Fairview Staff And Students Build Strong Farm To School Program
October 2, 2019 | View PDF
Connecting our youth with information and understanding of our local foods is the goal of the National and Montana Farm to School Programs. In 2018 staff and FFA and FCCLA students of Fairview High school decided to move forward with adopting and managing this program. The structure of Farm to School is in the program's core elements: Education, School Gardens, and Procurement. According to Montana State University's website (montana.edu/mtfarmtoschool/) detailing the program, it "enriches the connection communities have with fresh, healthy food and local food producers. Students gain access to healthy, local foods as well as education opportunities such as school gardens, cooking lessons and farm field trips."
Fairview High English teacher and program manager, Faith Oakland is excited for the programs growth that has occurred within this fall semester so far. The program is divided in to two classes, one each semester. In the fall Mrs. Angie Hopes, Family Consumer Science and FCCLA advisor, works with the teens on the process of harvest and processing of fresh produce as part of this program. Mr. Hardy, FFA and Vocational/Agriculture, holds his class and program in the spring where understanding planting and development processes are taught to students. Last spring Mr. Hardy donated an acre of land and seed for the participants to cultivate planting and growth of a corn crop. This past summer students volunteered to manage the crop through irrigation and monitor the development. Starting this fall semester, Mrs. Hopes is having this year's participants in the program reap the benefits of last spring's work by harvesting the corn by hand. Students are learning the processes from start to finish on producing a viable crop of food. To help fund additional projects within the program, the students and staff are selling the large quantity of corn to various local individuals and businesses. As the program grows and develops, the program managers will add additional projects that help support the core structure of the Farm to School Program. "Like a large greenhouse," says Mrs. Oakland. Last school year the program, in conjunction with Mr. Hardy's construction class, built raised beds that were placed just west of the school at the southeast corner of the relatively new track field. This area is also large enough to put up a decent sized green house to support fresh produce throughout the school year for students and empower youth to understand the efforts of local farms and benefits of local produce. Mrs. Oakland states that fund raising efforts are going on to help finance the greenhouse, gardens, irrigation drips and fruit tree projects for the upcoming semesters.
Providing local fresh produce for school lunches takes significantly more time to prepare. As a way to support the program and learn valuable skills, students in Mrs. Hopes' culinary class will be certified to work in the school kitchen for the additional prep work needed. "The school staff are strong supporters of this program," Says Faith. Part of the program educates youth in the value of an individual's role within a school and community in supporting these types of programs and way of life.
At Fairview High the Farm to School program also likes to get the community involved. Harvest of the Month and Harvest Meal invite the community to enjoy foods created by students and soon grown by students. The Share Table is where excess packaged foods are set for kids and reduces food waste. Ag Days sees farm equipment, wheat planting and grinding, and butter making happen as well farm animals, farm and production facilities tours. Farmer in the Classroom is a program provided by Josie Evenson, MSU extension agent. "One of the successes of this program is that kids learn start to finish production; where their food really comes from, how it's produced and how it's presented," says Mrs. Oakland. She is also really proud that this is a program, which once fully established, can fund itself while providing fresh produce for Fairview school meals.
Faith recognizes that many local families grow gardens or have fruit trees and have excess produce when they harvest. "Anyone can donate fresh produce to the school," states Mrs. Oakland. "The produce must be topped and washed before delivery to the school and all deliveries must be coordinated with me first to ensure as little produce goes to waste. It takes preparation to add items to the meals." If you are interested in donating fresh produce from your garden or would like to support projects, please contact Faith Oakland, Farm to School program manager at Fairview School 406-742-5265.