May 18, 2017
Cullman County farmer Jeremy Calvert, center, snacks on strawberries with Mary Claire Ray, left, and Makena Evans, right, as part of the Farm to School Program.
The smile on Cullman County farmer Jeremy Calvert’s face expressed pure joy as he watched students at Cullman City Primary School (CCPS) enjoy sweet strawberries from J. Calvert Farms May 16.
Calvert provides produce for the Farm to School Program, which connects farmers and students so the next generation can enjoy farm-fresh produce while meeting people who grow their food.
He said it’s important to bridge the gap between producers and consumers, especially with young students who may not know much about conventional agriculture.
“We’ve been able to put strawberries into Cullman City Schools, and it’s a great opportunity for us,” Calvert said. “We can show the children where their food comes from and give them the chance to eat fresh produce.”
CCPS first-graders Makena Evans and Mary Claire Ray, both 7, tried to outmaneuver each other for the last strawberry on a plate they shared.
“I think they taste really good,” Evans said.
CCPS Lunchroom Manager Donna Avery said she is thankful for local farmers like Calvert who supply the school with farm-fresh produce.
“We’re just so excited when we’re able to get fresh food right off the vine from farmers in our area,” Avery said. “The kids love it and will pick the fresh goodies over canned fruits or vegetables every time. We hope we’re able to get more fresh food products in the future.”
The Alabama Farmers Federation’s Mac Higginbotham said it’s important the public meets farmers who grow their food.
“Showing folks, especially children, where their food comes from is almost priceless,” said Higginbotham, the Federation’s Horticulture Division director and Alabama Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association executive director. “If we can continue to connect with the public, we can promote the importance of agriculture and the benefits of farm-fresh produce.”
Supplying schools with fresh food doesn’t just benefit students. It also provides farmers with income on food that otherwise may waste. And that’s something Calvert doesn’t take for granted.
“Our nation is becoming more and more urbanized,” Calvert said. “I hope we can simultaneously show these kids how and where the food they’re eating is produced, cultivate a better understanding of agriculture and help the farming community.”
Alabama Farm to School is sponsored by the Alabama Farmers Federation, Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, the Food Bank of North Alabama, the State Department of Education and the Druid City Garden Project. Learn more at alabamafarmtoschool.org.