By PATTY ROMINGER/Winters Farm to School
“What is an apricot?” Cathy Olsen, food services director for the Winters School District, remembers a first grader asking her this question five years ago. “Apricots were in season and we were starting to serve them as part of our school lunches. I knew this was a teaching moment.”
Apricots and other stone fruits used to be a major part of Yolo County’s agricultural landscape. Many people who grew up in Winters remember “cutting apricots” as a teenager to earn a little money over the summer. Being involved in agriculture was part of growing up in Winters. Sadly, many of our children today have lost that connection to our local farms and agriculture in general.
As those connections to agriculture grew slimmer, a national Farm to School movement began to take root and in 2011, concerned community members started the Winters Farm to School Program.
“Our initial focus was to raise funds that our school district could use to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables for our school meal programs,” says Gloria Lopez, president of Winters Farm to School and a local walnut grower. “We wanted our children to enjoy the fresh bounty of foods grown right here on nearby farms. Our slogan was ‘Local Foods for Local Kids’ and soon enough our school district was purchasing from nine local farms… which is good for our children, our farmers and our local economy.”
“Fruits and vegetables the children had never seen before were being served at school” explains Lopez. “Apricots were a fruit many were not familiar with which is surprising since they had been a major crop grown in this area, but it also shows how out of touch many had become with the source of our foods. In addition to apricots, the students also started eating kiwis, chards, Tokyo turnips, peaches and nectarines… and they liked them. We have seen a real change in our school children’s eating habits thanks to Winters Farm to School.”
Since its beginning in 2011, Winters Farm to School has raised over $50,000 per year for Winters school meal programs. Winters Farm to School hosts one fundraiser a year. This year on Saturday, June 23, a Summer Solstice Feast will be served at the historic Wolfskill Ranch in Winters. These feasts have become a favorite summer event for our area. Local farmers donate all the foods served and Yolo County wineries and breweries donate the fine wines and beer that compliments the multi-course feast. The feast has sold out every year and those wishing to attend should purchase their tickets early.
Tickets are $100 per person if purchased before May 1 and $125 thereafter. Tickets are available at ACE Hardware on Main Street in Winters, on line at www.wintersfarmtoschool.comor by calling 530-795-6109.