October: as Autumn settles in, so does harvest season. Schools and Food Service Directors across West Virginia are saying, "Bring it on," to their local farmers and school gardeners.
Over the past month, the Office of Child Nutrition has been trying to collect plans for celebrating all of the Farm to School activities in West Virginia. What we've heard, over and over again, is "We don't really celebrate local purchasing any more. It's just what we do."
Indeed, many of our Food Service Directors are recognizing, over and over again, that when West Virginian-grown food ends up in school meals, participation increases, and our students receive nutritious, balanced meals. Further, when produce from the school garden makes its way to the cafeteria, students devour their harvest during meal time.
BUT October is Farm to School Month, if now is not the time to celebrate all of the energy we pour into purchasing locally and school gardening, when is?!
So we persisted, pestered a little more and were able to find a handful of Farm to School Month Celebrations:
October 2: Marlinton Elementary's fifth graders will be in their school garden planting and putting up low covers with their Farm to School AmeriCorps member, Holly Bradley. Throughout this school year, the fifth grade class will present hands-on lessons to other grade levels on what's going on in the school garden. (Pocahontas County)
October 2-4: Tyler County Elementary Students will attend the Harvest Festival in Middlebourne. Students will have the opportunity to participate in Festival activities, including: apple butter tasting, hay rides, livestock viewing, making corn meal, decorating pumpkins, etc.
October 6: Peterstown Elementary will host Monroe County's School Board Meeting. The Monroe Farmer's Market will provide an all local dinner to Board members and give a presentation on the ins and outs of Farm to School, the benefits it provides to the community, and introduce the Monroe Farmer's Market Mentorship Program.
October 12: Greenbrier County is purchasing local chicken again this year to serve to students at Smoot Elementary with school garden grown produce. Greenbrier West High School Pro-Start students piece the whole chickens (meeting educational standards and making purchasing whole chickens possible and manageable for cafeteria staff).
October 16: WV Extension and Farm to School AmeriCorps Member, Kacie Lovell, will host Progressive Ag Safety Day at Mercer Elementary School. This hands-on exhibit has a milking cow, potato digging, and other agricultural activities for students to try. The exhibit will travel throughout Mercer County during the month.
Multiple dates, or to be scheduled events:
Fayette County's New River Elementary will have a Local Day featuring locally raised chicken, potatoes from Fayette Institute of Technology, and local cornmeal for corn bread.
Monroe County elementary schools will have bulletin boards at their schools showcasing local agriculture put together by their Farm to School AmeriCorps member, Teresa Johnson.
Morgan County farmers have partnered to provide sweet potatoes county-wide on one day in October (and another day in November), they always purchase locally grown apples, and are working on purchasing local beef.
In Wayne County, Prichard and Buffalo Elementary's after school programs are going to be learning all about laying hens. Farm to School AmeriCorps member, Della Napier, and school teachers will provide students with lessons on the anatomy of a chicken, how to care for chickens, and the business side of selling eggs to their schools. (Both schools have laying hens.)
We would still LOVE to hear about what your school or county is doing to celebrate. Remember: Farm to School encompasses school gardening, nutrition education, and local purchasing (from student or adult farmers). Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below.