Francisco of KYV Farm in neighboring St. John’s County
We have lettuce! What a terrible season for lettuce El Nino brought us. Way too warm and wet for it, whether growing at the Hub, in school gardens or on local farms. But FINALLY, after months of waiting and hoping, the first local lettuce was delivered to the Hub. Students packed it today, and it goes out tomorrow to 23 local elementary schools. Whoo.
In December, right before the break, we were able to gift the students with some juicy, sweet Satsumas from Wayde Alford’s citrus groves.
Here he is meeting with the students – a Real Farmer!
Wayde Alford with citrus
And here they are packing the satsumas:
Students packing and labeling satsumas for delivery
And here is our driver taking the oranges to the schools:
It’s been a very slow start, but the students are learning both the challenges and the rewards of farming. It takes a lot of good work from a number of people (and some weather cooperation) to make this happen. but it’s happening.
Twelve hundred pound of fresh, super-sweet, locally-grown, organic blueberries were on the trays of Alachua County students in 13 schools this week! Managers either served them fresh in a cup or offered them in yogurt parfaits.
As a new product for the schools, there were some challenges – from receiving to storing to packing and distributing. But lessons were learned and the results were great. A very informal survey – a couple of us walking around three lunchrooms asking how students liked them – yielded overwhelming acceptance by students and staff. By buying in bulk at the end of the season, we saved money, supported a local farmer, and offered great nutrition to our students. And GET students received more job skills training in weighing, measuring, food safety, and documentation.
Blueberries are considered a super-food, and we are fortunate they grow so well in North Central Florida. They were a nice finish for a fun school year of growing, purchasing, packing, preparing, and eating food grown by our community for our community.
Thank you, Donna Miller of D&J Blueberry Farms in Inverness!
During the last month, while we have had some of the coldest temperatures in Gainesville, we’ve been able to harvest some beautiful basil and peppers from the greenhouses. The basil was clipped back just before Thanksgiving and was frozen for future use (our district chef is working on some recipes that include pesto!).
Matt clips basil.
the bail haul
This week, some of the sweet banana peppers were ready. We tried these out as a substitute for bell peppers and were pleased with the results. This first batch will be snacks (served with dip) for 300 students at Lake Forest Elementary. Our students will be running variety trials in the spring to learn more about the productivity and sweetness of different types of peppers and then will conduct taste tests with the elementary school students at the schools we are serving. They will also plant these varieties in the shade house to learn where they grow best during the warmer months.
Cheyenne harvests peppers
There is a lot of learning (and a fair amount of eating … or “taste testing” going on here). It’s surprising how good things taste when you’ve known them since they were a seed.
Arthur and Matt carefully bag lettuce
G.E.T. (Growing Education Training) students harvested 150 heads of beautiful mixed lettuces – the first of a continuous stream of weekly harvests from their amazing NFT table. Wearing gloves and hairnets, students carefully trimmed the root ball of each head before gently wrapping it and sending it on its way to the cooler. From there, the lettuce was transported to four schools – Duval, Metcalfe, and Lake Forest Elementary schools, and Loften High – for inclusion in their school lunch.
Willard with the first lettuce harvest
on its way to the kitchen
This harvest was the culmination of hard work and a lot of learning on everyone’s part – from following written and oral instructions to set up the complicated system, to mixing the nutrient solution, to checking and recording pH levels daily, to monitoring plant growth and trouble-shooting a nutrient deficiency. The students were there at every stage of the life of a lettuce plant, truly a “seed to plate” experience for them. They were thrilled to share the process with some of the kitchen staff who will be serving it to students this week.
Kitchen staff and district dietitian visit the greenhouse during harvest