This year, Georgia Organics will be presenting our first Farm to School Innovation Award– the Organic Radish Award, to Warren County School System at the 2018 Golden Radish Awards.
The new award recognizes school districts: working with sustainable and/or certified organic farms, highlighting and teaching organic growing practices, and incorporating sustainably grown or raised foods in school meals and activities.
“Georgia Organics is excited to celebrate the best practices schools are using to source, serve, and work with certified organic growers as they are teaching students about organic growing practices,” said Georgia Organics Farm to School Director, Kimberly Della Donna.
Out of the 84 school districts receiving a Golden Radish Award this year, 13 were eligible for the Organic Radish Award. Warren County School System will be awarded the Organic Radish, but there was competition.
City Schools of Decatur led district-wide fall and spring taste-tests using organic produce from the school gardens, and purchased produce from Crystal Organic Farm. Effingham County Schools purchased organic produce boxes from Heritage Organic Farm that were used as prizes and awarded to students who purchased school lunch. Warren County is considered a food desert but that has not stopped the school system’s unwavering dedication to agriculture.
“Because there are no food producing farms in Warren County, it became very important that the school system not only teach students how to grow their own food, but nutrition officials also wanted to feed students in the cafeteria with what they learned to grow,” said Scott Richardson, School Nutrition and Career Technical Agriculture Education Director at Warren County School System.
Warren County School System has an admirable farm to school model. The school system saves money by utilizing its school-garden-grown-produce and helps local businesses by purchasing locally sourced, certified organic products. Organic practices are taught in the district’s agriculture education program, so lessons taught in classroom are reinforced in the cafeteria.
“This Award recognizes innovators, the school districts that are raising the bar not just for healthy foods but also for an innovative form of agriculture,” said Michael Wall, Director of Farmer Services at Georgia Organics.
According to a press release by the Organic Trade Association, organic is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the U.S. food industry with an increase of 11 percent since 2015, accounting for $40 billion of the overall food market. Organic agriculture can be used as an effective economic development tool, especially in rural areas. The finding of their research shows the transfer of knowledge and information play a critical role in developing organic.
“As buyers, the demographic profiles of the millennial generation, are already shifting the market place and setting record sales numbers for organic products,” said Wall. “They want more transparency, they want more environmental stewardship, and they are leading the change in the marketplace towards organic products and crops. Just as important, the average age of a Georgia farmer is nearly sixty. We need more young Georgians going into organic farming if they want their businesses to thrive in the new organic marketplace.”
This year, Warren County School System expanded its school garden to include a three-and-a-half-acre production farm, and has been working with Georgia Organics to obtain organic certification for the plot. The goal for the production farm is to be a self-sustaining program providing fresh fruit and produce to the school cafeteria within five years.
The school system already produces most of its own vegetables and has partnered with Loretta and Sam Adderson’s Organic Produce Farm, Freeman’s Mill, and ICF Organic Beef Processors, all local businesses providing nutritional staples to the lunch line.
“The Addersons have been so kind to Warren County by not only providing fresh produce, but by coming to Warren County to visit the students and to provide assistance and advice to the resident school farmer on tips and tricks to better farming,” said Richardson.
It takes imagination, careful planning, and great passion for school districts to source certified organic and include organic growers in the education program. Georgia Organics is thrilled that 13 Golden Radish Awardees are implementing these practices.
To find out more about organic certification and locating organic farms in your area, call Michael Wall at (404) 481 -5010.