From the tractor
by Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler
North Carolina’s Farm to School Program received high marks in the first U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm to School Census, which is not surprising to me. This effort to offer locally grown fruits and vegetables as part of the school lunch program started 16 years ago in North Carolina. It has grown to $1.4 million in sales this year.
Kevin Concannon, the USDA undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services, characterized North Carolina in a news article as an overachiever on the Farm to School front with 60 percent of the state’s 117 school districts participating in the program.
I am proud to agree.
Our Food Distribution and Marketing divisions work together to get orders from the schools, to source products and to deliver the fresh commodities to schools. I consider it a winning program because it supports the local farm economy and provides some of the freshest fruits and vegetables to our school kids.
The local variety offered to schools has increased along with spending. This year, schools can purchase 22 North Carolina commodities, ranging from watermelons, cantaloupes, apple slices and sweet potatoes to cabbage, Asian pears, broccoli and Romaine lettuce. About 20 farmers statewide participate in the program, and it has grown by about $200,000 a year.
To help highlight and promote the Farm to School Program, we have several new commodity characters that will make appearances around the state on behalf of the program. We have watermelon, peach, apple, potato, blueberry, strawberry and corn characters. The entire group was part of our opening ceremonies for the State Fair in October. Kids love to interact with them and they are great agricultural ambassadors.
Some of the characters have established names, such as Suzt Strawberry, but some need a name.
If you have children in grades kindergarten through fifth grade, they can submit a name for the apple mascot. Entries in the contest must be submitted by midnight on Friday, Dec. 6. Apple must be in the name and it cannot be a trademarked name.
Students can complete an entry form at ncfarmtoschool.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Entries must include the apple name, student name, school, grade, teacher name and email address.
If more than one person submits the winning name, the winner will be chosen at random. The winner will receive a gift basket from the N.C. Farm to School program and the N.C. Apple Growers Association.
We will be holding other naming contests during the year, so keep checking the N.C. Farm to School page at www.ncfarmtoschool.com for more chances to enter and win.