Monday, October 16, 2017

Assemblywoman Jenne on hand for first cutting at Indian River grow racks

Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne recently stopped at Indian River Central School to watch students harvest the first greens from the district's new grow racks.

The district, utilizing funding secured by Assemblywoman Jenne, purchased grow racks from 2445 Organics of Massena to raise products that will be used in the district's cafeteria.

Assemblywoman Jenne said the district's plan calls for high school and middle school students to grow produce in their classrooms and then use that produce to expand menu options in the school's cafeterias.

She noted each tray in the grow racks can hold 12 flats of plants. Indian River expects to use the racks to grow salad greens, basil, cilantro, kale and spinach.

Assemblywoman Jenne secured funding for the second year of the farm to school pilot program in St. Lawrence and Jefferson counties in the 2017-18 state budget.

Indian River is one of 19 schools in the North Country taking part in the farm-to-school pilot program this school year.

"Each school embraces farm to school in its own way," Assemblywoman Jenne said. "It's interesting to see how big schools like Indian River do things compared to small schools like Hermon Dekalb.”

"It helps me fine-tune the program as the data we are collecting gives me the arguments to ensure future programs are flexible enough to serve district needs," she added.

She said the $300,000 allocated for the pilot program this year is part of over a $1 million included in the budget for farm to school initiatives around the state that will help schools purchase more food from local farmers and expand access to healthy local, food for students.The pilot program for the North Country is being administered by the Adirondack North Country Association.

She noted indoor grow racks were purchased by 19 percent of the schools participating in the first year of the pilot program.

"Having students involved directly in growing their food has really helped spread the word about the farm to school program," Assemblywoman Jenne noted.

She said those grow racks have fueled increased student interest in the growing process and created excitement about the access to locally grown foods on school grounds.

"The kids take pride in their work and can get immediate positive feedback from their peers. It’s a great learning environment and is what we need to keep our youth engaged in agricultural ventures," Assemblywoman Jenne said.

Indian River has also purchased apples, tomatoes, organic potatoes, and watermelon from local producers in recent months.

"The funding for this pilot program is not only allowing schools to bring fresh local food into their cafeterias, but it is also being used in conjunction with other funds that will allow students to access for even more products from local farmers," Assemblywoman Jenne said.

The Indian River Central School District, for example, is also working with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County to expand its farm to school initiative after receiving a planning grant from the USDA.

Assemblywoman Jenne said farm to school programs are benefitting students at schools around the North Country.

"It's clear the kids are getting more excited and interested in eating fresh, local foods. It's healthier for the kids, and it's benefiting our local growers, producers and our local economy,” according to the assemblywoman.



Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne keeps an eye on Indian River Central School student Ethan Ruttan as he harvests the first greens from the school's new grow rack. The racks were purchased with funds from Assemblywoman Jenne's North Country farm to school pilot program.


Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne (foreground) and Indian River Central Food Service Director Ann Easter check out the greens being grown in the district's new grow racks.

Indian River Central School students (l-) Ethan Ruttan, Nolan Drake, Eric Albro and Hunter Hoffman join Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne with salads made from greens grown on the district's new grow racks.

Indian River Central School Food Service Director Ann Easter discusses the farm to school pilot program with Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne and the school's business administrator, Joseph Dougherty.