Alecia “Red” Barrett was hooked on Farm to School after attending the Georgia Organics Farm to School Summit in 2012. For Barrett, it was the perfect way to develop healthy eating and strong educational habits.
“Farm to School is what we’re stressing right now,” said Barrett. “…especially because you can tie the food into education, so it works together.”
Barrett is the Director of School Nutrition at Treutlen County Schools. Not only does she coordinate nutrition standards, manage vendor relationships, and work with teachers to incorporate farm to school lessons, Barrett can regularly be found harvesting carrots or washing turnip greens with her team.
In fact, the best place to find Barrett is by the school garden shortly after lunch—even during the summer months.
Her year-long dedication to the garden is why Treutlen County Schools was a little bit late for October Farm to School Month’s theme of “Rooting for Carrots” — the beds were already full.
“We planted squash, peppers and tomatoes in June,” said Barrett. “It never really got cold so they kept producing and we didn’t want to pull them up. All of our school salads use our own tomatoes, which is pretty cool.”
Riding a wave of excellent growing weather, Barrett made sure the carrots went into the ground a few months later. During the first week of March, Treutlen County students harvested, prepared, and served carrots from the school garden.
Barrett’s work is the driving reason why Treutlen County Schools received an Honorary Golden Radish Award in 2015, a level they plan to beat by incorporating more school lessons into the garden.
Currently, first and second grade science classes use the garden to identify plant parts, while fourth graders are learning about the wonders of compost.
Next year, Barrett wants to incorporate more classes into the garden. Math is easily incorporated through rows and seeds, or in advanced ways by pricing products or calculating taxes. Writing and language skills can also be developed in a school garden by observing and telling stories.
Though the garden and other farm to school initiatives add plenty to Barrett’s already full plate, nothing beats a room full of smiling, healthy children.
“It’s a lot, but just seeing the kids get so engaged when they’re out there, it’s all worth it,” said Barrett, before heading back to the kitchen to finish washing fresh, local greens to serve at the cafeteria.