Monthly Archives: October 2014

Update: Farm to Fork Vertical Garden

By: Fiona L. Mattson

Many of you saw our vertical garden at Ag Day and we’ve been taking care of it all summer long and into the fall. We initially had many different types of plants in the vertical garden such as tomatoes and sweet peppers, but early in the summer we decided to repot some of them to give them more space to grow, and added some additional plants in their place.

Pipe and Soda Bottle Vertical Garden

Verticial garden on Ag Day (March 19,2014)

In the vertical garden we added the herbs in place of where the tomatoes once were. We now have lavender, lemon thyme, oregano, sweet basil, cinnamon basil, lemon basil, pineapple sage, and bean plants. We also potted a jalapeno plant when were transferring all the tomato plants and sweet peppers.


Verticial Garden 9   F2F Garden   F2F tomato plants

Our Jalapeno pepper plant and our sweet pepper plants really took off this summer! As did our herbs that grew our vertical garden! We have been fortunate enough to harvest a great summer crop from the tomato plants and we have had a few little visitors along the way as well.

    Verticial Garden 5    Verticial Garden 6

                        Praying mantis                      Garden Orb Weaver Spider        

Verticial Garden 7

                                        Dragon Fly                                                 

 Our garden became an inspiration for not only the staff at CDFA, but for school gardens and other types of urban gardens. We take care of this garden in an urban setting, right outside our office building, and it shows how you don’t have to have a lot of space in order to create something beautiful (and tasty) – anyone can plant a garden at their home, office, or school.  We have already posted about some of the school gardens sprouting up around California and are sure there will be more to come!

School Lunches: “California Thursdays” Project Launch Follows Success of National School Lunch Week

By CDFA Secretary Karen Ross

***Cross-posted from CDFA’s Planting Seeds Blog***

California Thursdays hero

A quick quiz:  If you could be a student anywhere in the nation during National School Lunch Week, which state would you choose? Easy answer, right? California!  Students across the nation celebrated this annual observance last week, October 12-18, and of course the California kids had the best spread to choose from. But then, we’re allowed to be a bit biased about things like that at CDFA – in fact, we’re proud of it.

To show our pride, California is taking National School Lunch Week one step further today (October 23) with “California Thursdays,” a partnership at schools throughout the state seeking to serve more healthy, freshly prepared, California-grown fruits and vegetables in cafeterias. The project is a collaboration by the Center for Ecoliteracy (CEL), partner school districts and allied organizations; and will make each Thursday a focal point for featured California-grown menu items at our schools. It’s a great way for students to learn that their state’s agriculture is something to take pride in – and something to take part in as well.

CDFA has provided support for the program with a Specialty Crop Block Grant, and our Office of Farm to Fork is helping participating schools source directly from California growers. I’m pleased to note that Office of Farm to Fork employees will be in Turlock today for the “California Thursdays” event there.

California’s innovative growers, our Mediterranean climate, our rich and varied soils, and all of the other ingredients that our state boasts help to make this the very best place for a student to get a tasty, healthy, nutritious, energy-infusing school lunch. We also have a lot of dedicated, hard-working cooks, chefs, nutritionists, food service professionals and school staff throughout this state who make it their business to put California produce on the menu at our schools. From farmers to administrators, servers and students, it takes all of us to get the job done.

There will be “California Thursdays” rollout events in 15 different school districts: Alvord, Coachella Valley, Conejo Valley, Elk Grove, Hemet, La Honda-Pescadero, Lodi, Los Angeles, Monterey Peninsula, Oakland, Oceanside, Riverside, San Diego, San Francisco, and Turlock. We look forward to seeing that list grow in the future.

These events are wonderful ways to feature California-grown produce, enrich the lives and the nutrition of our students, and emphasize the natural link between health and education.

Pittsburg Unified School District students to visit White House Garden

Tomorrow, five students from the Pittsburg Unified School District in Contra Costa County will join First Lady Michelle Obama and students from schools in Arizona, Ohio and Washington D.C. to harvest vegetables from the White House Garden and work with chefs to turn them into a healthy meal.

Pittsburg’s students are attending the event in recognition of the Farm to School programs the district has implemented. The district now has eight school gardens, incorporates local produce in school cafeterias, and provides nutrition education in the classroom as well as after-school programs.

Harvesting Carrots at Willow Cove Elementary School (Pittsburg, CA)

Harvesting Carrots at Willow Cove Elementary School (Pittsburg, CA)

The students visiting the White House all come from Pittsburg’s Willow Cove Elementary School. The school’s garden began last year, when second-grade teacher Elba Ramirez requested milk crates to start a small classroom garden. Instead, district child nutrition director Matthew Belasco offered to build a larger garden with raised beds. Ms. Ramirez and her students planted and cared for the garden throughout the year and then harvested the vegetables, which were served in the cafeteria.

CDFA’s Office of Farm to Fork has been working closely with Pittsburg Unified’s Food Service Department to develop these programs and incorporate more locally grown food in district cafeterias. The office is also working with Pittsburg and surrounding school districts to directly connect them with nearby farmers to provide local food.

“I am so pleased that the White House has recognized the Pittsburg Unified School District for all the hard work it has put into its amazing farm to school program,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “It helps connect our students with food grown right here in California and, to the extent possible, from Contra Costa and surrounding counties. CDFA and its Office of Farm to Fork is committed to these types of programs. They teach our kids about where their food comes from while giving them access to healthy foods, and they support California farmers and ranchers.”