Local farmers to supply food to schools

·3 min read

Sep. 23—Local schools will soon get more local produce thanks to a Farm-to-School program grant Delaware-Chenango-Madison-Otsego BOCES received from the state Department of Agriculture and Markets.

DCMO BOCES received $99,981 to distribute 9,000 pounds of a local tomato sauce and 5,000 pounds of lightly processed local produce to 11 K-12 schools in Chenango, Delaware and Otsego counties, a media release said. The school districts that will receive the tomato sauce and processed produce are Greene, Bainbridge-Guilford, Downsville, Afton, Sidney, Unatego, Walton, Norwich, Sherburne-Earlville, Alan D. Pole BOCES Campus, Harrold BOCES Campus, Hannah Leighton, farm to institution coordination at The 607 CSA, said. The Oneonta City School District will also receive the processed produce. The 607 CSA, DCMO BOCES, SUNY Delhi Hospitality, and Food and Health Network, a program of Rural Health Network of South Central New York are collaborating on the effort, the release said.

Leighton said three farms are participating in the program — Breezy Hill Farm, Weaver Family Farm and Chicory Creek Farm. Besides providing tomatoes for the tomato sauce, farms will provide potatoes, onions, carrots, butternut squash and lettuce, she said.

Kate and Ean Rice-Mitchell own Chicory Creek Farm in Mount Vision* and grow a variety of vegetables, including colorful carrots, parsnips, beets, potatoes, onions, cabbage, lettuce and other greens on five acres. Kate said kids love the rainbow carrots and said the light orange ones are sweeter than the conventional bright orange one. She said they wanted to sell to local schools but it was hard to do so. She said Cheryl Landsman of The 607 CSA has done all of the legwork for the farmers. "It's a huge advantage for all farms," she said.

Ean, a graduate of Unatego High School, said he has wanted to sell his farm's produce to local schools "just because it's cool that kids will be eating our food. I hope it gets bigger. It's hard to try something new. I hope it becomes normal and easier logistics-wise."

"Through this project, we will increase the amount of local food served in our schools by 40% while uncovering long term solutions for getting locally processed foods into the cafeteria," Connie Babino, school food services manager for DCMO BOCES, said in the release.

Once the produce is harvested, The 607 CSA will deliver it to SUNY Delhi where a group of culinary students will receive credit as they work alongside faculty, meet with DCMO BOCES partners, develop a tomato sauce recipe that meets nutritional requirements, perform taste tests with the students and staff, and process the tomatoes and produce, the release said. The 607 CSA will then distribute the sauce and vegetables to the schools. The program will be run for 24 months.

"Engaging with farmers, K-12 staff, and farm to school coordinators through this project allows our students to understand the local food system in a new way and to imagine how they could potentially be part of it after graduation," David Brower, Dean of the School of Hospitality Management at SUNY Delhi, said in the release.

*The address was updated.

Vicky Klukkert, staff writer, can be reached at vklukkert@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7221.