- Author: Susana C. Bruzzone-Miller, RDN
October is National Farm to School Month! A time when schools, farms, communities and organizations across the county celebrate food education, school gardens and healthy locally sourced school lunches. The Ventura County Farm to School Collaborative celebrated by hosting the second annual Tri-County Growing Edible Education Symposium on October 14 & 15.
The Ventura County Farm to School Collaborative spans across six Ventura County school districts including— Conejo, Hueneme, Ojai, Oxnard, Rio and Ventura and represents approximately 80 schools and 75,000 students. The stakeholders are a diverse group of child nutrition service staff, farmers, and non-profit organizations with clear objectives—to teach students about nutrition and agriculture, source local produce for school programs, and promote and support school gardens.
The two-day event kicked off at the UC Hansen Agricultural Research and Extension Center (HAREC) and began with bus tours. Over 90 participants traveled throughout Ventura County to observe best practices in school gardens and cafeterias as well as farms that source to schools. The day concluded with a HAREC tour and mixer giving participants an opportunity to connect with other like-minded farm to school supporters from Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and beyond. Keynote speaker, Anupama Joshi, Co-founder and Executive Director of the National Farm to School Network, urged the group to take “baby steps but dream big”. Her message was that farm to school is achievable by forming partnerships in the community and challenged the group to make small changes that lead to big outcomes over time.
Over 130 took part in day-two at Fremont Middle School in Oxnard. Breakout sessions included hands-on workshops for early childhood to college education and food service. Keynote speaker Whitney Cohen, Education Director, Life Lab UC Santa Cruz also delivered an inspirational address to an enthusiastic group.