Farm To School feeds, educates, pays students
The West Virginia Farm To School initiative is growing in Tyler County Schools. Like all initiatives, it started small and is now expanding. It all began during the 2012-13 school year, where Tyler County Schools started the Farm to School initiative by purchasing locally from Sycamore Farms, a Tyler County farm vendor. Sycamore Farms to date has been able to provide the school with asparagus, spring leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, garden onions, eggplants, and a variety of other garden crops. They are working closely with them and their use of high tunnel technology to plan for future business relations.
During the spring of 2013, Tyler County applied for and was awarded a Team Nutrition Grant from the West Virginia Department of Education. Part of the grant money was utilized to provide a student at Tyler Consolidated, Hannah Phillips, an internship with Uncle Bunks, a local producer/distributor of gourmet products such as canned relishes, pickles, peppers, spices, etc. Phillips was able to gain a wealth of knowledge concerning the operations of a local small farm business and how the small business was operated and managed on a daily basis.
The second part of the Team Nutrition grant was distributed in the spring of 2013 to selected Greenhouse/FFA students at Tyler Consolidated who showed an interest in growing a garden or raising chickens as part of their SAE (Supervised Agricultural Experience) project. Each student had $100 of expenses that could be reimbursed. Students were to purchase plants from the school greenhouse and any other supplies/ equipment from local vendors in the effort to establish their SAE project. Over the summer, while completing their SAE project and grant project, students worked closely with their teacher advisors who are Leon Ammons, FFA advisor, and Bob Allen, greenhouse instructor. Once the students harvested the garden in the summer/fall of 2013, they had the opportunity to sell back to the school for the child nutrition program to help support the Summer Food Program and the National School Lunch Program. Students that successfully participated and sold back to the school were Rebecca Bolin, Marcus Nichols, Levi Cochran, and Breanna Snyder.
For the 2013-14 school year, students in Tyler County Schools were able to eat farm fresh eggs all year long, provided by Rebecca Bolin and Laken Curtis. Marcus Nichols provided the school with garden tomatoes and a variety of peppers. Levi Cochran provided fresh sweet corn while Breanna Snyder brought in cherry tomatoes. This grant was successful and a great way to help bridge the gap between the student farmers and a means for them to sell their produce.
Farm to School doesn’t stop there for Tyler County Schools. Tyler County Schools applied for and was awarded a West Virginia Department of Education Office of Child Nutrition grant in the amount of $7,000. Of that $7,000, $2,100 came directly from the WV FFA and was distributed directly to students who applied to participate in this year’s Farm to School efforts. The purpose of the funding for the students is for them to learn to manage money in an agribusiness start up and to learn how to market to their school system. Students awarded this grant money were Breanna Snyder, Marcus Nichols, Rebecca Bolin, Laura Jochum, William Chapman, Gabe McClain.
These students received their grant award check at the annual 2014 WV Small Farm Conference in Morgantown, W.Va. The remaining amount of funding was to be used as a county purchase for a bed shaper/mulch layer and tiller attachment. The equipment can be shared amongst the students that plan on vegetable production; as a result, students can both learn at the school about using bed shapers and then put into practice what they’ve learned. On a sustainability level, the shaper and tiller will last many years, providing opportunity for students yet to come.
Students are gearing up for a very successful season and harvest for this growing season with great aspirations of yielding large quantities of eggs, vegetables, fruit, etc. In addition to selling to the local school system, these students will explore options of selling at local farmers markets as well as local stores.
More information about the WV Farm to School effort can be found at www.groweducatesell.com or on Facebook.
Tyler County Schools is an equal opportunity employer and provider.