Fresh, Local Food in a South Dakota Winter

united stated department of agriculture logo

Volume 2, Issue 5, February 23, 2016

The Dirt - New and Notes from FNS's Office of Community Food Systems
Large greenhouse with snow on the ground outside
Photo courtesy Fairacre Farm, Iroquois, South Dakota

Local Produce Blooms

During South Dakota Winters

Kyle Koehn from Fairacre Farm in Iroquois, South Dakota, shares how the farm successfully grows produce for nearby schools, even during winter!

Green veggies inside a wintery greenhouse

In the midst of a cold February, Fairacre Farm is still growing fresh produce to sell to the elementary schools in Huron, South Dakota. The local produce is used for the schools' Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program. Students are introduced to a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables and get to taste test each one. Since the first of the school year, students have tasted spinach, arugula, butter and frisee lettuce, Swiss chard, kale, tatsoi, and red giant mustard greens sourced from Fairacre Farm. Purple cauliflower is growing, snow peas are blooming, and soon there will be a colorful blend of purple, yellow, and green peas.

But how does the farm overcome the bitter temperatures of winter? The farm sustainably grows throughout the cold season using a system where air is forced through a network of pipe buried under the greenhouse. The warm air coming from underground keeps the temperatures in the high tunnel up to 50 degrees warmer than the outside temperature. It can get down to -30 °F at night in the middle of a South Dakota winter, so this is a huge help! On sunny days, no matter how cold it may be outside, it quickly heats up inside the tunnel. The warm air is circulated underground and stored for nighttime use. What fun to step into the high tunnel out of cold, wind, and snow and experience warmth, earthy scents, and growing plants!

Learn more about Fairacre Farm’s farm to school success via their Facebook page.

International School Meals Day is Fresh and Local

Help raise awareness of the importance of food and nutrition to education by joining the celebration of International School Meals Day, Thursday, March 3! International School Meals Day brings together children and communities across the world sharing to share experiences, stories and news about food in their local communities.

We’re excited for this year’s theme of fresh and healthy local foods! Many schools around the globe have farm to school programs. Local farmers play a huge role in strengthening local economies and contributing to vibrant communities everywhere.

Curious how other countries use local food at school? Follow the activity on Twitter using #ISMD2016 or go to this tumblr page to see stories and pictures of favorite dishes and traditional school meals. Share your own photos and stories with this cross-cultural opportunity!

Whimsical children's garden

Funding Opportunity for Improving Preschool Nutrition and Physical Activity

Incorporating gardens, nutrition education, and local food into a preschool setting are a great way to set little ones on a path to healthy eating, which is why we’re drawing your attention to this great opportunity! Smart from the Start Awards encourage preschool teachers to create practical, long-term improvements in nutrition and physical activity at their preschool.

Early childhood education or Head Start centers that offer a pre-K program are eligible to apply for a $20,000 cash grant! Ten second prize $2,500 cash grants will also be awarded. The deadline is Thursday, March 3, 2016.

Planning for Farm to School Success Webinars

Don’t miss the upcoming webinars in our Planning for Farm to School Success webinar series! You can find the entire menu of topics, as well as past recordings, on our website.

Food Safety: March 3, 2:00 PM EST

How can we ensure the safety of farm fresh food? We’ll share local food safety best practices, including identifying safety measures for school gardens and school salad bars. Joining us is Londa Nwadike, PhD, who serves as Extension Food Safety Specialist for both Kansas State University and the University of Missouri. She works with small-scale produce farmers, farmers market vendors, as well as schools and consumers on food safety-related issues.

Promoting Your Farm to School Program: March 17, 2:00 PM EDT

You’ve put in so much hard work! Now, how do you promote your farm to school program to ensure student, school, and community engagement? Hear about programs that have successfully promoted farm to school programs while managing a tight budget. Chef Ann Cooper, Food Service Director for Boulder Valley School District in Colorado, joins us with tips and tricks for successful promotion.