What would we do without our volunteers?

cyd and ava - extraordinaires

Cyd and Ava, doing the dirty work

Seriously. We have the most wonderful support from our community – from individuals to clubs and sororities, to a UF class that meets out here each week. They are amazing, and they make this place what it is. We are so grateful!

dnz with weeds

Delta Nu Zeta sorority sisters weeding the orchard post-Irma rains.

santa fe with weeds

GROW Hub volunteers from Santa Fe College knock out more than their share of the weeds.

food justice volunteers with sweet potato sign

Cecilia Suarez’ Food Justice Class assisted with a Sweet Potato Home Fries taste test at Lincoln Middle.

fj serving sw po

Serving it up.

cecilia collecting data

Collecting data – thumbs up, down, or meh.

Volunteers have made this place and the project grow and thrive. We are grateful for the hard work, skill, kindness, and the wonderful piece of community you bring!

sweet potato thumbs up




Irma vs Farm to School

emerging from storm

Emerging from the storm

While Irma had lost some of its punch by the time it reached us, still, what a mess! We had a leaky roof, damaged fruit, a lot of fallen plants, and some flooding.

downed plants

orchard under water

On top of that, the groundcloth that had been painstakingly applied to the new teaching orchard, blew off and away before we finished covering with mulch.

orchard post storm

Fortunately for us, lots of volunteers and staff helped clean up and set things right again.  Unfortunately, hurricane season is not over yet. We will be mulching non-stop over the next few days.


riley and daniel

Searching for water lines since irrigation heads blew off along with the groundcover…

judy and brandi


We were also lucky to get out our first Harvest of the Month – muscadines! – before the storm hit. We were not as lucky with the avocado planned for September. The winds that downed huge live oaks in Gainesville, also produced a lot of flying avocados.

But we’re back! It’s going to be a great year of creating sustainability in a changing climate (weather and other). We know that hard work and hope will continue to fuel a solid plan for a local food system that supports good health and employment.


Santa Fe High Wins Golden Shovel Award!

sf whole garden

We have a winner! Santa Fe High School’s Green Monsters won the Golden Shovel Award from the Florida Department of Agriculture for “Best Revitalized Garden.”  Here are excerpts from their application, prepared by teacher Ryan Pass. Thanks, Ryan, for the inspiration!

The Santa Fe High School Monster Garden is an idea that really took flight this school year.  Our group is known as the Green Monsters, and the students are all students with disabilities, most of whom are on the Access Points curriculum.  Access Points is a modified curriculum for students with cognitive impairments or significant disabilities that prevent them from being successful with the standard state curriculum.  Students construct and operate the garden during their science class, and some work in the garden during a Career Preparation class.  At the beginning of the year, we took full control of a small garden that was composed of a total of five 4 ft. x 8 ft. raised beds that were overrun with weeds taller than a person.  Throughout this school year, our students have constructed and maintained a garden space in excess of 1500 square feet with approximately 600 square feet devoted to growing plants, and the rest walkways.  This increased area provided a large blank canvas to allow more student work space than in previous years, and it provided more space for greater crop diversity.  Students have constructed 4 ft. x 8 ft. raised beds and trellises.  They have moved soil, installed mulch, started seeds, transplanted seeds into larger pots, and planted seedlings in the garden.

Santa Fe before

August 2016

Currently we are growing three varieties of cucumbers, numerous herbs, green beans, snow peas, lettuce, Swiss chard, carrots, beets, spring onions, scallions, yellow squash, zucchini, scallop squash, bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, eggplant, tomatillos, and several varieties of tomatoes.  We also have marigolds, miniature sunflowers, a red banana tree, and two pear trees.  In the past we have grown collard greens, mustard greens, kale, kohlrabi, radishes, turnips, sugar snap peas, and cabbage, as well.  We grow our plants from seed to harvest.  Most of the seedlings we grow are sent home with our students or provided to our financial sponsors at no cost to them.  We choose what to plant based on requests from sponsors, personal preferences, and to experiment with new or different foods.  Our students have the opportunity to sample foods they have never seen or tried before, and they get to take home fresh produce regularly.  Carrots and snow peas are the favorites, as they almost never make it far from the garden before they are eaten.  We are planning to build a compost area and plant a berry patch with blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries very soon.

a couple months in

Late Fall 2016

Teachers collaborate to create lessons that complement the work in the garden.  For instance, through their Math class, students worked to measure out the garden plot and calculate perimeter and square footage.  In Science, students learned the process of photosynthesis, and they can determine which fertilizer to use for different situations or conditions.  In History class, students studied about the history of farming in America and how the industry has developed over time.  Many of our students take a specially designed Health and PE course (HOPE) where they have used our produce to make salads for their periodic “feasts”.  Our Career Preparation program also utilizes the garden as one of our on-campus work settings for students to learn skills and responsibility.  Students process requests for plants or produce and deliver them to people across the campus.  Additionally, our students designed and created signs depicting the names of our sponsors and signs with their own monsters on them to place in and around the garden.  Financial sponsors sent in their design requests for their signs, including color and wording, and our students had to read and fulfill the orders and then ensure that the final products matched the orders.

raised beds santa fe

cucumber plants

Our Green Monsters are recognized and appreciated across the school campus.  They are proud to wear their Green Monster t-shirts every Thursday, and several members of the faculty and staff, as well as one student not in the program, have their own shirts.  More people want shirts, but we ran out!  Many people around the school visit the garden just to grab a handful of fresh produce for a healthy lunch.  When our school was up for Accreditation this year, one of the programs our school chose to feature was the Green Monster program, and members of the Accreditation team made sure to visit us.

Our garden is financed by generous donations from faculty and staff, funds provided by our school principal, and by community businesses who have provided us with plants and materials for free or at a discount.  The Farm to School program sponsors 64 square feet of our growing space.  The food grown in this space is provided to the school cafeteria for use in school lunches.  We have provided lots of lettuce and collard greens to the cafeteria so far.  To sustain our program in the future, we will continue to seek “Monster Sponsors” to provide us with financial support, we will continue partnering with Farm to School, and we plan to expand into fundraisers such as selling seedlings that we grow and care for, selling t-shirts, as well as canning and selling pickles (which our students are very excited about).  As this school year winds down, I have many students asking how they can join our program next year.  I sure hope we can grow our program to accommodate them!


harvesting lettuce for lunches 2


lettuce for lunchesThrough programs like the Golden Shovel Award, with exposure from local media, and with community support, we hope to shine a positive light on our program, our school, and on programs for students with disabilities in general.  We hope that the positive exposure will not only help our program to continue in future years, but maybe serve to provide encouragement to other schools considering adding a school garden to their campus, especially those who wish to serve students with disabilities.

Santa Fe High 5.4.17.jpg

School Garden growing strong in May 2017



Growing for the Lunchroom

May 2017

Besides local farms and our own little farm here at the Farm to School Hub, we have a number of mini-farmers in the district growing hyper-local produce on school grounds.

This year, nineteen schools are growing vegetables for the lunchroom. These are a few:

Teachers and other garden champions learn best practices in food safety and growing at workshops held here at the Hub in the fall and spring.

Brandi demonstrating scounting.jpg

GET (Growing Education Training) students grow transplants for the gardens from seed and build boxes for raised beds.

box building - Copy - Copy - Copy

The veggies growing in the garden are the same ones we are purchasing from local farms.

Kitchen staff learn how to include incoming produce in recipes on the menu.

lincoln line

Students and teachers connect the garden with classroom learning.

12.6 vivik and murphy cilantro

And through a partnership with the Family Nutrition Program (part of UF/IFAS), all students growing for the lunchroom are receiving nutrition education as well.

norton nutrition ed2-ANIMATION

It’s a healthy system for growing healthy minds and bodies by growing food.

May Harvest of the Month: BLUEBERRIES!

Blueberries Clay Ranch Trading Card (1)Blueberries grow wild in the woods in North Central Florida, yet so many children have never tasted one. We were thrilled to connect with Chance Clay of Clay Ranch in nearby Grandin to make these delicious, nutritious berries available to thousands of Alachua County students.

Chance Clay trading card

Students tried them fresh, right out of a cup, or layered in a tasty yogurt and granola parfait.  Blueberries are high in antioxidants, fiber, Vitamin K and C,  and other nutrients and are considered to be a “brain food” – ideal for growing bodies and minds.

blueberry choosing.jpg

redhead blueberry.jpg

Students who chose blueberries as their fruit at lunch were given trading cards featuring Farmer Chance or the fruit. It’s great to help make the connection between the people who grow our food and our students.

gerardo and emilia

Gerardo and Emilia, who take care of the bushes and picked our blueberries. 

Students are also experiencing blueberries – growing and tasting – at our own Farm to School Hub orchard, planted this spring. Here GET students will nurture the plants that visiting students on field trips will get to see and learn about firsthand, another lesson on the connection between healthy land, food, and people.




April Harvest of the Month: PEACHES!

Thanks to a heads-up from the Florida Department of Agriculture and some assistance from Localecopia, we were able to buy peaches from Farmer Jeff Sizemore of Sizemore Farms near Plant City.

peaches trading card

It was interesting to learn about the development of peaches that will grow well in Florida (thanks University of Florida!)  from Jeff and about the farm his great-grandfather started in the early 1900s.

jeff sizemore farmertrading card

They were a great addition to the lunch line and a real hit with the students.

peach girl 3

peaches at Alachua

So long greens…

Just yesterday, you were a tiny seed.

kale10.31 view from steps

Late October 2016

We loved watching you grow.

12.6 garden view.jpg

December 2016

You have given hundreds of students a taste of fresh kale salad and tasty cooked collards.

duval kale salad surprise 2

You made our little farm look lush and beautiful all winter long.

collards spring

February 2017

Right into Spring!

greens and new mural

April 2017

It was a great season, beautiful greens! We plan to see you again in the Fall.

brandi in the kale

Big thanks to Brandi, our intrepid Garden Training Coordinator for leading the students to make this happen!


Open House!


It was a beautiful day! And it was an opportunity to showcase what we have been up to at the Farm to School to Work Hub.

During the farm tour, Brandi – our garden training coordinator – shared how we keep squirrels and other critters out of our school gardens.

brandi tour squirrel proof demo

And we got to show off the new orchard!


Blueberries, blackberries, figs, satsumas, and persimmons

GET students sold transplants.

crystal, david C.jpg

Volunteer Bart, Teacher Crystal, and student David

painted pots

Some of the plants came in beautiful hand-painted pots

There was an egg hunt.

easter egg payton

Students hid prizes in the eggs


One of the prizes was a “Tater Tat” veggie tattoo

Real farmers visited and signed their trading cards.

Laray Thompson

Laray Thompson, of Thompson Vineyard and Nursery, grew Muscadine grapes for our very first Harvest of the Month

Nando and sign

Nando Roberts, of Santa Fe Organics, grows our kale for kale salads

Some of our community partners offered a taste of their talents and contributions to the Hub.

michelle and crepes

Michelle of Fat Tuscan made fresh chocolate crepes

melissa and payton seeds

Melissa of Forage Farms helped visitors explore seeds


Beautiful music by Florida Pure and Simple added so much to the day

A delicious farm to school lunch featuring student-grown produce was provided by the Food and Nutrition department.

farm to school lunch

The Grow Hub shared their visions for future jobs for adults with disabilities – a much needed spin-off of the work we are doing with students in transition.

grow hub crew 2

Some of the board of the Grow Hub – Growing Real Opportunities for Work

It was wonderful to share the great work students have been doing with the help of so many partners.

We were all ready for a nap by the end of the day.

daniel in the collards

Our Kitchen Training Coordinator, Daniel, takes a much-deserved break amongst the huge collards

February Harvest of the Month: Kale

Nando Roberts - trading card

February Trading Card

Kale grows even better than lettuce in our region, and it grows almost the entire school year! Our team worked together to created our first original Farm to School dish – Sweet and Tender Kale Salad.

Kale Salad Recipe picture

Visiting students “massaged” their own kale for the salad.

making kale salad

Ninety percent of the students who had a hand in making their own salad, said they liked it (and they ate it!).

kale eater

Research has shown that students who grow the vegetable, know who did, or had a hand in preparing it are more likely to enjoy eating it.

We are hoping that our multi-pronged approach to vegetable appreciation will have a lasting effect on our students and their health.

January Harvest of the Month: Lettuce

school salads

We are fortunate to work with some great folks growing lettuce for school lunches – 20 school gardens, the greenhouses and fields of the Farm to School to Work Hub, and Jordan Brown of the Family Garden Organic and Fair Farm just down the road from us!

Jordan Brown- The Family Garden-Small Final!!

We use freshly harvested, organic lettuce for all of our lettuce needs at 25 schools where most students qualify for free and reduced lunches. We plan to expand this to ALL Alachua County Schools next year!

January was the month to celebrate this great product, and especially the local farmer who produces between 300 and 350 pounds of lettuce each month for our schools.

The students grow the same variety of lettuce in their schools gardens.

pointing at the sign - newberry (3)

Newberry Elementary School Garden

And our GET students grow it at the Farm to School Hub gardens as well.

lettuce and josh and cyd

Volunteers Cyd and Josh and the first harvest.

We have experimented over the last few years to learn which types to grow hydroponically as well. Students and other visitors from area schools are always amazed by the beauty of 600 heads of lettuce growing on a table in a greenhouse!

greenhouse lettuce

Newberry Elementary School Gardeners visit our greenhouse

We are excited about all the ways we get lettuce into school meals and grateful for all the work that goes into making it happen.