ASHEVILLE NC – Like the school gardens it encourages, the Farm to School movement is growing – nationally and right here in Western North Carolina. To provide school staff and community members the training and resources needed to strengthen existing and implement new Farm to School programs, ASAP’s Growing Minds Farm to School Program will host WNC’s first Farm to School Institute November 10, 8 am-5 pm, at UNC Asheville’s Sherrill Center, home of the NC Center for Health & Wellness.
“We have more than 10 years of experience in Farm to School training and programming,” says Growing Minds program director Emily Jackson. “We can’t wait to share a decade’s worth of creative ideas and practical applications for school environments with both long-time Farm to School supporters and those newly interested in the flourishing movement.”
Keynote speaker Tim O’Keefe will kick off the day-long event. O’Keefe has been a classroom teacher for almost 35 years, teaching Head Start through sixth grade. He currently teaches in South Carolina at the Center for Inquiry, a small school partnership between Richland District Two and the University of South Carolina. Three breakout workshop sessions geared specifically to teachers, early childhood educators, child nutrition staff, chefs and parents will follow. Participants are encouraged to invite key stakeholders in their school or community to create “teams” that can support and sustain Farm to School efforts.
“WNC has a proud history of local food and sustainable agriculture,” notes Laurie Stradley, NC state lead for the National Farm to School Network and director of state and community collaboration for the NC Center for Health & Wellness. “This institute gives us a great chance to reflect on and be proud of that history as well as grasp onto the opportunities to keep driving toward health and wellness here and in other parts of the state.” Stradley adds, “We’ve got the eyes of the nation on us because of ASAP and the strong partnerships between community leaders, schools and chefs: all the folks who make this kind of work not only possible but run so smoothly and have such a broad reach.”
Both Jackson and Stradley hope attendees will leave the institute excited to work together to implement Farm to School programming. “We often see a motivated individual launching a program and it resting on their back,” points out Stradley. “More collaboration between individual schools and school districts means better implementation and the sustainability of the practice.” Sustainability which, both hope, means one day Farm to School won’t need to be recognized but will simply be the norm.
More than 100 attendees from at least 10 counties in WNC are expected to attend. Deadline for registration is October 7; the $30 fee includes a resource notebook and a local food breakfast and lunch. More information and a registration form can be found at growing-minds.org. The institute is sponsored by Biltmore, BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina Foundation and the NC Center for Health & Wellness.
ABOUT ASAP (APPALACHIAN SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE PROJECT)
ASAP’s mission is to help local farms thrive, link farmers to markets and supporters, and build healthy communities through connections to local food. Growing Minds, ASAP’s Farm to School program, works to connect farms and schools and give children positive experiences with healthy foods. Experiences include farm field trips, nutrition education, school gardens and local food in cafeterias.