Over the past decade, the farm to school movement has exploded across the United States, reaching millions of students in all 50 states. From school gardens and farm field trips, to local food on cafeteria trays, farm to school practices help children learn about where food comes from and make healthier choices while also creating new markets for local and regional farmers.
The Pequot Lakes school district has begun buying fruits and vegetables from local farmers. So far this year we have gotten Chestnut Crab apples from Gilby’s Orchard in Staples. These were a big hit with the elementary students! We also received Beacon apples from Borntrager Orchard in Clarissa, Zestar and State Fair apples from the Farm on St. Mathias, and Red Dutchess apples from the CLC orchards. We enjoyed cherry tomatoes from Barry Thoele, a hydroponic grower in Staples, and radishes from Brambling Rows Farm owned by John Jansen. Our onions came from an Amish grower, David Kauffman in Clarissa. The kids enjoyed watermelon last week from the Farm on St. Mathias, and today we are serving fresh cantaloupe!
In addition to the fruits and vegetables, we are also getting fresh ground turkey from Wild Acres Farm right here in Pequot Lakes, owned by Pat Ebnet. It is a wonderful source of meat that is lower in calories and fat. We have been receiving this since last year.
What does all this mean for the foodservice staff? Honestly, it is more work. We need to place an additional order every week for fresh farm fruits and vegetables. There are occasions when a specific order cannot be filled: the product is not yet ripe, or too ripe; bugs destroyed the product; flood; drought; and many other reasons. Therefore, we need to make sure we can still get what we need from our other current vendors. The product comes in fairly clean, but unprocessed. Carrots have to be cleaned, peeled and sliced. Watermelons and cantaloupes have to be cleaned, and cut up. Cutting up watermelon for 600-700 lunches is quite the job! But the extra work is definitely worth it, as the kids really like the fresh fruit and vegetables. The foodservice staff has learned to ‘rearrange’ their daily schedule in the kitchen to accommodate the extra time it takes to prepare these items. Overall, the new experience is leaving a “Fresh” taste in the mouths of Pequot Lakes students!
-- Patty Buell, Food Service Director