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Farm to School liaisons help connect kids to healthy, fresh food

Amanda Thibodeau
Special to The Union
Jodi Porter, in her fourth year as a Farm to School liaison, helps deliver fresh, local food to 847 students at Cottage Hill Elementary, Magnolia Intermediate, and Arete Charter schools.
Submitted photo

One of Sierra Harvest’s core programs is Farm to School. Now in its 10th year, this program is at the heart of Sierra Harvest’s work to educate, inspire and connect Nevada County families to fresh, local, seasonal food.

From its humble start renewing the school garden at Hennessey Elementary in Grass Valley, the program has since grown to serve 33 schools and 7,484 students with a whole suite of activities.

Farm to School is comprised of many elements, including Harvest of the Month tastings, seasonal school garden carts, guest chef visits during “Tasting Days,” experiential farm field trips and hands-on garden education.

As one can imagine, it’s a lot to coordinate!

Luckily, there are 22 passionate Farm to School liaisons that make this magic happen each school year for our lucky local students. This dedicated group of people is what makes Farm to School possible.

From loading their cars with boxes and boxes of fresh fruits and veggies, to counting it out and distributing it to individual classrooms and teachers and helping guest chefs and surveying students — these folks do it all, and it’s not always easy or pretty.

But the result of all this hard work is that thousands of kids of all ages are eating and preparing more fresh fruits and veggies, and knowing what’s in season and who grew it.

We caught up with one of the veteran Farm to School liaisons, Jodi Porter, to learn how she gets kids to fall in love with veggies. Starting her fourth year as a liaison, Jodi is now responsible for three schools: Cottage Hill Elementary, Magnolia Intermediate and Arete Charter, which means she’s delivering the Farm to School program to 847 students!

Why are you a farm to school liaison?

Jodi Porter: I have a passion for getting kids to eat healthier and to enjoy veggies. I love getting kids to try new things!

Tell us about the school garden work you do.

JP: I teach classes in the garden twice a week year-round. I love to involve them in growing the food. They do all the maintenance, and are very hands-on in all the aspects of growing. It’s great when we can finally harvest and eat the end product! One of my favorite lessons is searching for bugs, the students love it.

How have you seen the program impact the students at your school?

JP: It’s really great to see the students find that they can actually like fruits and vegetables! They have a lot of fun with it and get excited for the Harvest of Month.

Have you tried any new foods from Farm to School?

Yes, the kumquats and the purple and orange-colored cauliflower. Yum!

Farm to School director Marisha Finkler is grateful to the liaisons for making the program possible.

“We couldn’t reach over 7,000 students without the dedication of all the liaisons. They work with the teachers and administration to deliver produce, host guest chefs during Tasting days, organize field trips, and make the program a success at their school.

“We are also grateful for Briar Patch Food Co-op’s generous sponsorship of the Harvest of the Month produce, and the numerous supporters in our community who make the program possible. It is a collaborative effort, and that’s what allows us to have such a broad impact.”

Amanda Thibodeau was the director of the Farm to School program for six years and now writes the Harvest of the Month article each month for Sierra Harvest.


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