Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to School (From the Farm)

I have a few funny farm to school stories to share.  We have been dabbling in this area for about 5 years and the efforts in the early days offer some of the funniest fodder.

1.  Imagine the faces on our dear lunch ladies when the farmer shows up with wooden crates of whole, unstripped, unwashed KALE leaves.  They were accustomed to washed, chopped, ready to go bagged kale. I received a few emails after that one.  Lesson learned - give a fair warning and plan for delivery a few days prior to service so they can begin prep.

2.  We attempted to order WATERMELONS from one farm for a special program at one school.  We estimated we needed about 30.  All good.  However, come harvest day, only 15 were ripe and they weren't exactly of the size I was accustomed to seeing in the grocery store and upon which I based my forecast.  Lesson learned - always have a Plan B.

3.  We were super excited that one of the school gardens had SWEET POTATOES to contribute to the school lunch menu.  Good thing we supplemented with potatoes from our local farmer because they school's were long, skinny, misshapen and hard to peel.  Lesson learned - it's the thought that counts.

4.  Most local farms are not set up to deliver to 16 schools.  In the early days, I was the delivery gal, driving the school division, circa 1980s, wood paneled station wagon around the circuit of our schools.  Lesson learned - try a satellite delivery system where the farm delivers to 4 or 5 centralized schools and the cafeteria managers pick up from there.

5.  One of our very first farm to school programs was coordinated by an enthusiastic local college student.  He called it "Lunch Goes Local".  Cute right?  He assured us he had a great source for local produce.  We planned some side dishes and modified some entrees to include a local veg each day.  But it wasn't so cute when we got the bill for SALAD GREENS that cost $7 a pound.  Lesson learned - no hydroponics, no middle man produce broker, and set a price limit.

It is well worth the effort for the support of the local economy, the positive publicity, the student buy-in, the super fresh produce, and the potential lessons about gardening and food sustainability for students.

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