-Lopez Island Farm Education (LIFE) Farm to School Program
The Lopez Island Farm Education (LIFE) Farm to School program, funded by the school district and local donations, supports a large organic garden and orchard on the school?s campus. There are six raised beds, a twelve-tree orchard, and three forty-eight-foot long hoop houses that provide greens year-round for students.
The Lopez Island Farm Education (LIFE) Farm to School program was initiated in 2001 by local farmers from the S&S Homestead Farm, who wanted to grow greens for the public K-12 Lopez School. The S&S Homestead Farm is an organic demonstration farm for the Washington State University Center for Sustaining Agriculture. Lopez School applied for a USDA grant to get the garden started, but did not receive the funding. However, the application process helped the school form a clear vision, put goals into words, and gain momentum.
Growing produce directly at the school is most cost effective, but whenever possible, the school also buys from local farms, especially for meat. Lopez School can usually serve an entire year worth of meat in the cafeteria with three cows from a local farm, slaughtered locally at the island?s mobile slaughter unit. Food purchasing is done quarterly, and many local farmers provide food at discounted rates. One local farmer provides cheap and sometimes free potatoes for the school. This dedicated community support is crucial to the success of the healthy cafeteria foods. The school is also willing to pay the extra cost for local food when it is not donated or reduced, to support local farms.
During the growing season, the school estimates that 60-70 % of vegetables served in the cafeteria are from the garden. Lettuce greens, carrots, garlic, potatoes, chard, spinach, beets, and herbs come from the garden. The newly-planted apple, pear, cherry, and peach trees are not yet producing fruit, but will be served in the cafeteria when they mature. A local farmer provides kiwis for the school, which the students love. Organic beef comes from a farmer on the island, and homemade bread, rolls, and cookies are baked fresh in the cafeteria.
Teachers use the garden for math, science, social studies, culinary arts, and health classes. Students often start seeds under lights in their classrooms, weigh their harvests in the cafeteria, and learn how to prepare various dishes. The farmers at S&S Homestead Farm teach soil management, sustainable farming practices, and food preservation techniques in the high school Ecological Food Production class.
The new forty-eight-foot long hoop houses will extend the growing season, so students can have fresh produce all year long. The Lopez School is committed to continuing the garden program, even if donations dry up, in conformity with the District?s Wellness Policy. This policy requires the cafeteria to use local, organic farm products whenever possible. Serving and eating fresh garden and farm foods has become part of the culture at Lopez School.
LIFE Farm to School would like to see any surplus garden produce delivered to the local food bank in the future.
School Superintendent Dr. Linda Martin