KCSD Farm-to-School Program

Keystone Central School District  |  Posted on

KCSD Natural Resource Management students proudly showing their school-grown basil

Two Keystone Central Career and Technical Center (CTC) programs, Natural Resource Management and the Culinary Arts, along with Keystone Central School District’s (KCSD) Food and Nutrition Service Department, are collaborating in a Farm to School Leadership Team that was awarded a $50,000 Farm-to-School Planning Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Students and staff are beginning to solidify plans for integrating fresh fruits and vegetables for use first in the district’s Summer Feeding Program, and eventually will integrate this model into the National School Breakfast and National School Lunch programs’ menus. Project activities include piloting fresh food elements in KCSD’s Agriculture Program by rehabbing the existing greenhouse at Central Mountain High School, visiting other districts to explore best practices, and working with local farmers to increase daily access to fresh, healthy foods among KCSD students.

An aquaponics system is being established in the CTC greenhouse. This system combines the production of fish through aquaculture and the hydroponic production of plants into one system, allowing growers to take advantage of the natural biological functions of fish and plants. As the fish produce waste, plants consume this waste as fertilizer, resulting in purified water that is recalculated back to the fish. The result is a low-maintenance microecosystem that is capable of producing chemical-free plant and animal products.

Through this process, students will participate in learning activities that will highlight the need for an understanding of crop production, plant genetics, animal breeding, nutrient management, and the ins and outs associated with this type of agriculture. Once established, the system will be managed and maintained by students in the Natural Resource Management Program and Ag Production Program. The system will provide years of teaching opportunities, which will integrate hands-on experiences with classroom instruction in biological and agricultural systems.

Recently, students at Central Mountain High School were able to enjoy a tasting of cheese tortellini with pesto and cheese tortellini with tomato basil sauce prepared by Culinary Arts students with fresh basil grown by the Agricultural Program. Students gave the tasting high marks, stating they are anxious for it to be implemented in the breakfast and lunch programs at their schools.