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Farm to School: Food service directors and farmers take mobile farm workshop

Oct 2nd, 2013 | Category: News

A “Mobile Farm Workshop” organized by the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) will take place on Oct. 22, bringing together  Whatcom County Farmers and School Food Service Directors who will visit each other’s work sites.

The tour includes visits to Whatcom County farms, a kitchen skills workshop, and a roundtable discussion to enhance both farmer and school Food Service Director’s mutual understanding, and strengthen the growing farm-to-school network in the region.

Food Service Directors from Blaine, Ferndale, Nooksack, Mount Baker, Bellingham, Meridian, Lynden, and Lummi school districts will be touring Hopewell Farm in Everson, which has provided organically grown carrots and broccoli to local schools.

“I’m excited to show School Food Service Directors around our farm, so that they can see where the food actually is coming from, and have a chance to ask any questions about how it is grown,” said Lisa Dykstra, of Hopewell Farm.

Workshop participants will visit Cloud Mountain Farm Center, which is building a food processing facility to wash, chop, and package local produce in forms schools and other buyers need it (such as carrot sticks, chopped broccoli, salad mix, etc.).  Participants will sample yogurt and fruit parfaits while learning directly from a Whatcom dairy farmer about how milk gets from cows to cartons for students.

The tour will conclude at Nooksack Valley Middle School kitchen, where farmers will be able to visit the school kitchen, and learn about the needs and constraints of school food service.

“Just as it is helpful for folks in school food services to see farm operations, it is helpful for the farmers to see the school operations,” explained Acacia Larson, WSDA Outreach and Education Specialist. WSDA will help farmers learn about best practices for working with schools and other institutional buyers.

While the farmers are talking with the WSDA, Food Service Directors will get hands-on training with Georgia Johnson, a Food Service Director from the La Conner School District, who has helped her staff make the transition from using “heat and serve” processed foods to serving more fresh local foods in the cafeteria.

“We are retraining our staff to do more scratch cooking,” said Johnson. “It is more work, but it is also more fulfilling, especially when you are cooking with really good ingredients, fresh from the farm.”

“When the WSDA first told us that they had some state funding for mobile workshops, and wanted to do one in Whatcom County, we were thrilled,” explains Mardi Solomon, a coordinator with the Whatcom Farm-to-School Support Team. “This is the kind of hands-on, real-life experience that really makes a difference.”

The Mobile Farm Workshop is co-sponsored by Whatcom Farm-to-School, with funding support from the Whatcom Community Foundation. For more information, contact Mardi Solomon, Coordinator, Whatcom Farm-to-School Support Team, at info@whatcomfarmtoschool.org or (360)325-6002.

October is National Farm-to-School Month

Other activities coming up include:

• Gathering of Whatcom F2S Champions: Oct. 17, 12:30 to 2 p.m. Community Food Coop Connections Building. RSVP to info@whatcomfarmtoschool.org

• WWU Dining Services offers winning meal from Ideal Real Meal Contest: Oct. 23.

• Food Day! Oct. 24.

• Common Threads hosts School Garden Harvest Dinner: Oct. 24, 5 to 7 p.m., Whatcom Middle School, RSVP.

Harvest of the Month lunch: Oct. 31.

–Submitted by Mardi Solomon

What is your school doing for Farm to School month? Send events, information and pictures to editor@grownorthwest.com.

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