Monday, April 9, 2012

Farm 2 School Pizza Garden

Human Carrot with Maddie Gatzounas 
The Farm-to-School movement in the Commonwealth is having an impact on the town of South Hadley.

A couple of weeks ago on an unseasonably warm day in March, Claire Lamberg and Maddie Gatzounas visited Old Sturbridge Village to learn about the future of school lunch. Politicians, farmers, food service directors, nutritionists and a movie director were on hand for the 2012 Farm-to-School Convention.

Presenters included Kurt Ellis, producer of King Corn, who spoke about his latest initative, Food Corps, Scott Soares, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources who cited a 600% increase in the Farm-to-School participation over the past five years in Massachusetts and others.

From the farming community, Dr. Joe Zgrodnik of Hadley spoke on a panel of growers and said that the biggest challenge to selling food to schools is making it ready for lunchroom kitchens. “We have to get a way to get our peppers processed,” said Dr. Z, a retired orthodontist who farms with his son in Hadley.

Addressing that issue was James Arena-DeRosa, Northeast Regional Administration, Food & Nutrition Services for the USDA. He stated that the federal government is making $5M available for “tech assistance.” “I will make sure Massachusetts gets a shot,” he said.

Both Claire and Maddie came away with the same goal: start composting at home and at school, to start. Since they have worked with teachers and administrators to get the program going in the Fall of 2012 at the High School.

Claire Lamberg, left, Maddie Gatzounas and Dr. Z.
The trip planted a seed. That seed and several others will create a Pizza Garden at Town Farm in South Hadley. ValleyLocavore and members of the Youth Commission will join forces this summer to grow basil and plum tomatoes. These ingredients will be grown for pizza sauce to be shared by all who participate.

Being part of the project means six work days throughout the summer. Those who commit to a day of clean up, planting, mulching, weeding, harvesting and canning, will to to six area farms to see how the experts do it.

There is not grant for this project. It is entirely volunteer. Seeds are donated by Ace Hardware, soil is donated by the town and labor donated by participants. At the end of the season the sauce will be used on pizza made near the farm and enjoyed by all.

This Saturday, April 12, is the first work day. We will be clearing paths, spreading wood chips and planting seeds at the Town Farm on Hadley Street in South Hadley. All town residents over the age of 12 are invited. Those interested should bring a pair of work gloves. For more information call 413-427-4949.