MADISON, Ala. – October is National Farm to School Month and Madison City has one of the leading school districts serving locally grown produce to students.
MADISON IS A LEADER
Scott’s Orchard in Hazel Green supplied fifteen-thousand pounds of apples and fifteen-hundred pounds of peaches to Madison City Schools.
“We serve all of our apples in the Madison City Schools every week in the fall,” said Will Scott of Scott’s Orchard. “We can do it at a much better price.”
The State of Alabama considers the district’s Farm to School program exceptional. They’re using Heritage Elementary School as a means to promote fresh produce on more tables in schools across the state. Madison City Schools Child Nutrition Director Marty Tatara said it’s hard to do.
Some school districts may be struggling to get to the front lines.
GETTING STARTED IS HARD
“Farmers historically are really not set up to deliver,” said Tatara.
Madison has no problem getting its hands on fresh fruit. The challenge is connecting with vegetable farmers. Their season ends when the school year begins.
“A lot of it is getting connected with the right farmer,” said Tatara.
Madison’s proximity to local growers in the north and Tatara’s advocacy puts them at an advantage.
BUT THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT
“The further south you go in the state the more rural we become and the harder it becomes to get the freshest produce as possible. For in-season products only, but once the farm to school connection is made, the benefits are plentiful,” said Alabama Farm to School Coordinator Don Wombles.
Scott said, “during apple and peach harvest, we’re really getting product on the cafeteria line under 48 hours from the time it was picked off the tree.”
Ultimately, the schools want students growing and knowing who’s supplying their meals. Not only is October Farm to School Month, but this is also National School Lunch Week.
In 2018, the state purchased 3.2 million dollars of Alabama products. They could see similar numbers this year with the program’s growth.