That expression about making lemonade out of lemons applies in a different sort of way to the Farm to School Apple Program. Apples are not all created equal, some are big some are small. What goes to market needs to be a consistent size. Washington state fuji apple growers inevitably have a range of apple sizes to contend with. In 2011 Tom and David Lively from Organically Grown Company (OGC), the Pacific Northwest’s largest Organic produce distributor, came up with a grand solution. They took the too small for general distribution certified organic apples and packed them in 3 pound bags labeled, “Farm to School Fuji Apples”.
OGC requires retailers to donate 70% of their margin dollars from the bagged apple sales to a local Farm to School Program. There are now 29 stores in Washington and Oregon participating. Ashland Food Co-op was one of the very first to carry the apples. Produce Manager, Barry Haynes, chose to contribute 100% of his margin to the Program. During 2014, the Co-op donated $6,108 to our Rogue Valley Farm to School Program.
In return for the cash donation, all Farm to School Programs are asked to use the funds for activities that focus on organic food production. Examples from Rogue Valley Farm to School include: farm field trips, school gardens, cooking in the classroom and tasting tables in school cafeterias. The Program also supports schools in purchasing more local and organic products to be served for school lunches and snacks.
Every time you buy a bag of these lunchbox-sized apples, you are contributing to educational programs that support locally grown, certified organic farming practices in our region.