By passing a rigorous organic inspection with the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF), the Encinitas Union School District has made history by becoming the first district in the country to grow for its school lunch program on certified organic farms.
Organic certification is a lengthy process that ensures the integrity of soil health and crop management, and confirms best practices in a growing operation.
EUSD has two educational farms which, in addition to growing food for school lunches, also offer outdoor education opportunities for the district’s 5,400 students (K-6).
Farm Lab is the largest of the two EUSD farms. The nearly 10-acre satellite campus and crop production farm on Quail Gardens Drive also features a DREAMS campus, which offers Next Generation Science lessons that engage students in design thinking, research, engineering, art, math and science.
While its one-acre educational garden is slated for completion this school year, 1,700 students have already attended the program, utilizing the neighboring San Diego Botanic Garden for research. All EUSD students will be invited to participate in the educational program this school year.
“Program sustainability will be multi-pronged, and being certified organic not only supports EUSD’s overall effort to provide healthy produce for our students, it could also facilitate the sharing of healthy food with our community,” Farm Lab director Mim Michelove said in a news release. “Local grocers, including Jimbo’s Naturally, have shown interest in potential partnerships as well.”
Several acres of farm fields are being cultivated to produce consistent crops for all nine EUSD school salad bars and more. The initial farm fields have been producing fresh food for kids for over a year, thanks to a crop succession plan designed and implemented by the farmers at neighboring Coastal Roots Farm.
Two hundred heads of organic lettuce per week were supplied to the Food Services Department last year, and students enjoyed Farm Lab’s salad bar lettuce so much, that production will increase to 300 heads of lettuce per week in this year’s plan. Celery, snap peas, cucumber and carrots will also be in rotation this year and over 2,500 pounds of Farm Lab heirloom watermelon has already welcomed students back to school. Over the summer, more than 3,000 pounds of Farm Lab tomatoes and peppers were roasted and frozen for pizza and marinara sauce.
“EUSD leadership knows that healthy students are more successful students, and that serving organic food at school is a direct investment in the health of our children and our planet,” Michelove said.
Ocean Knoll Farm, a one-acre site located on the Ocean Knoll Elementary School campus, also received its organic certification. This farm has become an extension of the classroom for every grade, and is where many of Farm Lab’s pioneering program concepts were piloted.
— Submitted press release