Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey last week invited Iowa schools to consider applying for a grant through the "A Garden is the way to Grow" initiative that is being offered through the Iowa "Farm to School" program. The initiative will provide $350 grants to up to 20 Iowa schools to support the establishment or expansion of a school garden. All applications for these grants must be submitted by March 16, 2012.
"This initiative is a great opportunity for schools to build or expand a garden that can provide fresh fruits and vegetables for students," Northey says. "This initiative is not only a great opportunity for schools to offer more fresh fruits and vegetables, but it will also be a great learning opportunity for students as they plant and care for the garden."
To participate in this initiative, the school must complete a short two-page application that can be found on the state ag department's website at www.IowaAgriculture.gov and then clicking on the "Farm to School" link under "Hot Topics."
In addition to grant funding, the 20 schools selected will also get curriculum materials
From the applications a maximum of 20 schools will be selected to participate. In addition to the grant funding, selected schools will also receive:
- Seeds from the Seed Saver Exchange in Decorah
- A garden planner guide and sample garden design
- "Red Wigglers" worms and a worm composting bin from USDA's National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment
- A garden based curriculum for elementary schools or related materials for middle and high schools.
The funds can be used for any material deemed necessary to sustain a garden and can include tillage equipment, rain barrels, fabric, lumber or other materials. The gardens can be in raised beds or incorporated into greenhouse projects.
What is the Iowa "Farm to School" program?
The Iowa Farm to School Program began in 2007 and is managed by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. The goal of the program is to link elementary, secondary, public and non-public schools with Iowa farmers; provide schools with fresh and minimally processed Iowa-grown food for inclusion in schools meals and snacks; and encourage children to develop healthy eating habits.
There are currently 19 Iowa "Farm to School" chapters that have created a local food procurement program that is personalized to meet the district's individual needs. Chapters are eligible to receive up to a $4,000 start-up grant to support their activities and can also request promotional items, brochures and grower directories to find local fruit and vegetable farms in their vicinity. To date, over 50,000 students have been served local fruits and vegetables as part of the program.
Tremendous growth in past few years for the Iowa "Farm to School" program
The Iowa "Farm to School" program has also undertaken a number of initiatives and supplied additional grants to support schools. Past initiatives include "A" is for Apple which helped make locally grown apples available in schools and the "Wrap Your Own-Iowa Grown" initiative that promoted the purchase of locally-grown vegetables and products to create Iowa grown wraps.
"We have seen tremendous growth over the past few years in the Iowa Farm to School program and as a result more students statewide are enjoying fresh, local foods and also learning about the farmers that grow our food," Northey says. Questions or comments about the Iowa Farm to School program, including the "A Garden is the Way to Grow" initiative, can be directed to Tammy Stotts at [email protected]