Farm to School Initiative Offers Fourth Graders a Taste of Tennessee

When a pandemic keeps young learners off the farm, local advocates are finding ways to bring the farm to them.

The Farm to School Initiative, spearheaded by the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network (NTLFN), has spent a year researching and planning for more opportunities to educate students on the benefits of locally produced products. On Thursday, they put planning into action and delivered local McIntosh apples from Dixie Chile Ranch Farm in Kenton to all fourth graders in Weakley County Schools.

“Covid-19 has required so many adjustments this school year and sadly this means that the fourth graders won’t be able to participate in the annual Farm Day put on by the Weakley County Young Farmers and Ranchers, Weakley County Farm Bureau and Weakley County Farm Bureau Women,” explained Ashley Kite-Rowland, NTNLFN Director of Research and Community Outreach.

Kristiana Addison and Zoe Healy represented Gleason fourth graders in a quick (socially distanced) photo with Samantha Goyret and Trista Snider of the Weakley County Farm to School Team and Principal Lee Lawrence.

“Due to this, we wanted to do something to link the students with agriculture in our region.  Providing local apples to the students is a great way to feature this season’s harvest and to highlight a lesser known crop produced in our region.”

The Weakley County Schools Nutrition Department, represented on the Farm to School Team by Director Trista Snider, purchased more than 125 apples. Samantha Goyret, NTNLFN Executive Director, and Kite-Rowland made the deliveries to Dresden Elementary, Gleason, Greenfield, Martin Elementary and Sharon Schools.

Goyret was dressed for the part when she met Snider at the door of Gleason School. Hat, overalls, and a coordinated red bandana/mask sparked smiles from Snider and Principal Lee Lawrence as she explained her mission to “bring the farm” to the fourth graders. 

Dropping in the classrooms of teachers Amy McKenzie and Brittany Bargery, Snider and Goyret distributed bags containing a ready-to-eat apple, an activity sheet with apple facts, and a copy of the NTLFN Local Food Guide featuring information on local farms.

“It’s Taste of Tennessee Day!” Goyret enthusiastically exclaimed to the children. Then went on to explain the Farm to School initiative’s mission is “not just about bringing the farm to school or the school to the farm but also education. You can incorporate science, reading, math, and even art when learning about agriculture,” she noted.

When asked if they were familiar with farms, several students responded yes. They said their families grew crops such as soybeans and corn as well as had gardens that included black-eyed peas and tomatoes. Some even shared they had apple trees.

The students then enjoyed the “fruits” of experiential learning by taking big bites of their gifts.

“Whenever we can promote eating fresh fruits and vegetables with our students, we want to do so,” said Snider of the Nutrition Department’s involvement with the Farm to School Initiative. “Whether it’s covering the cost of locally grown apples, promoting the Harvest of the Month calendars or showing off decorated pumpkins during the upcoming National School Lunch Week in October, we are excited to be a part of the learning process.”

The Farm to School Initiative will be providing pumpkins for a contest by classes. A survey of parents and teachers is also planned in the coming weeks in order to conclude the plan which will be submitted to the USDA for potential funding for later implementation.

Members of the Farm to School team are Goyret, Kite-Rowland, Snider, and Bethany Allen, Jason Kemp, Lindsey Parham, and Karen Campbell from Weakley County Schools.

~ Karen Campbell
Communications Director, Weakley County Schools

Weakley County Farm to School Team

Taste of Tennessee Day! APPLES

The Weakley County School Nutrition Department & Weakley County Farm to School Team is excited to distribute local McIntosh apples from Dixie Chile Ranch Farm out of Kenton, to ALL Weakley County 4th graders in celebration of a Taste of Tennessee Day on September 24, 2020. Since the students cannot visit a farm this year for Farm Day, we thought we could bring some of the farm to the classroom. All 4th grade students will receive a brown paper bag with an apple and the activity sheet (below) for the children to review in class and take home, as well as provide the same information to MDE 4th graders, so they may participate in apple activities from their homes, as well.

HAPPY TASTE OF TENNESSEE DAY!

Download Activity Sheet HERE

~ Samantha Goyret
LFN Team Blogger

Apple Varieties in Northwest Tennessee

Apples, apples and even more apples! This month we are highlighting local apples in our Taste of Tennessee Program and in this post, we are specifically looking at five varieties grown at Dixie Chile Ranch in Kenton, TN. Tim and Terri Brady produce fresh strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, peaches, chile peppers, sweet peppers, tomatoes, pumpkins, honey and apples on their farm in Obion County. They have 50 apple trees total and they make apple butter with all of their varieties. Here are the five varieties of apples they grow and some tasty things you can do with them!

Picture by Tim Brady

Red Delicious Apples

First up are Red Delicious Apples. These apples are one of the most famous American apples and one of the most widely grown apple varieties. Bright red in color, these apples are sweet, but have a mild flavor. Red Delicious Apples are best used in fresh preparations, because the flesh doesn’t hold up as well when cooked. But you can peel the skin off and use these apples for applesauce and soups! These apples also pair well with cinnamon, cheddar cheese and pecans!

Golden Delicious Apples

Next we have Golden Delicious Apples. These apples are also very popular and have been around for a long time. Pale green to golden in color and often with small spots, these apples are very sweet and my personal favorite! Golden Delicious Apples are good fresh and stable for baking crisps, crumbles, tarts, cakes and breads. You can even cook preserves, butters, sauces and soups and the apples can be juiced or dried. These apples pair well with savory items and on top of burgers and sandwiches!

Mcintosh Apples

Third up are Mcintosh Apples. At Dixie Chile Ranch, they have only one of these trees, but it has been producing for 30 years and provides 15-20 bushels of apples per year. Dark red with bright green color, these apples have a simple and generally sweet taste with spice. Mcintosh is the most popular apple for cooking but is also good fresh! When diced, they add sweetness and moisture to cakes, breads and cookies. These apples pair well with maple and flavorful cheeses!

Honey Crisp Apples

We also have Honey Crisp Apples. These apples are popular, but they are only grown in August and they are difficult to grow in this area. Yellow background with a red to pink blush color, the taste of this apple is sweet and is known as the better eating apple. You can remove the skin and slow cook slices of these apples to make applesauce, preserves and apple butter. Honey Crisp Apples have a texture that shines in raw preparations so try them next time in your coleslaw and chopped salads!

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King David Apples

Last, but certainly not least are the King David Apples. These apples are not as well-known. Green or yellow with dark red to orange blushing color, these apples have a juicy, crisp, tart flavor. King David Apples are well-suited for fresh preparations, baking, sautéing and roasting. They can be chopped and added to muffins, bread and cake, layered in pies or even added to stuffing for roasted poultry (Happy National Chicken Month!). Pair these apples with sweet and savory treats!

To try these local apples out yourself, you can get them at the Martin Farmers Market, visit the Dixie Chile Ranch farm stand or you can even pre-order them and have them delivered to you! For more information about additional apple vendors in the region, download your copy of the NWTN Local Food Guide.

-Amber Graves

LFN Team Blogger