For over a decade, Patty Rominger has been an integral part of Winters Farm to School’s success. While her unbridled selflessness is just part of who she is, it’s also the reason Yolo Community Foundation is recognizing Rominger as one of 27 honorees at its 2022 Philanthropy Day event.
The Winters Farm to School nonprofit was started in 2011 by Patty Rominger, Cathy Olsen, Melanie Bajakian, Pat Thompson, Fran Lewis and Christie Mayo. This Winters-esque organization strives to not only provide students with quality, local produce but to cultivate curiosity, knowledge and respect for the agricultural roots and heritage of their hometown.
“Farm to School programs were getting popular around the country, and when locals got together we were asking, ‘why is it that we live in this town that’s surrounded by working family farms that produce all this wonder, delicious, healthy food and we’re not serving it to our students?’ Instead, we’re giving them stuff pre-packaged or something. So, the Farm to School program was born out of that question,” explained Rominger. “I was really interested in seeing school gardens. I was a master gardener, worked on our family farm and see all the benefits of kids digging in the dirt and learning about where their food comes from. That’s how I got involved and never expected it to become what it did, seeing it be so successful and it’s really been a model not just for our state but across the nation we’ve been recognized.”
Rominger was quick to credit the nonprofit’s success to the scores of volunteers who comprise it and the community it’s a part of. While other members of the organization have been recognized for their efforts, Olsen, who is the Winters Joint Unified School District Director of Food Services, thought it was high time for Rominger to get the recognition she deserves.
So, after Olsen gave her nomination, the Yolo Community Foundation named Rominger one of the 27 people to be honored at their 2022 Philanthropy Day reception on Tuesday, Nov. 15.
The Yolo Community Foundation is an organization that supports giving and provides philanthropic leadership in Yolo County. It also donates to local nonprofits, fosters volunteerism and bolsters philanthropic efforts when and where it can.
“There is a common thread throughout the stories of these Honorees. Each one saw a need within a cause area they are passionate about and offered their own expertise, time, skills, and funding to address that need,” said Jessica Hubbard, executive director of the Yolo Community Foundation.
Olsen said it was long overdue to recognize Rominger, who is always busy nominating others for their efforts.
“Patty is just a super volunteer. I remember when we started with the school gardens, they were hard as a rock and she organized a work day. My husband, myself and Patty and others got together to re-dig up those beds, and Patty bought all the supplies and brought them in and we got the gardens rejuvenated at Waggoner. We had to do another rejuvenation after COVID, but they’re looking good now,” said Olsen. “Patty’s recognition is well-deserved. She’s the first to nominate all sorts of people for every award including this one, which has been won by other board members. But, here’s the person who is one of the founding members of Winters Farm to School and has worked so hard for all these years.”
For Rominger, it’s all in a day’s work to have helped orchestrate nine local farms working with the Winters JUSD. That’s on top of the efforts she’s put into combating the hunger that affects many in the community.
“I’m really proud of the fact that we, on average, give our school district $50,000 to $70,000 a year that we raise at our annual feast. I’m just proud too, to see our community come together to support one another and support our families. It’s just heartwarming,” said Rominger. “I’m honored and thankful to be nominated, but the whole community deserves to be honored because it takes a village. It truly does, and I’m just one part of the pie and everyone else deserves as much appreciation.”
Learn more about Winters Farm to School and/or how to donate and get involved, online at www.wintersfarmtoschool.com.