There are some very lucky schools with healthy students in Southern Oregon thanks to The Rogue Valley Farm to School program. By connecting local growers with area schools, Farm to School encourages and facilitates hands-on education for children about where their food comes from and how it is grown, while helping to sustain and support community involvement and local area farms, including Rogue Valley Brambles and Blue Fox Farm.
The programs offered under the Farm to School name include Farm Education, where students learn about nutrition and agriculture through field trips to local farms and classroom visits that tie basic skills such as math and science in with practical skills such as cooking and gardening; School Gardens, where students have the opportunity to learn about and grow their own produce; and Farm to Cafeteria, which joins local growers with school lunchrooms and aids them in ordering and distribution of produce, and also helps to evaluate cafeteria produce needs to assist farmers in planning seasonal planting.
Harding explains that ideally a school district would participate in all the programs, so students have a chance to be involved in learning all facets of food production and preparation by visiting the farms that are supplying the cafeteria. The educational programs have been linked to Oregon State Content Standards (academic standards, which identify what Oregon students are expected to know and be able to do in the content areas of english language arts, mathematics, health, physical education, science, second language, social sciences, and the arts), and include farm field trips, school garden activities, and classroom lessons. Their farm and garden-based curriculum is also tied to Oregon State Standards to help reduce the burden of taking students out of the classroom.All of these programs combined, as Tracy Harding, Executive Director explains, “help students gain life skills and a connection to their local ecosystem by being involved in stewardship projects and sustainability practices that will encourage a healthier diet, and more informed choices as adult consumers.”
Harding says that beginning school involvement in a Farm to Cafeteria program is as simple as expressing interest. Food service directors can set up a meeting to learn where their program might be lacking in local products, and help fine-tune their goals to develop and facilitate a plan to involve local farms.
The programs rely heavily on volunteer support as well. Most of the work RV Farm to School does in areas such as school gardens, support, and farm field trips would simply not be possible without a crew of dedicated and enthusiastic community members. Volunteer trainings are held twice a year. Some of their trainings are held at the Ashland Food Co-op’s Community Kitchen and also on local farms to create a Harvest Meal.
For up-to-date news, follow their Facebook page, or to find out more about their annual fundraisers and donation and volunteer opportunities, visit their website at www.rvfarm2school.org. You can also call Tracy Harding directly at 541-488-7884.
Rogue Valley Farm To School
PO Box 898
Ashland, OR 97520