The inside view of one of the many veggie-filled hoop houses at Norm Lehne Farms on Wednesday.
Farm fresh fruits and veggies, delicious recipes, kitchen utensils, and reusable grocery bags: These are some of the things you get from being a part of Youth CSA Farm to School.
“Farm to School is a multifaceted program with several goals. I’d say the main goals are: increasing consumption of locally grown products, building relationships between farmers and schools to provide local goods for school meal programs, and educating youth on local food systems and agriculture, “ said Erin Maidlow, farm to school educator/regional education procurement/hub lead and executive director of Umpqua Valley Farm to School.
Farm to School was started by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as part of the Healthy, Hungry-Free Kids Act of 2020.
“The Farm to School program actually began in 1996 in Florida and Georgia as a pilot program with support from the USDA. It is now in all 50 states,” Maidlow said.
This program was started primarily to help others.
“The Farm to School program was started as a way to support African-American vegetable farmers in northern Florida and to get their produce out to schools,” Maidlow said. “This was a project of the Natural Resource Conservation Service and Florida A&M University. Here in Douglas County, several schools have had school gardens for many years or agricultural science classes that use greenhouses to grow fruits and vegetables.”
Maidlow added, “Some schools have been using produce from their gardens in school meals, while others have used their gardens for educational purposes. While the concept of Farm to School is not new in Douglas County, 2020 was the first year several schools were awarded grant funds from the Oregon Department of Education to grow our Farm to School programs.”
Many schools are part of the Farm to School program.
Maidlow stated, “Through Douglas County OSU Extension, I work directly with four schools on the Farm to School program. Glide Elementary, Fremont Middle School, JoLane Middle School, and Eastwood Elementary. I am also the Executive Director of Umpqua Valley Farm to School, and we work with Winchester Elementary, Green Elementary, and Fir Grove Elementary. I am also the Regional Hub Lead for Farm to School Procurement and Education, meaning I provide support to all of the schools, organizations, and institutions in Douglas County who are interested in or part of the Farm to School Program. Almost every school in our county received Farm to School procurement funds to purchase local products during the last grant cycle!”
Dallin Shumway, a participant in Fremont Middle School’s Farm to School program said, “I enjoy this program because I get to learn more about cooking and of course, I get free food.”
There are multiple Farm to School programs in Douglas County. Maidlow said, “In Douglas County, we have four Farm to School programs. Douglas County OSU Extension Service, Umpqua Valley Farm to School, Phoenix Charter School, and Douglas High School. These are the four organizations that received grant funding from the Oregon Department of Education’s Farm to School and School Garden Program.”
Maidlow added, “We are also doing a Youth CSA Program with Lehne Farm and three middle schools. 15 families at each school will receive a CSA box each week. CSA means “community supported agriculture.” The boxes contain various produce that is at its peak of freshness, along with recipes to make with the produce.”
Norm Lehne Gardens and Orchard is a family farm located in Roseburg on Cleveland Rapids Road. They’ve been in business since the early 1940s with the purchase of their first 10 acres. That later expanded to 45 acres and four generations of farmers.
“Glen and Wendy are who provide the CSA boxes for our program, and you’ll see them each Saturday at the Umpqua Valley Farmers’ Market,” Maidlow said.
Glen Lehne, director of farm operations at Lehne Farms, said, “We currently offer weekly harvest boxes that can be ordered on our website (normlehnefarm.com). While we offer the weekly boxes, we do offer two CSA seasons, winter and summer. Our summer CSA membership window will open in April with our first boxes being delivered in June.”
Looking forward to seeing the Farm to School program develop, Maidlow says, “I hope to see the Farm to School program grow in Douglas County in the next several years. I’d love to reach the outer schools with programming. Days Creek has an incredible ag program already that I’d love to work with, as does Elkton. We hope to build more partnerships with local farms to provide hands-on field trips in the next couple of years, and my hope is that young people will become more involved in agriculture and become excited about growing their own food.”
Norm Lehne Farms aims to accommodate the community.
“We farm to feed people in our local communities. Every day we strive to provide you with the freshest local produce picked at the peak of ripeness packed with supercharged nutrition,” Glen Lehne said.
There are several heads of lettuce in all of the hoop houses, each planted by hand taken on Wednesday.
The vast variety of healthy items Fremont students received in their CSA boxes this week taken on Wednesday.