The Daily Dirt

39 Georgia School Districts Honored for Farm to School Successes

On Wednesday, Oct. 7, State School Superintendent Richard Woods, Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black, Public Health Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., and Georgia Organics Board Chair Mandy Mahoney honored 39 districts with the Golden Radish Award (up from 30 last year!), which is given to school districts in Georgia who are doing extraordinary work in farm to school.  The Golden Radish Award recognizes school districts for all aspects of farm to school, from local food procurement to hosting taste tests to gardening with students, and is awarded at Gold, Silver, Bronze, and Honorary Levels.Golden Radish Group Photo

During the 2014-2015 school year, school district leaders collectively:

  • Held 4,352 taste tests of fresh, local food to students
  • Taught nearly 1,809 garden, food and nutrition lessons to students
  • Tended 328 edible school gardens
  • Hosted 725 hands-on cooking activities with students
  • Incorporated farm to school into 182 staff professional development opportunities
  • Championed and sustained district-wide policies or procedures into 19 schools districts

A new award, the “Outstanding District” Golden Radish Award, was given to the Clarke County School District for their significant farm to school achievements during the 2014-15 school year.

Read the press release here, and check out our full photo album on Facebook here. A full list of the farm to school highlights from each honored district is below.


Atlanta Public Schools–Gold

  • 76% of schools conducted one or more taste tests of fresh fruits or vegetables throughout the year, including freshly harvested produce from school gardens at some schools.
  • 44 schools have edible gardens which range in diversity from rooftop gardens with multiple raised beds to potted edible plants, fruit tree orchards, and a greenhouse at one high school.
  • Students across the district were served locally grown food on 65 occasions during the 2014-15 school year, including kale, cabbage, collard greens, sweet potatoes, and more.

Barrow County School System-Bronze

  • Two schools have edible gardens and grow lettuce, tomatoes, radishes, collard greens and fresh herbs, which were utilized in the cafeteria.
  • Students at all 16 schools celebrated October Farm to School Month by taste testing roasted radishes.
  • School nutrition staff participated in a variety of farm to school professional development opportunities including visits to local farms and workshops on buying locally grown foods, food safety handling of locally grown produce, knife skills, and farm to school webinars.

Bartow County School District—Bronze

  • Approximately 20% of all meals served during the 2014-15 school year had locally grown products, including butternut squash, apples, cucumbers, blueberries, and more.
  • Students participated in 24 taste tests, including taste tests of new recipes to serve in the school cafeteria, like Cinnamon Roasted Butternut Squash.
  • Students in the Garden Club at South Central Middle School grew rosemary in their school garden and included it in a new spaghetti recipe that the cafeteria staff served to the entire school at lunch.

Bibb County School District–Gold

  • On over 40 occasions during the 2014-2015 school year, students enjoyed fresh, Georgia-grown produce, including Vidalia onions, collards, strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce, baby carrots, peaches, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, red potatoes, bell peppers, radishes, and more.
  • 90% of the lunch menu items were grown or produced in the state of Georgia during Feed My School for a Week.
  • Bibb County students participated in many farm to school activities, including farm to school-themed art and essay contests, culinary competitions, the Farm to School Pride Parade, and Ag Day, when students learned what it takes to get food from the farm to the table.

Bleckley County School District–Gold

  • Local food was served 160 times throughout the 2014-15 school year.
  • Every month, students participated in taste tests of recipes featuring locally grown products, including cabbage salad, sweet potatoes, sautéed collard greens, and applesauce.
  • Every day, Bleckley High School prepared homemade whole grain yeast rolls with locally grown and milled whole grain flour, and each grain product made at all five of the district’s schools is made from a minimum of 52% of this local flour.

Burke County Public School System–Gold

  • Locally grown produce was served in every school at least four times a week during the 2014-15 school year and was sourced entirely from Burke County farmers, with the exception of two crops.
  • Students participated in 20 hands-on cooking and food activities, including Burke County High School’s “Salad Showdown” competition.
  • Farm to school activities are creatively promoted throughout the district with school menus, bulletin boards, handouts, coloring activities, announcements on the intercom, games, and through social media.

Carrollton City Schools–Gold

  • Nearly 2,400 meals of locally grown food items were served every day of the 2014-15 school year day throughout the district.
  • 30 taste tests were conducted of locally grown products, including collard greens, fresh blueberries, green beans, cantaloupe, and spinach. Students used data from the taste tests to practice finding statistical correlations in math classes.
  • Students participated in 25 hands-on cooking and food activities including preparing Georgia Test Kitchen recipes, making salads, and harvesting produce from the district’s two school gardens.

City Schools of Decatur–Gold

  • Locally grown products were featured 105 times in school meals throughout the 2014-15 school year, and local produce was featured on the district’s three salad bars and prepackaged salads at all of the elementary schools.
  • All nine schools in the district have edible school gardens, which are utilized for teaching farm to school lessons and growing produce for taste tests.
  • Over 60 standards-based farm to school lessons were taught to students in classrooms and school gardens through a partnership with the Wylde Center.
  • Parents and community members supported the district’s farm to school efforts by organizing fundraisers, helping to conduct district-wide taste tests, serving on the Decatur Farm to School Committee and School Nutrition Advisory Council, and volunteering in school gardens and classrooms.

Clarke County School District—Outstanding & Gold

  • Each week, locally grown food items were featured in school meals, including summer squash, broccoli, sweet potatoes, collard greens, watermelon, strawberries, and peaches.
  • The district held 41 taste test events throughout the year.
  • Every Clarke County school has a school garden space, where students gain hands-on experience and learn how to install, maintain, and harvest a garden. Clarke County hosted 27 garden workdays for school communities.
  • The school district has forged partnerships with a dozen community partners to ensure the success of school gardens and to maximize the educational opportunities. These partners include: Master Gardeners, the UGA Horticulture Department and UGArden students, Keep Athens-Clarke County Beautiful, Athens Land Trust, FoodCorps, State Botanical Garden of Georgia, and University of Georgia Extension.

Cobb County School District–Bronze

  • Locally grown items were featured at least 34 times throughout the 2014-15 school year, including a Baja chicken wrap with locally grown tomatoes simultaneously served at all middle and high schools.
  • Over 45 edible gardens varying in size and complexity, from a single raised bed to a school with an aquaponic and hydroponic garden, were maintained throughout the district.
  • The district utilizes at least 34 mobile cooking carts to conduct cooking demonstrations in classrooms, and the Food and Nutrition Services Department developed several curriculum for the cooking carts.

Commerce City Schools–Gold

  • Locally grown food items were served in the cafeteria 45 times in the 2014-15 school year.
  • Students participated in 18 taste tests of fresh, local food items, including taste tests in the garden directly after harvesting produce, in the classroom, and in the cafeteria.
  • 20 hands-on cooking and food activities were conducted, including first grade students picking herbs and tomatoes from the school garden and making pizza from their harvest.

Crisp County School System– Honorary      

  • Locally grown food items were featured over 50 times during the 2014-15 school year, including collard and turnip greens, beef, chicken, strawberries, whole wheat flour, among others.
  • Local farmers visited primary and pre-k students on Farm Day and taught the students about how they grow food.
  • School menus highlight local produce served in the cafeteria and include fun food facts about a different fruit or vegetable each month.

Decatur County Schools–Silver

  • Students were served local food items 90 times during the 2014-15 school year, contributing to nearly 400,000 individual meals that included local fruits and vegetables.
  • Six schools maintained edible gardens and incorporated farm to school into standards based lesson plans at these schools. For instance, students at Bainbridge Middle School created a hydroponic system to grow collard greens with recycled milk cartons for a STEM lesson.
  • Decatur County participated in at least 17 hands-on cooking and food activities. Second graders across the county grew pumpkins and prepared delicious recipes with their harvested pumpkins, including toasted pumpkin seeds and pumpkin muffins.
  • Students from John Johnson Elementary School sold produce harvested from their school garden on three occasions at the local farmers market.

Dougherty County School System–Silver

  • The Southwest Georgia Project, a non-profit dedicated to such issues as school desegregation, welfare rights, voter rights and education, unfair policies effecting school children and families, housing, land loss by African Americans, and economic development, visited 4 schools and conducted taste tests of collards, cabbage, and sweet potatoes.
  • Students were served local food items 180 times during the 2014-15 school year.
  • Produce from eight school gardens was harvested and served on the lunch menu, including romaine lettuce, collards, cabbage, carrots, broccoli, radishes, and spinach.
  • Farm to school lessons utilizing the school garden were incorporated into K-5 curriculum across the district, such as ‘Plant Parts’, ‘Soil Comparison’, and ‘Producers, Consumers, Decomposers’.

Effingham County Schools–Honorary

  • Students were served local food items 129 times during the 2014-15 school year.
  • Salad bars were added to four schools during the 2014-15 school year and provided students the opportunity to enjoy locally grown produce daily, including arugula, lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, cucumbers, radishes, and more.
  • A community-wide cooking demonstration featuring a local chef and farmer was hosted at Effingham College and Career Academy and taught community members how to make a healthy salad.

Elbert County School District—Honorary

  • In coordination with a standards-based lesson plan, kindergarten students planted basil seeds, nurtured their plants until ready to transplant, and took home their seedlings along with instructions about how to plant them.
  • Plans are in place to start the County’s first school garden at Elbert County Primary School and launch a Fruit/Vegetable of the Month program during the 2015-16 school year.

Evans County Schools–Bronze

  • Students were served local food items 171 times during the 2014-15 school year, including carrots grown in Evans County.
  • Claxton Elementary participated in the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s Feed My School for a Week program and during this week, students visited local farms, enjoyed almost 100% local products on the school menu, and met local farmers and community members at an Ag Expo and Farmers Market.

Fannin County School System–Bronze

  • Locally grown lettuce, apples, cucumbers, and tomatoes were served to students during the 2014-15 school year.
  • Students learned about growing and processing food firsthand on four different field trips, including a visit to a local cannery where they made homemade soup and canned apples with locally grown apples.
  • 11 taste tests were conducted throughout the year, including eight taste tests of cilantro, kale, and different varieties of apples from Mercier Orchards organized by Blue Ridge Elementary School’s Cool Kids Grow Garden Club.

Fayette County Public Schools–Bronze

  • Local food items were featured on the lunch menu 59 times last year, including grape tomatoes, cucumbers, apples, ranges, collard greens, turnip greens, carrot sticks, broccoli, and cabbage.
  • Local farmers visited Fayette County schools at least six times last year, including fruit and vegetable farmers, dairy farmers and a local beekeeper.
  • Students learn math, science and nutrition during lessons in the six edible gardens throughout the school district.

Forsyth County Schools–Bronze

  • Students participated in 28 taste tests this year, featuring school garden and local farm produce
  • Four schools in Forsyth County maintain their own edible gardens, whose produce is used in school lunches and students taste tests.
  • Local food items were served 25 times this year, contributing to 125,000 individual meals featuring local apples, peaches, watermelon, onions, kale, cucumbers, peppers, squash, tomatoes and potatoes.

Fulton County Schools–Silver

  • Students in all 94 schools participated in a taste test of roasted butternut squash. Other schools also tried additional locally inspired recipes such as Carrot & Raisin Salad, Roasted Chicken, Greek Green Beans & Tomatoes, Pink Applesauce, and Roasted Root Vegetables.
  • 34 schools in the district maintain their own edible gardens, which include raised beds, greenhouses, orchards and pots of herbs.
  • Farm to School was integrated into standards-based curriculum 81 times this school year. Lessons ranged from plant life cycles, experiential agriculture with school gardens, specific Farm to School lesson plans, identifying edible plant parts, learning fractions by making salads from garden harvests, and learning about organic farming.

Gainesville City School System–Honorary

  • Gainesville City schools served local strawberries in their cafeterias
  • Students maintain an edible garden with their science teacher at Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy, which produces rosemary, cabbage, basil, sunflowers, various lettuces, tomatoes, squash, and snap beans.

Grady County Schools–Honorary

  • The school district participated in Georgia Department of Agriculture’s Feed My School for a Week program
  • School meals featured locally grown fruits and vegetables, as well as grassfed beef from White Oak Pastures in Early County.
  • Students interacted with local farmers on three different occasions this year, including a cattle and produce farmer, a wheat farmer and peanut farmers.
  • The school district maintains an edible garden, and a new greenhouse is currently being built.

Gwinnett County Public Schools–Bronze

  • School meals regularly featured local food items, including kale, apples and broccoli.
  • Each month, school cafeterias provides bite-size samples of the featured Farm to School recipes to the students.
  • Gwinnett County schools maintain 20 edible school gardens, which produce fruits, vegetables and herbs.
  • School Nutrition staff members in leadership training participated in knife skills training.

Habersham County Schools–Gold

  • Habersham County school meals featured produce from local farms such as apples, yellow squash, tomatoes, strawberries, peppers, onions and sweet potatoes.
  • Students interacted with local farmers 16 times this year through school taste tests, field trips to farms, and on special school days, including Farm Bureau Farm Day and Career Day.
  • The Habersham County school district maintains a total of seven edible gardens that incorporate a variety of farming techniques, including raised beds, greenhouses, row crops, and rainwater catchment systems.
  • At least 37 unique farm to school standards-based lesson plans were developed and taught, totaling over 7,000 student contacts with farm to school curriculum and there were over 9,000 student exposures to taste tests.
  • “It takes a community!” is the Habersham County Farm to School motto. A community leadership team composed of school personnel, partner agencies, and dedicated volunteers work with schools, local chefs, and local farmers to connect students to local food and nutrition education.

Jackson County School System–Gold

  • Local food items were served 38 times this year, including peppers, cucumbers, cabbage, tomatoes, carrots and watermelon.
  • Students were given the opportunity to participate in 24 taste tests of local food items this year. Students enjoyed taste testing activities that included nutritional food games, food facts and incentives for trying new things.
  • Jackson County teachers incorporated food and food systems in to a variety of standards. Math concepts were used in plotting gardens, adjusting, and preparing recipes. Gardens concepts and food items were used as topics for literacy lessons. Science lessons teach students about soil and soil preparation, photosynthesis, the life cycle of a plant, parts of plants and their functions and more.

Lamar County Schools–Honorary

  • Students enjoyed a wide variety of fresh local produce, including collards, turnips, cabbage, bell peppers, watermelons, apples, oranges, cantaloupe, peaches, tangerines and tomatoes.
  • School cafeteria staff also participated in Farm to School professional development training throughout the school year.

Laurens County Schools–Gold

  • Local food items were served 45 times this year, including local collards, blueberry juice, pork sausage, wheat flour, potatoes, Vidalia onions, squash, and strawberries.
  • Edible gardens throughout the district produced enough spinach, carrots, turnips, collards, mustard, potatoes, various lettuces, squash and kale to be served in the cafeteria for lunch.
  • Students participated in hands-on cooking and food activities this year, including preparing kale chips, spinach quesadillas and boiled peanuts.

Madison County School District—Bronze

  • Last spring, the school district promoted Moon Farm strawberries, grown in Madison County.
  • Danielsville Elementary School participated in Georgia Department of Agriculture’s Feed My School for a Week and served a menu almost entirely featuring locally grown food.
  • Local food items were served at least a dozen times during the last school year.

Marietta City Schools–Honorary

  • Each month the locally grown produce of the month is highlighted through web-based menus, point of service nutrition education cards, and a “Locally Grown Bulletin Board”.
  • Marietta City School District highlights a Georgia Grown and/or a locally grown produce item on our lunch menu on a monthly basis.
  • Kennesaw State University students collaborated with the district on the design and execution of farm to school lessons, including gardening and composting fruit and vegetable scraps.
  • Second graders at Hickory Hills Elementary collaborated with a local chicken farmer to participate in an incubation project this spring. Student engaged in lessons that focusing on the life cycle of chickens and learned the requirements of raising live animals in a healthy and sustainable.

Newton County Schools–Bronze

  • The school district features a locally grown produce month, as well as additional local items on salads each day
  • Six edible gardens are in the district, including one outdoor STEM lab garden at an elementary school where each grade level has two raised beds and are taught garden lessons on a weekly basis.
  • Schools offered almost 50 cooking and food activities this school year, with several schools focusing on hands-on cooking classes during the after-school program. Alcovy High features cooking classes using vegetables harvested from the school garden.

Rabun County Schools–Bronze

  • Students at four schools participated in “Seed to Salad” project, where they planted lettuce and root vegetables in the school garden, harvested the produce, and then prepared and enjoyed the salad together.
  • Students participated in 10 taste tests which featured produce from local farmers
  • “Farmer videos” were produced to share with the students before the taste test, and several farmers visited the schools during the taste tests.
  • School Nutrition staff was trained by local chefs in knife skills, cooking with seasonings other than salt, and washing fresh produce.

Savannah-Chatham County Public School System–Silver

  • On average, students were served locally grown food twice a week during the 2014-2015 school year.
  • Students sampled locally grown fruits and vegetables more than 120 times, including “Try It Tuesdays” at five schools and HealthMPowers taste tests at 11 schools.
  • 17 schools maintain edible gardens, and these schools integrate farm to school into standards-based lessons on a regular basis. For instance, high school students utilize the school garden’s compost bin to examine the dependence of organism on one another and their environment.

Sumter County Schools–Honorary

  • Over 185,000 school meals featured local food items such as collard greens from the Coastal Georgia Small Farmers Cooperative, purple hull peas, cream peas, and fresh romaine lettuce.
  • The school district participated in Georgia Department of Agriculture’s Feed My School for a Week
  • Every school cafeteria manager is involved in farm to school activities

Tift County Schools–Gold

  • A 15-acre farm is owned and operated by the school system served as an educational lab for students to plant, maintain, and harvest crops.
  • Vanessa Hayes, the Tift County Schools’ Nutrition Director, is the Georgia School Nutrition Association 2015-2016 President and was invited to a National Congressional briefing in D.C. to advocate for the new Farm Bill.
  • The School District features locally grown food in school meals on a regular basis, and promote healthy food such as collards, lettuce and cabbage through taste tests and Chef to School cooking activities. For example, Annie Belle Clarke Elementary had the opportunity to meet certified chefs during the “Chefs Move the School” program. These students sampled sweet potatoes and broccoli and recorded their preferences.

Treutlen County Schools–Honorary

  • School meals regularly featured local produce including tomatoes and cucumbers from Treutlen County and Georgia grown carrots, apples, broccoli, sweet potatoes, and onions.
  • Students from all grade levels have worked in the gardens with the support parent volunteers. Eight raised garden beds were built by middle and high school agriculture students, and elementary students helped plant and maintain a garden that produced food for the Summer Feeding Program.
  • Students visited a local hydroponic produce operation and had the opportunity to taste test lettuce during the visit.

Walton County School District–Honorary

  • Local produce, like apples, lettuce, spinach, sweet potatoes, and green peppers, were served in the cafeteria throughout the year.
  • Two elementary schools have edible school gardens—a vegetable garden at Sharon Elementary School and an herb garden at Walker Park Elementary.
  • Farm to school initiatives are included in the district’s Wellness Policy as a means to deliver nutrition education to students, parents, and other stakeholders.

White County Schools–Bronze

  • Georgia apples were served daily in August through December and local watermelons, squash, broccoli, snap peas, and sweet potatoes were served throughout the year when in season.
  • The district’s Wellness Policy supports farm to school initiatives by stating that locally grown will be the produce of choice, whenever possible.
  • Mossy Creek Elementary School participated in the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s Feed My School for a Week program and featured White County items on the menu daily during this week.

Worth County Schools–Honorary

  • Students were served locally grown turnips, kale and strawberries throughout the winter and spring.
  • Locally grown products were labeled “Georgia Grown” to promote these local items to the students and school staff.
  1. While looking for examples of rainwater systems used in organic farming in public schools in GA I ran across this page. I was amazed on the wide range of wonderful food related programs through out the state I noticed there was no mention of rainwater harvesting or water use. I assume these schools are using domestic water or maybe wells which can be unsustainable or rain barrels which do not hold enough water for most irrigation applications and can create algae issues if organic contamination occurs.

    What I see missing is any education on primarily water use or implementation of rainwater harvesting.

    Why would organic farmers want to use chemical laced water to irrigate their plants.

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