chef with her passion for sustainable food practices into engaging culinary lessons using ingredients from the farm. Thanks to Chef Staley our Seed to Table program continues to grow! 

In addition to her work with students, Chef Staley caters on-campus events with her creative recipes and collaborates with Farmer Hood to source fresh and seasonal ingredients to local restaurants and food pantries. She also utilizes seasonal fruits and produce from Roots Farm to create jams, sauces, salsa, and baked goods that are available for purchase at the Roots Farm Store

Before joining Roots, Chef Staley’s creations delighted the palates of patrons at some of the finest restaurants in New York City, Washington, D.C., Atlantic City, and Baltimore. 

Bonnie Britt, Beekeeper

Bonnie Britt (AKA Beekeeper Britt) has had a lifelong love of wildlife and a fascination with insects. She graduated from Louisiana State University with a BS in Renewable Natural Resources with an emphasis in Wildlife Ecology and Management. After receiving her teaching certification in Texas, she taught third-grade science and social studies before moving to Baltimore County to teach middle school science. 

Although she loves teaching, her true passion is in informal wildlife education. A founding member of the Greater Baltimore Beekeepers organization, Beekeeper Britt joined the Roots Farm team in the fall of 2022. She thoroughly enjoys caring for Roots’ 13 hives and sharing her knowledge with the McDonogh community about the important role bees play in pollination and food production.

Prior to joining the Roots team, Beekeeper Britt led educational programs at the Alexandria Zoo in Louisiana and was the outreach coordinator at the Burke Lake Bird Banding Station in Michigan where she taught the public about migratory birds.