VOLCANO - The organizers of the Wood County Farm-to-School Lunch consider it a great success.
The USDA Farm to School program kicked off on Nov 29 at White Oak School, which is part of Pressley Ridge's all-year school program, in Wood County. More than 60 students, staff and visiting farmers enjoyed a homemade, locally grown and nutritious lunch.
Students commented that the food was great and tasted "homemade," said J.J. Barrett, the Wood County WVU Agriculture Extension agent.
Barrett said the event was a great success due to the combined effort of the WVU Extension Service, The Mid-Ohio Valley Growers Association and the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department.
The Mid-Ohio Valley Growers Association is a network of local farmers working together to share farming ideas, promote locally grown fruits and vegetables and sustainable agriculture.
Members are from a seven-county region, including Calhoun, Clay, Jackson, Ritchie, Roane, Wirt and Wood.
''The term 'farm to school' is generally understood to include efforts that connect schools with local or regional producers in order to serve local or regionally produced foods in school cafeterias,'' Barrett said.
''The Farm to School program is a national movement to increase the use of fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables in school lunch programs, to connect local farmers with the community, and to provide opportunities for hands on teaching to students through educational workshops and school gardens.''
The Farm to School Movement is gaining support and is being conducted in all 50 States.
The main dish at the lunch was beef stew, made with local beef from Mountain State Natural of West Union.
Gritts Midway Greenhouse in Red House provided tomatoes, and local eggs were purchased from Al Darmam. Tom McColley provided onions and Teresa Stevens from Wood County grew the carrots and radishes. Sarah Trembula grew the sweet potatoes that were used to make a sweet potato souffle for dessert.
''The big hit of the lunch was the homemade corn bread,'' Barrett said. ''The corn meal, made from a special heirloom variety called 'Bloody Butcher' was provided by Berea Gardens in Calhoun County.
''The butter was homemade from cream purchased from Snowville Creamery in Pomeroy, Ohio.''
Cathy Flashamn, a local vegetable farmer from Roane County, grew the butternut squash and potatoes.
"It was very exciting that the food was all locally grown,'' Flashamn said. ''I thought the lunch was a huge success and I am looking forward to increasing my production to meet the growing demand for locally grown, fresh vegetables in the Mid-Ohio Valley. I thought the corn bread was the best I have ever tasted."
The cooking staff at the White Oak facility were also impressed with the variety of foods they had to work with.
"We had a great time and enjoyed making the food" commented Eva Riffle, one of the cooks on staff at White Oak.
"It was a little extra work but was well worth the effort."
The Farm to School Program is dedicated to connecting local farmers to the schools to provide fresh, nutritious food and keep food dollars at the local level. This program is a great opportunity for local farmers, and several were guests at the lunch.
One of the guests in attendance was Beverly Blough, director of child nutrition for Wood County Schools.
"The willingness of the farmers to partner with us was very encouraging, as well as the number of organizations working together to make this program as success." Blough said. "We want to work with local farmers to bring their products into the schools to serve healthy and nutritious food to our students."
The Mid-Ohio Valley Growers Association is always looking for new members interested in growing fruits and vegetables.
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