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Farm to School programs begin

Farm to School 1By CALVIN PYNN

calvin@www.southwesttimes.com

 

“We’re going to learn about where your breakfast comes from,” Shelly Rasnick told a class of kindergarteners at Dublin Elementary School.

As she addressed the group of about 20 youngsters, one boy immediately raised his hand in excitement as he knew exactly from where his breakfast came.

“It comes from a farm!” he said loudly.

It was pretty clear he understood the point of Rasnick’s visit to the school that Thursday morning.

It was the first of many events that will promote the Farm to School program recently approved for Pulaski County Public Schools. The program is an initiative to bring locally grown foods into the schools’ cafeterias and onto the students’ trays, and help both the students and the community understand the significance of local agriculture.

Rasnick is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public health at Virginia Tech, and was hired in January as the coordinator for the Farm to School program in Pulaski County. As indicated by her opening statement to the kindergarteners, the event to kick off the program was all about showing the kids that what they eat for breakfast often comes from Mother Nature before making it to the supermarket.

“This is actually our first time really in the schools, so I’ve been mostly trying to connect with some farmers,” Rasnick said. “The snow has really set us back, so we haven’t been able to do too much.”

The Dublin event was originally planned for the week before in honor of National Breakfast Week, but had to be postponed when school was closed due to snow.

Rasnick’s plan is to make it out to all eight schools in Pulaski County, and then do taste tests featuring locally grown crops. Since starting her job, Rasnick has been working with different farmers and community members in the area to find foods for the students to taste.

“The kids will try it, and then we’ll let them vote on their favorite, so then we can work to actually offer that in the cafeteria,” Rasnick said.

The focus for what they can bring in for the program has been on produce. According to Rasnick, there are some regulations that will complicate tasting products such as local meat and dairy, but their focus will be more on locally grown fruits and vegetables.

As for the local farms with which the schools can work, Rasnick said there is an orchard in Floyd with which they plan to work in the fall, as well as a farm that grows carrots and potatoes that wants to contribute as well. She has been talking with Pulaski Grow, and said that Red Sun Farms could be an option to provide tomatoes on a regular basis.

“With a lot of the smaller farmers, it’s going be on a seasonal basis and with what the availability is,” Rasnick said. “A big part of it is finding out what they have, when they’re going to have it and how we can substitute it into our menu.”

As evidenced by students who spoke up in class, the kids seemed to have a grasp on the source of their food and a general familiarity with local farms, according to Rasnick. For those who aren’t as familiar, Rasnick said she plans to organize some field trips to local farms for the younger students in Pulaski County.

 

“For those of them who haven’t gotten to experience that yet, we hope that they will be able to go to those field trips,” she said.

During those field trips, the students will have the chance to plant and harvest crops for a hands-on educational experience.

According to Rasnick, the Farm to School program is important for the students in Pulaski County, because the world is relying on the next generation to keep growing food and keep the general practice of agriculture going.

“The agriculture economy really needs a boost,” Rasnick said. “It’s important. We rely on a really small amount of people to provide food for everybody.”

She said the program will also be focused on promoting self sustainability, with the hope of showing the community beyond the schools the importance of growing their own food.

“It can be pretty easy to grow vegetables just for your family, and that’s one way to ensure that you have really healthy fresh food and a relatively cheap price,” Rasnick said.

Although Rasnick wasn’t sure which school will host the next event for the Farm to School program, she said the next one will be a taste test in April. Right now, as she is developing connections with local farmers and community members, Rasnick is working on developing a logo through the schools.

“We really want the students to create a unique, Pulaski County Farm to School logo,” Rasnick said. “We’re in the process of doing that, so I’ll being going around to different schools and talking to them more.

“The purpose of this – the purpose of the logo and us getting out there – is to raise awareness about Farm to School,” she added. “It’s a new grant, a lot of the people I’ve talked to don’t really know that Pulaski has received it, so we really want to get that out there to start building a base of people to share their input.”

Rasnick is also open to having a Farm to School team, in which the program would get input from the community, parents, students, teachers, anyone who will be involved in the process to find out how to meet their needs.

Rasnick can be reached at 423-202-0212 or rasnicks@vt.edu.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shelly Rasnik, is a grad student at Virginia Tech finishing up her master’s degree in Public Health.

 

Has been working with the Pulaski Farm to School Program since the end of January.

 

This is the first event they’ve held to promote the farm to school program.

 

“This is actually our first time really in the schools, so I’ve been mostly trying to connect with some farmers. The snow has really set us back, so we haven’t been able to do too much. This is our first real event here, and our goal is to make it out to all the schools.”

 

Will do some taste tests at all 8 of them. Working with different farmers in the region right now for foods to taste. Thinks they will offer some different varieties of carrots to offer later in the spring, which they will try to being around to all schools in the county.

 

“The kids will try it, and then we’ll let them vote on their favorite, so then we can work to actually offer that in the cafeteria.”

 

It takes a lot to set up a taste test and get that much food for the school, and preparing it different ways. Thursday morning’s event was meant to be part of School Breakfast Week, which was supposed to be last week, but cancelled due to snow.

 

“This was more about trying to raise awareness about where your actually food comes from, which I think the kids had a really good sense of it.”

 

There are some areas where kids think food comes from the store, but she said it appeared that a lot of the kids at the elementary school had contact with farms so they had a better understanding of it.

 

Will hopefully do some farm field trips as well for younger students, thinking third graders. Will actually take them out, do some planting and harvesting, some hands on education.

 

“For those of them that haven’t gotten to experience that yet, we hope that they will be able to through those field trips.”

 

“It’s very important to know where you’re getting your food because we’re relying on these kids to someday help us grow our food and help keep that going. The agriculture economy really needs a boost. It’s important. We rely on a really small amount of people to provide food for everybody, and some that, what we’ll try to do, is encourage people to grow their own. It can be pretty easy to grow vegetables just for your family, and that’s one way to ensure that you have really healthy fresh food and a relatively cheap price.”

 

The next thing they’ll do is the taste test in April. A lot of what she’s been doing is meeting with farmers and different community members to get things going. Working on getting a logo through the schools. Working on getting that through the schools.

 

“We really want the students to create a unique, Pulaski County farm to school logo. We’re in the process of doing that, so I’ll being going around to different schools and talking to them more.

 

“The purpose of this, the purpose of the logo and us getting out there is to raise awareness about farm to school. It’s a new grant, a lot of the people I’ve talked to don’t really know that Pulaski has received it, so we really wanna get that out there to start building a base of people to share their input.”

 

 

Is open to having a farm to school team, wants input from the community, parents, students, teachers, anyone that will be involved in the process to find out how to meet their needs.

 

The focus for what they can bring in has been on produce. There are some regulations that make it more difficult such as with meat, but their focus will be more on locally grown fruits and vegetables.

 

There is an orchard in floyd they can work with in the fall, as well as a farm that grows carrots and potatoes that wants to help them. Have been talking with Pulaski Grow, and Red Sun Farms, which could provide tomatoes on a regular basis.

 

“With a lot of the smaller farmers, it’s gonna be on a seasonal basis and with what the availability is. A big part of it is finding out what they have, when they’re gonna have it, when they’re gonna have it, and how we can substitute it into our menu.”

 

 

 

 

 

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