Producers learn about Farm to School program at Colorado Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ conference | TheFencePost.com

Producers learn about Farm to School program at Colorado Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ conference

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D It's not news that school lunches have changed in recent years thanks to the National School Lunch program, but where some of the food comes from is a different story.

At the Colorado Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association's annual meeting Feb. 21 at the Renaissance Denver Stapleton Hotel, producers had an opportunity to learn how they can contribute to school lunches through the Farm to School program.

The program is growing. As of 2014, the most recent data available, 105 public school districts were working with local farmers or school gardens to produce food for school lunches. Greeley-Evans School District 6 is one of them.

Andrea Northup is the Farm to School regional lead for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and she said the program is a win-win-win for those involved. It gives those who work with the food the chance to be more creative with their recipes. For farmers, they can promote their food more. The schoolkids get to learn, of course, about where their food comes from.

Still, Northup said, there also are things to consider for all three groups before implementing Farm to School.

For instance, the farmers providing the food need to be able to sell the food to the schools. And even if the cooks and farmers are able to do their part with the ingredients, it means nothing if kids won't eat it.

But if there are farmers and cooks on board, some have found a way to test if kids would eat the recipes.

Meg Caley, director of farming operations and education for Sprout City Farm, said in Denver Public Schools, she helped come up with a way to test butternut squash with kids. The chefs came up with recipes to prepare and had kids try them out.

The kids had to take a quick survey, according to Caley, which was relatively short to see if they liked the food and if they would eat it.

But officials didn't just take the kids' word for it.

Caley said they also did a weight test of the plates. When the kids finished eating, those conducting the survey took the plates and weighed them with the remaining food.

"Just because kids say they'll eat it doesn't mean they actually do," Caley said.

The benefit of the Farm to School program is more than just feeding the kids, however, said Lyn Kathlene, with Spark Policy Institute. There are schools with a greenhouse for kids to grow their own food so students can better understand where food comes from and the work it takes.

And the Farm to School program allows for customization based on schools' needs and what local farmers grow.

"Farm to School is kind of cool because it can grow as a farm industry grows," Northup said. ❖

— Fox has been a reporter for The Fence Post since February 2016. She's a University of Northern Colorado alumna who grew up in Weld County, one to the top agricultural counties in Colorado. She can be reaches at sfox@thefencepost.com, (970) 392-4410 or on Twitter @FoxonaFarm.

Things to remember about labor

At the Colorado Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association’s conference on Feb. 21, producers had the opportunity to discuss and refresh their knowledge on labor laws producers and farmers should keep in mind.

» If someone from the U.S. Department of Labor comes to investigate a farm, they won’t normally disclose the reasons. The investigations can just be a check-up or can be looking into a complaint. But Barton Rode with the USDL said most investigations are surprise investigations.

» The investigations will include:

— Meeting with management to see what things should be looked at.

— A tour of the establishment.

— Interview with employees, normally in private and on the premises during work hours.

— Review of pay roll papers

— Final conference with owner.

» The job description must have the same information for local and non-local employees.

» Workers working with an H-2A cannot be paid more than someone from the U.S., but someone from the U.S. can be paid more than an H-2A worker.

» H-2A workers must be paid at least twice a month.

» H-2A workers must be paid 3/4 of the agreed rate, unless an “Act of God” occurs.

— The “Act of God” must be certified by the USDL’s Employment and Training Administration.

» Housing must be provided to the workers at no cost to the employee.

— The employer must either provide meals or a place for workers to prepare meals.

For more information or if you have any questions regarding labor laws, go to http://www.dol.gov/whd or call 1-866-4US-Wage (487-9243)