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Greenfield High receives Farm to School grant

Agriculture Department to establish two farm-to-cafeteria programs; pilot program planned for King City High in near future

Lettuce on Greenfield’s north side sits under the sun, with the Chalone Peaks visible in the distance. (Sean Roney/Staff)

GREENFIELD — South Monterey County Joint Union High School District (SMCJUHSD) will launch two farm-to-cafeteria educational programs between Greenfield High School and the district’s Food Services Department.

The first-of-its-kind collaboration was made possible by a new grant from the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Office of Farm to Fork. SMCJUHSD and North Monterey County Unified School District are the only districts in Monterey County that received this two-year grant.

“We are honored to be one of two districts that are receiving this new Farm to School Incubator Grant in Monterey County,” said Brian Walker, former SMCJUHSD superintendent. “This grant will empower our students and families to learn about health and nutrition while contributing to the local economy. GHS students will benefit from gardening, raising animals and learning from the classroom educational component.”

The district will develop a student-operated school garden at the GHS Agriculture Department, where students will produce fruits and vegetables that the Food Services Department will then purchase and integrate into school meals.

An animal education program will also be implemented at GHS, in which students will raise two to three pigs per school year, have the pork meat processed, and sell to the Food Services Department to incorporate into “carnitas” school lunch meals.

“We are thrilled to collaborate with our Agriculture Department on this new project,” said Denisse Peña, SMCJUHSD Food Services manager. “Food Services is committed to providing healthy, local foods to our students and cannot wait to feature student-grown produce in our cafeterias. We want to support our FFA (Future Farmers of America) student organization in any way we can to make this a sustainable program.” 

As students engage in this experiential learning, it will enhance their classroom instruction in such fields as agriculture business and economics, animal anatomy and physiology, and agriculture earth science. The profits will be reinvested into the student-grown crops and livestock program.

“What a better way to celebrate the installation of a new greenhouse at GHS this coming fall semester than by implementing the first farm-to-school program at GHS,” said John McKenzie, GHS principal.

The Covid-19 pandemic delayed the installation of the 1,800-square-foot greenhouse purchased in early 2020. The Farm to Fork grant will make possible the acquisition of infrastructure equipment to kick off the school garden, including water test kits, garden beds and irrigation systems.

“We are excited to get as many of our agriculture classes involved with the Farm to Fork program,” said Desiree Villaseñor, GHS Agriculture Department chair. “Over 500 students will have an opportunity to participate and benefit from the instructional hands-on curriculum of both educational farm-to-school programs. We will give FFA members the opportunity to work year round on their Supervised Agriculture Projects to be actively involved in both the greenhouse management and in raising the animals.”

SMCJUHSD’s goal is to provide a sustainable program post-pandemic and beyond the grant funding by replicating this pilot program in the near future at King City High School.

The Career and Technical Education (CTE) Department will document the implementation and looks forward to recruiting local farmers and organizations as consultants to make the farm-to-school program a success.

SMCJUHSD has an agricultural and natural resources industry sector as part of its CTE program at both GHS and KCHS. The ag industry sector offers five different pathways: agriscience, ornamental horticulture, ag mechanics, animal science and ag business management. The curriculum includes between 12 and 16 different courses under the pathways.

SMCJUHSD includes King City High School, Greenfield High School, Portola-Butler Continuation High School and Pinnacle Academy Charter.