This year, Virginia's Farm to School Week will now be celebrated the first full week of October. This is a significant change from the third week in November, as in years past, when produce was more difficult to source, it being after the first freeze in our region.
Late summer crops, such as melons, tomatoes, and peppers are still holding on and fall crops are just coming to harvest. In our schools, we will enjoy butternut squash and sweet potatoes, with cabbage following later in the month. Virginia grown apples are well known in the fall, with our beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Valley a haven for apple trees and fall foliage.
In my home garden, I am still harvesting peppers, green beans, and cantaloupe. Temps have cooled enough that lettuce is ready, while collards and kale are taking off. I'm eager to see if my volunteer tomatoes can offer something before the frost settles in.
Birds, bad soil, inconsistent water or something prevented my broccoli and Brussels sprouts seeds from germinating. I will miss those crops this year. Broccoli casserole, with tender home grown broccoli, at Thanksgiving was becoming a family favorite.
At school, we will steam, mash and season the squash and rough chop and roast the potatoes. Free samples, colorful educational signage and harvest décor will tempt the students to give it a try. As my dad used to say, "Try it, you'll like it!"
Showing students of all ages the many links between garden and nutrition, farm and flavor, plant and plate, color and carotene, local and sustainable, is well worth it.