The other side of farm-to-school

gville sun photo

We were so excited to find this great article on our Farm to School program on the front page of the Gainesville Sun last week!  While the amazing and beautiful hydroponic lettuce production has gotten a good deal of press lately, it’s harder to get the newspaper to feature the more mundane and routine side of getting large quantities of farm-grown food on the lunch tables.

This story includes a tired and sunburned farmer, a field of farm workers, harried school accountants, and 1600 pounds of lettuce loaded on a trailer each month on its way to the back door of our processing kitchen. It also includes our beautiful students decked out in hairnets and plastic gloves.

Cheyenne and Miranda go through checklist for receiving produce

Cheyenne and Miranda go through checklist for receiving produce

Arthur records harvest on a spreadsheet

Arthur records incoming lettuce on a spreadsheet

It’s not as pretty.

But it’s so important! THIS is our little part of a viable local food system! The farm growing our lettuce is the first one in the southeast to receive the “Agricultural Justice Project” certification. The farm workers at the Family Garden farm work for a living wage! And our students, waiting on the other end for the produce delivery, are learning valuable skills in food safety and accounting that will hopefully lead to meaningful work in their post-school lives. And all that (organic, restaurant-quality) lettuce, handled with care and driven all over the district in a plain-jane refrigerated truck, will end up on the plates of some students for whom this will be their only fresh vegetable today.

This article in Orion magazine describes well what we are working to do on a small scale at Loften now. We are excited about plans to grow a larger food hub in our region in the near future. It’s a good direction to be heading if we want healthy children, healthy farms, and a healthy local economy here, in this community.

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Taking it into the community

Daniel, Matt, and Arthur serving up salad at the market

Daniel, Matt, and Arthur serving up salad at the market

We had a booth at the Downtown Farmers Market last week. Matt and Arthur prepared a tasty salad with their famous Florida Dip as a salad dressing this time. Nearly 100 market-goers tried it and liked it! Thanks to The Repurpose Project for the materials for our new sign – and to Rob Brinkman, volunteer extraordinaire, for building it for us.

tiny salad 3.9

tiny salad featuring spring greens and roots plus edible flowers

Harvesting seeds

Melissa shows students how to gently harvest pea pods from the vines.

Melissa shows students how to gently harvest pea pods from the vines.

It’s that time in the garden when cool-weather plants are about to give up the ghost and are producing seeds. Some we  eat, and some we save. This week students harvested snow peas for eating – a lovely yellow variety that was both prolific and easy to spot on the green vines.

Learning to spot a seed and separate it from the flower.

Learning to spot a seed and separate it from the flower.

They also harvested calendula seeds from the dying flowers. Some of these will be planted in school gardens next fall. The cycle of life.

Beet tasting

photo (9)Beets are fun to grow and harvest with their beautiful red-veined leaves and the – surprise! – lovely “beet red” root below the surface of the soil. But they aren’t always a favorite of kids, or adults for that matter.

But Daniel – our kitchen training coordinator – and the G.E.T. students created a recipe even beet-doubters liked. You can try it at home!

Beets Balsamico – for eight

2 1/2 lbs. beets
1 1/2 tsp. honey
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

Give it a try! Taste test at Lake Forest Elementary features local carrots and “Florida Dip”

LF3.5.15 hetrieditMatt and Arthur took the show on the road to Lake Forest Elementary School last week where students tried out their latest creation. Carrots came from their own garden at the Hub as well as The Family Garden Farm. They did a great job!

Eighty-two percent of the students who tried it, liked it!  Here’s the recipe if you want to give it a try:

Florida Dip

1 cup mashed avocado
1/8 cup green onion, chopped
1/4 cup kale,chopped
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons orange juice
1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 – 3/4 cup water

Place all ingredients in food processor or blender with 1/4 cup of the water. Blend, adding just enough water to create a creamy dip. Serve with sweet local carrot sticks from the farmers market.

Enjoy!

Matt and Arthur dishing out some local yum.

Matt and Arthur dishing out some local yum.