Next Generation

Volunteers needed for Harper’s broccoli harvest

By From page A8 | January 28, 2014

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Carrie Juchau inspects the broccoli field at Harper Junior High School. The lack of rainfall has necessitated irrigation of the field this winter. Courtesy photo

The Harper Harvest Project, an innovative school garden-to-cafeteria program, will bring together Davis community volunteers to harvest 2,400 broccoli plants in February. For the first time in the Davis school district’s history, fresh produce will be sold to the district’s lunch program from Harper Junior High School’s on-campus school farm.

This project is a collaborative effort between Davis Farm to School, Harper and the Davis school district’s Student Nutrition Services.

The Harper Harvest Project benefits all children attending a Davis public school and unifies diverse interests and objectives in Yolo County. The entire community is invited to join in and support the school lunch program by helping harvest the broccoli each Friday from 9 to 11 a.m. on Feb. 7, 14, 21 and 28. Be sure to wear closed-toe shoes and appropriate clothing for the weather.

To volunteer, sign up at http://bit.ly/1czuChC or contact Carrie Juchau at [email protected] for more information.

The Harper Harvest Project represents a milestone for school nutrition programs throughout the state and demonstrates the multiple benefits of such cooperative relationships. This collaboration helps create a sustainable program that will bring fresh produce into the school lunch program, reduce costs for the district, and, for the first time, school gardens will be reimbursed for the quantity of produce they provide.

“More than half of the produce in Davis school lunches comes from Northern California growers,” said Dominic Machi, director of student nutrition services for the school district. “The partnership with school gardens will bring even more locally grown food to the cafeteria.”

For the project’s next phase, Machi has ordered carrots and 600 tomato plants from Harper for marinara sauce that will be made at the Davis central kitchen.

The success of the Harper Harvest crop, and the garden’s expansion as a whole, is attributed to the care and attention given by students, staff and volunteers under the direction of Juchau, Harper’s garden and recycling coordinator. UC Davis greenhouse manager Garry Pearson was instrumental in starting the project and students from UCD assisted with germinating the seedlings.

“Volunteers from UC Davis, Woodland Community College, Harper Junior High, Davis High School and FFA Program and Montgomery Elementary helped plant 2,400 broccoli and 400 lettuce seedlings,” Juchau said. “The lettuce was harvested throughout the winter, and the first crop of broccoli will be ready on Feb. 7.”

Yolo Farm to Fork’s goal in creating and expanding this project is to allow more schools to use their land to grow produce for school lunches and support their garden programs at the same time. Schools can effectively use this model to become self-sustaining enterprises while districts can benefit by serving premium fresh, local produce at lower costs.

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