Connecting schools to produce

LORDSTOWN – School officials, staff and food service personnel from six Trumbull County school districts took a field trip Wednesday to area farms to learn about locally grown produce.

The all-day ”School to Farm Road Trip” included several stops in Trumbull and Geauga counties. It is put on each summer by the Ohio State University Extension Trumbull County.

Marie Economos, family and consumer science director for the extension, said students at schools where Farm to School items and meals are provided eat more fruits and vegetables, consume fewer unhealthy foods and soft drinks, have an increased willingness to try new foods, spend less ”screen time” and more time doing physical activity, and gain increased knowledge and awareness of gardening and local foods.

”We want to get more locally grown food into the schools and work on ways to get everyone healthier. Those on our trip today have the opportunity to see and meet with local farmers right in their backyards,” Economos said.

Many local farmers and produce growers provide fruits and vegetables to schools, universities and businesses, she said.

The third annual tour started at the Geauga Growers Association Wholesale Market in Middlefield. Other stops were Lutz Farm in Leavittsburg, and Hartford Apple Orchards and the Red Basket Farm in Kinsman. The group lunched at the Country Porch Winery in Cortland, where they tried locally grown foods, including turkey club wrap and a Mediterranean wrap with salad and fruit.

Economos said the tour has been developed to help school food service personnel and administrators see how they can increase the use of local agricultural products, including fruits, vegetables and meats, in their school lunch programs, salad bars and at fundraisers and special events.

Mary Buchenic of Hubbard, a retired teacher, said, ”The extension office provides a great support system to the schools with the programs they offer.”

Hubbard Schools Superintendent Ray Soloman, who has been on the tour before, said he will take the information from the tour back to school board and administration to see of what ways to incorporate the local foods into the schools.

”We want to continue offering our students healthy food choices,” he said.

David Marrison, associate professor of agriculture and natural resources for the extension office, said the more than 20 participants were from Hubbard, Champion, Warren city, LaBrae, and Trumbull Career and Technical Center.

Marrison said much of the tour is on awareness in educating students in the schools to where their food comes from.

Dolly Lutz from Lutz Farm in Leavittsburg said she was able to walk the guests through the process of growing and picking corn. They also grow soybeans and winter wheat.