Monthly Archives: October 2016

Latino Farmer Conference coming up November 15th in Monterey

Various vegetables in boxes

The second annual Growing Together Latino Farmer Conference will be held Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016, in Monterey, California. This annual conference is unique in that it is conducted in Spanish and translated into English for all attendees.

“Hispanic farmers and ranchers are a dynamic growing demographic in California and this conference aims to help Spanish-speaking farmers share, learn and grow in their native language,” said Carlos Suarez, NRCS state conservationist.

To see a video recap of last year’s conference, please visit here.

Hosted by the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the conference is open to all farmers and ranchers, yet is uniquely tailored towards Spanish-speaking growers. The program will be translated into English, with translation headsets. Conducting the conference in Spanish will provide an enriched learning experience.

The conference will be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Monterey, located at 1 Old Golf Course Rd, Monterey, California, 93940. The conference is free to all attendees and will include breakfast, lunch and light appetizers. Please contact Victor Hernandez at (530) 792-5628 or Thea Rittenhouse (530) 792-7338 with any questions pertaining to the conference.

Three different workshops will follow an opening keynote address by Javier Zamora, an organic farmer and leading conservation steward and educator. The courses will be held in two 90-minute blocks. This allows each attendee to choose two different subjects of interest throughout the day. The workshops topics will cover: Access to Capital and USDA Resources; Soil Health; Efficient Use of Water; Bee Keeping and Marketing. The conference will conclude with a farmer panel representing a diverse cross section of California agriculture.

Attendees must register in advance, as space is limited. Please visit to register.

***Crossposted from CDFA Planting Seeds Blog***

Growing Food and Minds in West Sacramento

romaineWhen you look out the window of Washington Unified’s Yolo High School, you see rows of lettuce and squash. That’s because right next door is Fiery Ginger Farm, a West Sacramento farm that grows a variety of produce – including tomatoes, basil, squash, and lettuce.

Fiery Ginger Farm plays a big role in Washington Unified’s Farm to School Program. Hope Sippola, co-founder of Fiery Ginger Farm, works with the district to host a farm-site education program. Yolo High students come every week to help plant seedlings, tend to them, and harvest the vegetables – seeing up close how the chemistry and biology they learned in the classroom works in the field.

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It’s not just the high school students that get to enjoy the farm – students throughout the district get to eat the produce as part of the school meals program. Washington Unified purchases tomatoes from Fiery Ginger to cook into pasta sauce and uses lettuce from the farm to serve in its salad bars. It’s hard to get more local than that!

Schools don’t have to have a farm right next door to have a farm to school program. Fiery Ginger also sells produce to other schools in the area. Davis Joint Unified uses Fiery Ginger’s basil to make their very own home-made pesto.

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Programs like this have been growing across the country – the most recent Farm to School Census found that 42% of schools are participating in farm to school activities. These farm to school programs help students better understand where their food comes from and form healthy habits that will last them a lifetime – all while supporting local farmers.

To learn more about how to support a farm to school program in your area, check out USDA’s resources on building and implementing farm to school programs.



Natomas Unified School District celebrates National Farm to School Month

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School Districts across California are taking advantage of National Farm to School month in an effort to connect students to the farms and farmers who grow their food. Last week 45 students from Leroy Greene Academy, Natomas High, Inderkum High, and Discovery High visited Vierra Farm in West Sacramento. The farm regularly sells produce to Natomas Unified School District and the visit gave students an opportunity to see where and how their food is grown.

“In education, we are in the business of teaching kids about things they do not know they love yet. This is as true for fruits and vegetables as it is for math. Taking our students to the farm shows them all the passion and hard work that goes into agriculture” remarked Vince Caguin Director of Nutrition Services and Warehousing at Natomas Unified School District.

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The Office of Farm to Fork will continue to report on farm to school efforts this month celebrating Californians connection to agriculture.

National School Lunch Week celebrates progress in farm-to-school efforts

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This is National School Lunch Week 2016, as proclaimed by President Obama, a time to reflect on the positive steps our nation has taken to make nutrition a priority in every U.S. school. This also coincides with the month-long celebration of Farm to School Month, which recognizes efforts to bring local foods into schools and onto students’ trays.

The more than 50 million children who attend schools that participate in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs are experiencing school environments that are healthier than ever. These students have access to balanced meals that reflect the latest nutrition science in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans as well as recommendations from pediatricians and National Academy of Medicine. The meals feature more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat milk. Many of these items can be locally-sourced through farm to school programs.

The fresh, local foods offered through farm to school programs help school meal programs provide healthy, appealing, and diverse offerings. Results of the 2015 USDA Farm to School Census show that more than 42,000 schools nationwide have a farm to school program. These schools report reductions in food waste, higher school meal participation rates, and increased willingness of the students to try new foods, notably fruits and vegetables. In the 2013-14 school year alone, these programs invested nearly $800 million back into local economies, helping 23.6 million students develop healthy eating habits and learn where their food comes from.

Building on the progress around the country, this summer, USDA issued two additional final rules: Smart Snacks in Schools and Local School Wellness Policy. For the last few years, schools have been serving breakfasts and lunches that meet the updated standards under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010; in fact, more than 99 percent of schools nationwide currently report meeting those new nutrition standards. The recent regulations put in place by the Smart Snacks in Schools Final Rule and Local School Wellness Policy Final Rule take healthy school environments one step further by holding snacks served in schools and food or beverage marketing students are exposed to during the school day to standards that are consistent with those for school meals.

Healthy school meals are particularly important for the more than 13 million U.S. children who live in food insecure households; for some, school meals may be all nutrition they receive in a day. To help reduce hunger, USDA’s Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), an optional cost-sharing partnership between the federal government and school districts in high-poverty areas, allows eligible schools in lower income areas to serve nutritious lunches and breakfasts to all students at no cost. Not only does CEP help break down barriers that can prevent children in need from accessing school meals, it also greatly reduces the administrative burden on schools and families. Close to 8.5 million students from more than 18,000 schools across the country participated in the program in school year 2015-16.

Link to USDA News Release

***Cross-post from Planting Seeds Blog***

National Farm to School Month

WC carrots kidsOctober is National Farm to School Month. This year’s theme is “One Small Step” to show how anyone – students, parents, nutrition professionals – can get involved and make changes to advance farm to school in their local communities. To read more about it, check out the National Farm to School Network.

To that end the California Farm to School Network is promoting the CRUNCH event on October 24th, which also happens to be Food Day. This CRUNCH event encourages schools to purchase or use local food, such as carrots or apples from a school garden or local farmer. Check out other events that are taking place here. You can also see what farmers are growing in your area on the California Farmer Marketplace.

National Farm-to-School Month – New toolkit for teachers to discuss nutrition and agriculture

farm to school2The USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion has released the MyPlate, MyState toolkit for teachers looking to introduce their classes to the interrelationship between nutrition and agriculture. The toolkit is available in connection with National Farm-to-School Month, which continues throughout October.

The resources include lesson plans about gardening, agriculture and nutrition, as well as new MyPlate, MyState activity sheets that can be used throughout the school year.

Through MyPlate, MyState, USDA is working to make the connection between healthy eating and more than 160,000 farmers and ranchers nationwide that are selling into local markets through schools and other institutions, farmers markets, farm stands, community supported agriculture (CSA) programs, grocery stores, and local restaurants. MyPlate, MyState is part of USDA’s efforts to support local and regional food systems and galvanize the important role that American agriculture plays in feeding American families.

MyPlate, MyState page for California

***Cross-post from Planting Seeds blog***