YoloShines: Yolo Farm-to-Fork

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When the sun shines, so too do our children and, increasingly, those who harvest fresh produce from their school gardens. Enter Yolo Farm-to-Fork (YF2F), another little engine that is making a tremendous impact on our community.

We've had the fortune of supporting YF2F and its programs over the past few years. Pun intended, they are planting seeds for healthy living and regional sustainability. Recently, we engaged Suzanne Falzone, president of the nonprofit, to share more about YF2F.

1. Why does YF2F exist?

Yolo Farm to Fork supports edible school gardens, providing garden- and farm-based education to students because kids love to eat what they grow, creating healthier eating habits in the process. Hands-on learning that starts in the garden easily connects to all areas of the classroom curriculum AND encourages kids to improve their diets with more fresh produce.  We have started and currently sustain 40 public and private elementary school gardens through our “Dig in Yolo” program.  Seven additional schools participate in our “Growing Lunch” project whereby students grow, harvest, weigh, wash and deliver garden fresh produce to their cafeterias for inclusion in school meals by district food service staff.  “Our Go Visit a Farm!” program has provided hands-on learning through farm visits for over 1600 students countywide.  Our ultimate goals are to introduce kids to the joys and skills of growing food in ways that connect to classroom curriculum, and to improve their nutrition and consumption of more fresh produce.

2. In 2017, YF2F ...

Our three programs reach more than 8,000 students in elementary schools throughout Yolo County. We serve preschoolers as well, introducing garden-based learning to Head Start centers in Woodland and West Sacramento. Students in our Growing Lunch project delivered more than 3,200 pounds of fresh produce to their schools’ cafeterias in 2017. College students benefit too as we offer garden internships to students from UC Davis and Woodland Community College – 24 interns to date with a new group oriented at Cesar Chavez Elementary on January 13. (Repower note: Love this ... we have a constant flow of UC Davis interns/employees churning the gears of our company, and our children went to school at Chavez!)

3. Share a YF2F story.

“I helped plant this tree when I was in first grade,” announced Graciela to her apricot-picking team of 4th graders.  “Just pick the ones that are a little bit soft, but not mushy,” she instructed, “mushy ones go in the compost, and leave the hard ones and the green ones on the tree to pick later.”  She led her team to the garden shed, and each of them weighed the bag of apricots they picked while Graciela recorded the weight by each team member’s name.  “We got almost 10 pounds today,” she boasted, following them over to the washing station. The fragrant fruit tempted a tasting before washing, but washing the apricots was fun too, so nearly all the apricots got washed and shared in the classroom.

In Graciela’s school, nearly 90% of the students come from low-income families, eligible for free or reduced cost school meals. Many of them had never tasted a fresh-picked apricot, and sharing the tasting in the classroom resulted in a flood of new adjectives from class, each written on the white board by the teacher along with a journal writing assignment about apricot adventures. Learning that starts in the garden sticks to minds better than apricot juice sticks to fingers.

4. How can people help (monetarily, personally, professionally)?

We invite individual volunteers, business support and monetary donations to join our cause. Healthier kids lead to a healthier future and economy for all of us.  Check out the “get involved” tab on our website: www.yolofarmtofork.org.

For fun AND support, plan to attend our Park Winters Gala on March 19, 2018 – a celebration of Yolo County agriculture with a 5-course gourmet dinner complete with Yolo produced beverages.  All the information can be found on our website or through our Facebook posts. See you at the Gala!