3 fresh takes on school farms

kids farm produce

As the push for local produce on school menus grows, districts have come up with new spins on school farms to control costs and add a greater variety of fresh produce to cafeteria dishes. Here are three ways schools are revamping their approach to farms. 

1. Orchards

fruit orchard

Calistoga Junior-Senior High School in Calistoga, Calif., is expanding its farm to include an orchard full of nut and fruit trees. Led by science teacher Jeremy Grove, the orchard’s trees will be indigenous to the region, including apple and pear trees. Produce from the orchard will be used in both the high school’s cafeteria and culinary program. 

2. Mobile greenhouses

mobile greenhouse

Milwaukee Environmental Sciences Academy, a charter school in Milwaukee, created a mobile greenhouse that supplies produce to the community and the school’s cafeteria. The greenhouse was crafted by a local construction company free of charge (a local architect created the design). The greenhouse houses growing seedlings, which are replanted in raised garden beds at the school as they mature.

The greenhouse, which is hitched to a trailer, also acts as a mobile market supplying fresh vegetables, herbs and spices to the surrounding community. Leftover produce is used in the school cafeteria’s salad bar. 

3. Food forests

food forest

Miami-Dade County Public Schools has turned to food forests to supply its school cafeterias with fresh produce. Unlike school gardens, the forests feature plants that naturally thrive in the area and don’t require as much maintenance. Schools in the Miami district plant different crops to reflect the cultural diets of their student bodies; schools with large Cuban populations, for example, plant yucca and malanga.

Each forest costs $30,000 to construct and an additional $500,000 a year to maintain. The district receives grants to cover the construction and upkeep of all 51 food forests in its district.

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