About 50 second-graders from Boulder’s Heatherwood Elementary harvested radishes and fed chickens on Wednesday as they toured Ollin Farms .
The Longmont farm, which supplies some of the vegetables for the salad bars in Boulder Valley schools, regularly hosts farm field trips for district students.
“Farms are part of everything,” said Ollin Farms owner Kena Guttridge, adding that some students have never seen a chicken or visited a farm. “After we give them a tour, they know it’s hard work.”
The farm visits, with about a dozen planned this year, are paid for through a $224,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant that is in its third year. All of the district’s food services staff members also took an Ollin Farms tour this summer before school started.
The grant’s goal is to “expand local food promotion and education to better support our community’s understanding of local food.”
While Heatherwood second-graders experienced local food firsthand, the rest of Boulder Valley’s students had the opportunity to eat locally,
Wednesday was Colorado Proud Day, with Boulder Valley highlighting the local food on its lunch menu.
The menu included beef nachos with local, hormone- and antibiotic-free beef from Legacy Meats in Kersey, Anasazi beans from Adobe Milling Co. in Dove Creek, and a variety of produce from area farms on school salad bars.
Boulder Valley gives preference in its food purchasing to growers, producers and processors in Boulder and Broomfield counties; next to the surrounding counties and then to other areas of Colorado.
Local purchasing is generally accomplished through direct relationships with farms, dairies and producers.
While recent area hailstorms took out some of the late-season produce the district was expecting, Boulder Valley Food Services Director Ann Cooper noted the district is buying hail damaged veggies.
“We’re trying to support our farmers,” she said. “They don’t have to look perfect to taste good.”
At Broomfield’s Emerald Elementary, fifth-graders loaded their trays with peaches, gala apples, watermelon and a rainbow assortment of bell peppers. They could choose cherry tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, yellow squash and zucchini — all from Colorado farms.
Along with local food, Emerald’s lunch included a chef demonstration.
Eric Ditzler, Boulder Valley’s food services district manager for Emerald, demonstrated how to make pico de gallo by chopping garden tomatoes, onions, jalapenos and cilantro and combining the mixture with lime juice.
Boulder Valley’s school lunch program hosts about 200 events a year, from chef demonstrations and tastings in schools to a booth at the Boulder County Farmers Market to “Iron Chef”-style competitions for students.
“We’re trying to get kids to taste all the good food,” Cooper said.
Over at Ollin Farms, owner Mark Guttridge led the students to a field and showed them how to wiggle softball sized watermelon radishes out of the dirt. Students tore off the leafy tops, saved for the sheep, and loaded the radishes into tubs.
“We try to have the farm be a whole ecosystem, a lot of things working together in a healthy way,” Mark Guttridge said. “When the farms are healthy, the food you eat is healthy, and you get healthy. That’s why we have a farm: to get healthy food to the community.”
After demonstrating the farm’s power washer and slicing a couple of radishes to show the watermelon pink inside, Guttridge chopped them and offered students a tip — don’t eat the skin if you don’t like spicy foods.
While not all students were converted to team radish after trying a slice, several said they were tasty.
“I liked eating them and picking them,” April Sepucha said. “It was really good. I liked how some were spicy and some were not.”
Classmate Ayla Lohn said she would add radishes to her plate if she saw them on her school’s salad bar.
“You’re trying new foods,” she said. “It’s fun.”
Staff Writer Jennifer Rios contributed to this report.
Amy Bounds: 303-473-1341, email@example.com or twitter.com/boundsa