Farm to School Mobile Tour gives taste of North Olympic Peninsula’s bounty [ ***GALLERY*** ]
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Christie Johnson of Johnson Farms, left, and Kia Armstrong of Nash’s Organic Produce, second from left, local food producers, serve themselves from a wide range of dishes assembled from locally grown produce during Wednesday’s “Farm To” tour. Second from right is Sandy Diimmel, assistant supervisor of the Clallam Bay Correction Center. -- Photo by Jennifer Jackson/for Peninsula Daily News
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Brendon O’Shea, left, produce buyer for the Food Co-op in Port Townsend, ladles chili made with local organic beef and peas into a cup at the Sequim Prairie Grange. Roasted potatoes, coleslaw and corn and black bean salsa were also part of the model lunch served to participants in the Farm to School mobile tour. -- Photo by Jennifer Jackson/for Peninsula Daily News
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A participant helps herself to broccoli tossed with parmesan, one of the toppings for the roasted potatoes. Chef Dave Long of Oven Spoonful, a catering business in Port Angeles, prepared the lunch. -- Photo by Jennifer Jackson/for Peninsula Daily News
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A gluten-free apple-berry cobbler made with Graymarsh Farm berries rounded out the meal, designed as a model for National Farm to School Month. -- Photo by Jennifer Jackson/for Peninsula Daily News

By Jennifer Jackson
For Peninsula Daily News

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SEQUIM — How much lunch can $2.95 buy?

How about a bowl of chili made with organic beef, coleslaw with fresh cabbage and carrots, roasted potatoes topped with fresh broccoli and parmesan, corn and black bean salsa, and apple-berry cobbler for dessert?

That’s what Chef Dave Long of Port Angeles prepared for the 30 participants in Wednesday’s Farm to School Mobile Tour at Sequim Prairie Grange.

A daylong event for food service directors and farmers on the North Olympic Peninsula, it featured hands-on training in the kitchen, field trips to local growers and, of course, lunch featuring local ingredients.

“That’s our menu,” Long explained after the participants had filed off the bus and into the grange kitchen. “Are you hungry?”

The answer was yes.

Began with breakfast

The tour, organized by the Washington State Department of Agriculture, started at 8:15 a.m. in the Port Angeles School District’s central kitchen.

There, the head cook assembled a yogurt and three-berry breakfast parfait, then everyone made one and ate it.

According to Anna Webster-Stratton, an AmeriCorps volunteer for the Jefferson County Farm2School program, it was delicious.

“The berries were from Graymarsh Farm,” she said. “Then we went to the farm.”

The participants also visited Nash’s Organic Farm and Produce in Sequim.

Jamie Calley, food service director at the Clallam Bay Corrections Center, said the tour provided the opportunity to make a connection with Nash’s, something she had been trying to do through the summer.

Calley said the center’s dietitian, Brent Carney, has been trying to get more fruit and vegetables into meals at the correction center.

She has been working with one local grower, an orchardist, Calley said, through the state’s pilot Farm to Prison program.

Buying overages and grade 2 produce would make buying local organic produce from Nash’s affordable.

“We may be able to pick up on our own,” Calley said.

Cape Flattery schools

Sandy Lovik and Kathy Shingleton, who work in the Cape Flattery School District food service, took the tour and were also interested in getting fresh produce out to the West End.

Brendon O’Shea, produce buyer for the Food Co-op in Port Townsend, said he signed up for the tour because the co-op is interested in supporting the Farm to School program, possibly by coordinating, storing or processing local food.

“We work with the local growers already,” O’Shea said. “This expands the conversation and broadens the relationship.”

Veda Wilson, Quilcene School District food service director, said her school has made a lot of changes in the past few years, including dedicating a percentage of the levy to buying food for the cafeteria from local farmers and revising menus to include “more green, more orange, more fresh fruit.”

But staying within budget is still the main drawback when it comes to buying local food, Wilson said.

Getting school board members and local taxpayers “on the bus” is key, she said.

Kitchen skills training in PA

Participants also participated in kitchen skills training at the Port Angeles School District kitchen in the afternoon and received resource material with sample recipes, a guide to seasonal produce and tools to promote farm-to-school programs, according to tour leader Becky Elias, the WSDA Farm-to School project coordinator.

Helping her were Candice Cosler, director of the Jefferson County Farm2School program; Shoko Kumagai, WSDA coordinator of the Farm to Table program for preschoolers and seniors; and Julie Vanneste, coordinator of the Farm to Prison pilot project.

“Our biggest challenge is finding farmers that can supply the volume we need at a price that fits into our budget,” Vanneste said.

Chef Long, co-owner of Oven Spoonful catering in Port Angeles, said he used cabbage and carrots from Nash’s for the coleslaw and corn from Ennis Arbor Farms for the black bean salsa, and substituted field peas from Nash’s for lentils in the recipe for the chili, made with grass-fed beef from Clark’s Farm in Sequim.

The cost per person came out to more than the $1.50 per meal that Long recalled from his days teaching culinary arts at Port Angeles High School.

But consider this: None of it went into the garbage can.

For more information about the Farm to School program, Farm to Prison pilot project and Farm to Table program, visit www.wafarmtoschool.org.

________

Jennifer Jackson is a freelance writer and photographer living in Port Townsend. To contact her, email jjackson@olypen.com.

Last modified: October 23. 2011 11:05PM
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