Farm to School in the Chequamegon Bay Region
Farm to School is a national movement that connects schools (kindergarten through 12th grade) and local farms with the objectives of serving more healthful meals in school cafeterias; improving student nutrition; providing agriculture, health and nutrition education opportunities; and supporting local and regional farmers and producers.
Farm to School can include activities such as:
Lake Superior Primary School students work with the Ashland Farm-to-School Educator to make apple cider.
History of Farm-to-School in the Chequamegon Bay Area
The core values of Farm of School have been celebrated informally in our region for generations, from buying local apples for the cafeteria to starting seeds in a classroom or taking students on a field trip to a local farm. In 2005 the Washburn School district took these efforts a step further, when the superintendent formed a wellness committee, started a school garden, and hired a new innovative food service director with the goal of getting students excited about eating healthy foods.
In 2008 Farm-to-School AmeriCorps members were placed in the Washburn School district to help advance these goals and the Washburn School garden was significantly expanded, with much of the harvest being used by the schools food service. In addition, local producers sold modest amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables to the same food service. In cooperation with Jason Fischbach, the UW-Extension Agriculture Agent in Ashland and Bayfield County, a Farm-to-Fork networking event was held in 2009 to link buyers with food producers. This event opened eyes as to the potential of school districts as local markets.
In 2010, Farm-to-School AmeriCorps members were also placed in the Ashland and Bayfield school districts. Thanks to the excellent work of these dedicated members along with school staff, significant progress has been made in expanding the scope of the program over the last several years. School gardens are now in place at the Washburn elementary school, at the Bayfield and LaPointe Schools in the Bayfield School district, and at the Lake Superior Primary and Marengo Valley Schools in the Ashland School district. In the spring of 2011, the Ashland and Bayfield School districts entered into purchase agreements with local food producers for delivery of fresh fruits and vegetables and during the following school year over $8,200 of local produce was purchased by the local school districts.
In December 2013, The Bayfield Regional Food Producers Cooperative (FPC) was awarded a grant for $76,000 from the USDA Farm-To-School grant program. The funded project "Meeting the Challenge of Winter: Using High Tunnels to Expand Farm-to-School in Northern Wisconsin" will help grow the region’s farm-to-school program, help students learn about high tunnel vegetable production, and make it easier for folks to buy locally-produced foods. During the Summer of 2014, Todd Rothe of River Road Farm and a member of the FPC, coordinated the construction of the five high tunnels greenhouses at the South Shore, Drummond, Washburn, Bayfield and Ashland School Districts.
Beginning in 2015, Kellie Pederson and other FPC members are worked closely with school educators to incorporate the high tunnels into school curriculum. They also worked with 4H and Youth Development Agents, Ian Meeker and Doug Liphart, to create The Agripreneur Program to teach older kids how to use the high tunnels. Another component of the grant supported a group of community members to create and promote a menu of meals and snacks that are healthy, tasty, easy-to-prepare, culturally-significant, and made with locally-sourced ingredients.