Positive Change Profile: Rogue Valley Farm to School

Rogue Valley Farm to School educates children about our food system through hands-on farm and garden programs, and by increasing local foods in school meals. They inspire an appreciation of local agriculture that improves the economy and environment of our community and the health of its members. This September, we’ll be fundraising for Rogue Valley Farm to School through the Positive Change program. Learn more about their work below.

MFC: Give us a brief overview of Rogue Valley Farm to School’s work.

RVF2S: Rogue Valley Farm to School is a nonprofit 501c3 organization that has been working with school children, teachers, farmers and school districts for more than a decade. We work in partnership with schools to build a culture of health that starts from the ground up – providing garden education and nutrition programs and providing children with an opportunity to develop a love for food and healthy eating. We are dedicated to creating a food system that is equitable and inclusive, and honors the diversity of the many people and cultures that come together to create a world of healthy food. A key part of our work is bringing farmers and schools together, so that schools are purchasing more locally grown, healthy food to serve to children in school meals. We also bring children out to local farms, where they have a chance to meet farmers, harvest food from the field, learn how to clean and prep fresh food, and then make a delicious meal together. Our organization is part of a statewide and national movement to improve food in schools and to better connect children to their food system. As part of that network, Rogue Valley Farm to School serves as the Southern Oregon Procurement and Education Hub, bringing together farmers from all over the Rogue Valley to meet with school Food Service Directors, as well as bringing together teachers to look at ways of increasing school garden education programs.

MFC: What is the goal of the Digging Deeper School Partnership Program? What does the program include? How many school partners do you have?

RVF2S: Rogue Valley Farm to School currently partners with seven schools in our region through our Digging Deeper School Partnership Program – all five elementary schools in Central Point School District, plus Kids Unlimited in Medford and Walker Elementary School in Ashland. Our goal is to expand the program to include all of the school districts in the Rogue Valley within the next five to ten years. The goal of the Digging Deeper School Partnership Program is to work in partnership with schools to build a culture of health. This means weekly garden education programs, monthly Harvest of the Month programs when the whole school gets to try a new fresh, local fruit or vegetable, teacher professional development training every quarter to help support teacher’s efforts to integrate the school garden across the curriculum, and field trips to visit local farms every fall and spring. In addition, the partnership includes working closely with school food service providers to incorporate and feature locally grown Harvest of the Month produce, developing volunteer corps of parents who help in the kitchen or cafeteria to improve school lunches, and working with schools to develop wellness visions and policies that support healthier children and families.

MFC: For those in the community that don’t have school-aged children, how does Rogue Valley Farm to School’s work impact the community at large?

RVF2S: All of us who live in the Rogue Valley are connected to our local food system in a multitude of ways. By supporting Rogue Valley Farm to School, you are supporting our local farmers as we work to increase their market share of sales to schools. It benefits all of us to have a thriving, healthy community, from the way in which we nurture our soils and care for our water, to ensuring that as many children as possible have access to healthy, delicious food that can help their minds and bodies thrive. As a community, we all benefit when those around us thrive, particularly those most vulnerable. Rogue Valley Farm to School is dedicated to creating a food system that cares for the planet as well as our community, and it takes everyone to make that possible.

MFC: Tell us something most people don’t know about Rogue Valley Farm to School.

RVF2S: Some may not realize that the Rogue Valley is actually one of the leaders in the Farm to School movement statewide and even having a national impact. Rogue Valley Farm to School worked closely with our US Senators and other national legislators to create a program that allowed schools in eight states to purchase locally grown, unprocessed fresh fruits and vegetables using their USDA funding. This has led to changes across the US, opening doors for schools to purchase more locally, and the Rogue Valley’s own Fry Family Farm and Naumes Fruits were two of the initial leaders!

MFC: How can community members get involved and support Rogue Valley Farm to School?

RVF2S: We are always looking for volunteers, either to help in some of our partner school kitchens and cafeterias, or on the farm with our Harvest Meal Program. We also need over 100 volunteers every spring for the Siskiyou Challenge, our big community fundraiser on the last Saturday in April. We also are happy to have help in the office, and of course, donations are very, very welcome. We raise 90% of the funds required to provide our programs to schools, and we couldn’t do that without the generosity of individuals or businesses like the Medford Food Co-op.