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2nd Annual Local Food and Farm to School Awards

Dale Toya is a traditional farmer from Jemez Pueblo who is continuing a way of life despite many barriers. He grows a variety of vegetables. Dale is an advocate for farm training and teaching the younger generation how to grow food by connecting to their core culture. He has developed relationships with organizations, groups and individuals doing similar work throughout Native American tribal communities, which has resulted in the acquisition of a cold tunnel hoop house for the Jemez farming group called Strictly Roots Farm and Greenhouse.

Tasting in Style

By Susy Derby, FoodCorps Service Member with Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health in Santo Domingo Pueblo

For the past two months, the Santo Domingo School has been fortunate to have whole school taste tests with produce donated by the Whole Foods Market in Santa Fe. In support and partnership from Whole Foods, the Edible School Gardens Team provided produce for students in Pre K – 8th grades to taste! Exploring new types of foods through taste, touch, and smell, students had hands-on experience with a new kinds of food. Additionally, they were given the opportunity to vote for their favorite food. This opportunity has been amazing for the students and exciting for the staff.

In February, students tried a “Sumo, ” a cross between a tangerine and a mandarin. Born in Japan and raised in California, these citrus fruits are easy to peel and are deliciously juicy. When students were asked to list new fruits and veggies they have tried this year, they didn’t forget to say “Sumos!” Our FoodCorps Service member, Susy Derby, also dressed up in a blown-up Sumo Costume (the wrestler, not the fruit) donated by Whole Foods.

Our March Taste Test included three dark leafy greens: Baby Kale, Mache and Arugula. The Edible School Garden teachers had the students try the leaves a variety of ways including a Baby Kale Strawberry Apple Smoothie, Mache leaves with ranch dressing and Arugula by itself. The Pre-K, Kindergarten and 1st graders tasted the leafy greens in their classrooms and voted if they “Tried it”, “Liked it” or “Loved It.” The 3rd-5th graders taste tested in the school hallways before lunch, and our middle school students drank their Kale-Strawberry-Apple smoothies on their way into the cafeteria. Students in grades 6th– 8th collected their smoothie in the lunch line. Many of the staff got to take home left over containers of the leafy greens to enjoy with their families that evening.

The results were practically unanimous. Most students “Loved” the smoothies.

Of the 1st and 2nd graders, 41 students “Loved It”, 6 “Liked it” and 3 “Tried it.” Of the 3rd-5th graders, 79 “Loved It,” 8 “Liked it” and 5 “Tried It.” The Kindergarteners said 28 “Loved it,” 11 “Liked It” and 3 “Tried it.” Throughout the day we received lots of positive feedback from the students saying they enjoyed the taste testing and wanted to drink another smoothie.

Depending on how you like your smoothies (with more or less greens) we would like to share the Whole Foods Recipe with you. Feel free to adjust it according to your favorite ingredients.

Baby Kale-Strawberry-Apple Smoothie

1 bunch kale (2-3 cups of Baby Kale)

1 cup frozen strawberries

2- 4 cups of apple juice (Depending how thick you want it)

Blend in the blender on high and serve!

Planting the Seeds of Service and Community

By Rachel Pretlow, FoodCorps Service Member with La Plazita Institute 

“What does service mean to you?”

Nearly 350 Albuquerque Public Schools elementary and middle school students were able to begin to discover their answer to that question during the Cesar Chavez Day of Service at the Sanchez Farm Open Space last Friday. These students, along with dozens of volunteers, participated in a community service day in honor of the life and work of Cesar Chavez, the famed Chicano farm workers’ rights activist. The students, who hailed from 6 schools throughout the city, participated in activities ranging from traditional Mexican curanderismo to chicken farming.

I had the pleasure of leading a station at the garden plot in the Open Space maintained by La Plazita Institute, my FoodCorps service site. I originally had the grandiose idea of painting and constructing hubcap flowers to beautify/obscure the chain-link fence around the garden space. However, I recalled a moment from earlier in my FoodCorps service term when I tried using buckets of paint in a garden club session with elementary schoolers. It ended horribly. I settled on planting a selection of seeds for the Spring garden and labeling stones with the name and illustrated picture of each crop we will be planting throughout the next few months with the assistance of student and staff volunteers from the University of New Mexico.

Before the students arrived to my station on the Day of Service, they were able to take part in a traditional Lakota blessing of the four directions led by the Executive Director of La Plazita. For most of the kids, this was a new way of appreciating the natural environment. When the first wave of students arrived, I divided them into two groups for each of the activities. I took my students to plant flowers and left the others with UNM volunteers to paint and label the stones. Of course, after two minutes, the kids in the painting group said that they were done. We all learned the importance of being prepared with backpocket activities with that group; the Wind Blows for Me saved us. The students who participated in the planting activity with me were able to learn about the importance of plant diversity and pollinators in the garden. They were also able to learn a little about native seeds and plants of this region as we planted native amaranth and sage throughout the garden.

At the end of the afternoon, the students were asked to reflect on what they learned through their service.

Some of them said that they learned how to plant a seed for the first time.

Many of the students will likely forget about this day.

But some of them may never forget about the first time they planted a seed in service to their community.

 So I pose the same question now: “What does service mean to you?”

Partners in Action: Farm to Table New Mexico

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Farm to Table is a non-profit organization based out of Santa Fe, NM. We work state-wide and regionally to create equity within community food systems by improving the health and well-being of children, and increasing access to fresh, healthy and place based foods.

We also work with partners nationwide to provide regional capacity for national networks such as Food Corps and the National Farm to School Network. These relationship support farm to school activities in our state by providing a national network to; share resources and program best practices, advocate for state and federal policy change, and  build relationships with farm to school practitioners across the country!

Our Farm to Cafeteria program works with communities to build local capacity for Farm to School programs. The goal of our program is to support build community capacity and support our partners so that they can meet their Farm to School and food access goals. This includes purchasing farm fresh foods directly from farmers in local communities, supporting a localized food system, or by connecting schools with farms state-wide to increase the availability of fresh fruits and veggies in schools.

Our program supports the development of Farm to School Education programs by increasing awareness through promotion of local foods and farms, helping communities to plan and develop comprehensive farm to school programs, align community assets and access additional resources to support their program, provide training and technical assistance to support program components (such as school gardens, taste testing, etc.),  and to build new relationships and strengthen our      state-wide Farm to School network.

How the Farm to Cafeteria program works with communities across New Mexico:

Navajo Training

Provides farm fresh NM grown fruits and vegetables to thousands of students across the state in urban, rural and tribal communities. We do this by connecting local farmers to local markets and helping to facilitate the process of selling to schools.

Supports small scale and sustainable farming operations by opening new markets for local foods, supporting farmers to meet market requirements, and assisting with training and technical assistance.

Supports Farm to School educational actives taking place in schools and communities to connect them back to the foods available in the cafeteria. These activities include: school gardens, local food tastings, field trips to farms and farmers markets, farmer in the classroom programs, and cooking and nutrition classes.

A few examples of how we work with schools to facilitate the purchase of locally grown fresh produce:

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Helping school food service directors establish clear market requirements for local produce. These requirements include size and shape specification for produce, handling and packing requirements, on farm food safety practices, and delivery logistics.

Facilitating direct sales from local farmers. We do this through sourcing from local farmers, taking orders as a vendor, generating invoices and documentation, and organizing distribution of foods.

Working with school administration to adopt local bid processes. This is a way to sustain developed farm to cafeteria programs in your community. Local bids empower school food service to increase and normalize local food purchasing by establishing clear and responsible guidelines for local product and producers. These requirements not only help ensure food stays safe, but can also do more progressive things like encourage sustainable growing practices, and help define what local food means.

A few examples of how we work with farmers to increase their capacity:

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Work with partners to provide training on food safety and quality management.

Support producers to develop farm management and documentation tools.

Convene production planning and marketing meetings to help establish working relationships between schools and farmers.

Encourage Farm to School champion farmers to train other farmers and work together to meet demand for school markets.

Engage farmers in program evaluation and collaborating to help make local bids work to their fullest potential- ensuring school needs are being met in a way that is practical and positive for the farmer.