ATHENS – October is Farm to School Month, and this year’s theme is “Livin ‘La Vida Okra”.
Farm to School Month, coordinated by Georgia Organics in partnership with the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, is “a statewide campaign to empower Georgia children to eat, grow and discover a new fruit or vegetable ”. Each year, the Georgia Farm-to-School Alliance votes on which fruit or vegetable to highlight, and this year, they selected okra.
Interested parties can visit the Farm to School website throughout October to register and receive electronic resources, including lesson plans, activities, how-to guides on planting and planting. harvest, videos and more. The first 300 people to sign up also receive a free seed packet, washable tattoos, and a Georgia Planting and Harvesting Calendar for School Gardens.
UGA Extension and Georgia Organics are working together focusing on outreach, said Becky Griffin, UGA Extension Community and School Gardens Coordinator, who works with the 137 Agriculture and Natural Resources Officers of Extension to support Farm to School Month with gardening logistics such as plant and site maintenance and soil recommendations.
Griffin said she was focusing on connecting ANR agents with resources to help them celebrate Farm Month in School and represent the UGA in the Farm Alliance at state school. ANR officers “work with their local schools in programming, connecting local farmers and schools, and promoting the wonderful products grown in our state,” Griffin said. “They also help schools grow the farm-to-school vegetable of the year.”
By focusing on one fruit or vegetable per year, officers and teachers can ensure that students understand how to successfully grow this crop in their school gardens.
The program also helps students “begin to make the connection between their meals and the farms.” They are starting to understand the fun and the difficulty of growing food because many of these students grow food in their school gardens, ”Griffin said. “Families benefit because students make the connection between their meals at home and the farmers / food producers. Farmers benefit because their hard work is highlighted. I like to call it the win-win-win.
Overall, the goal is to highlight and celebrate those connections, she added.
Georgia Organics is also working with 4-H Extension specialist Kasey Bozeman to engage Georgia 4-Hers with hands-on experiential learning opportunities.
“4-H staff and volunteers will work with 4-H clubs, schools and other youth-serving organizations to plan and implement farm-to-school programs,” said Bozeman, adding that “education is the key to ensuring the leaders of tomorrow, who are the youth of today, understand the importance of agriculture and ranching in their communities. This could include setting up and maintaining school or community gardens, teaching safe food preparation and handling practices with regard to fruits and vegetables, or even connecting schools with local producers. of the region.
MaryBeth Hornbeck, a board member for the Farm-to-School Alliance, works as a Family and Consumer Science Extension Officer in Rockdale County. FACS officers in county extension offices can teach proper harvesting and handling of food, safe food preparation and storage, and healthy lifestyle choices in general.
“Farm to School Month exists to connect the cafeteria, classroom and community for the benefit of all,” said Hornbeck, adding that FACS is helping to bridge the knowledge gap by extending learning across the board. beyond school walls and at home with “engaging lessons for students, parents and families especially around nutritious food, cooking, how they relate to health and how to avoid safety traps. (FACS officers are) trained to teach everyone how to enjoy and prepare nutritious or nutritious food regardless of budget or schedule, and have fun while doing it.
For more information on the UGA extension, visit extension.uga.edu.
Leslie Matos is a graduate in public relations from the UGA and a writing student for the marketing and communications office of CAES.