Tim Zander

Tim Zander from Emerald Meadows Family Farm in Columbus, cleaning up some onions at the Sun Prairie Farmers Market on Sept. 3, responded to the request from three school districts, including Columbus, to sell locally grown food for students to eat.

What happens when three school districts collectively buy Wisconsin local food for school meals; students and school staff benefit by eating fresh food packed with more nutrients, a smaller carbon footprint which results in less carbon in our atmosphere, and area institutions are supporting community local food growers and producers.

Back in January, three school districts -- Columbus, Sauk Prairie and Wisconsin Dells -- worked with Columbia County UW-Extension to solicit responses from area local food growers and producers with the hope that each district would be able to procure more local food for the 2016-2017 school year.

Emerald Meadows Family Farms, an organic produce farm, based out of Columbus, responded to the school districts’ request and is now delivering local food to Columbus, Sauk Prairie and Dells school districts.

Tim Zander, Emerald Meadows Family Farm proprietor, is looking forward to delivering freshly harvested organic food to the schools, he goes on to quantify,

“Our first F2S delivery included 1060 pounds of harvested state vegetables and fruit to Sauk Prairie then Wisconsin Dells and finally Columbus schools,” Zander said.

“We delivered slicing tomatoes, sweet peppers, cherry tomatoes, sweet onions, red onions, garlic, beets, green beans, kohlrabi, sweet corn, melons, and cucumbers. Another delivery was made on Sept. 7 and will continue until the end of harvest season,” Zander said

Lauren Spoke, Sauk Prairie Food Service Director, states she became interested in participating in the F2S Cooperative Procurement pilot because, “locally grown produce is fresh.

“It tastes better and is more nutritious than food grown far away,” Spoke said. “Most fruits and vegetables lose their optimal nutritional value as soon as they are picked. The longer these foods are uneaten, especially when exposed to air and temperature changes, the lower their nutritional value.”

To start the 2016-17 farm-to-school cooperative local foods procurement partnership off UW-Extension arranged for 20 school district food service staff from Sauk Prairie and Wisconsin Dells to take a road trip to Emerald Meadows Family Farm.

Becky and Tim Zander, Emerald Meadows Family Farm proprietors, described to participating school staff how an organic farm is operated.

School staff then took a tour that included hoop houses used to extend the growing season, green house, various harvesting and planting equipment, the new delivery truck with cooling unit, meeting three full time farm employees, multiple growing fields, and curing and storage areas.

Kathleen Haas, UW-Extension Community Resource Educator, said she is excited about the progress Columbia County has made developing a sustainable local foods system and hopes that other institutions will include local foods.

For more information about how to improving Columbia County’s community food system contact Haas by phone at 608-742-9680, or via e-mail at kathleen.haas@ces.uwex.edu .

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