Field to fork: Students get a taste of fresh, local food

BRUSSELS – From the field to the table. An area school district is in the process of the Farm to School movement.

That means students at Southern Door regularly get a taste of the local flavor. And this week they got a little extra.

A farmer and his baby goats walked into the school. Sounds like a joke right?

But I’m not kidding around.

“They’re a Neubian and LaMancha mix,” explained Door County Creamery owner Jesse Johnson.

At lunchtime in the cafeteria, kids met the kids.

“This little one was born yesterday,” explained Johnson.

Southern Door Elementary and Middle School students got a chance to talk with Johnson. He’s a goat cheese maker and farmer in Sister Bay.

“Just kind of the process of going from the farm, to the cheese vat, and then to be able to eat it,” Johnson said.

And eat it they did. Or at least many tried what was for many a new food – goat cheese.

Students could try it on a cracker, or in a goat cheese salad prepared by school staff.

“I think they’ll be surprised,” said Johnson.

So what did students think?

“It was a little richer and creamy. It was really good,” said Southern Door seventh grader Cameron Rass.

“I like it. It’s not as good as other cheeses, but it’s pretty good,” said Southern Door sixth grader Delilah Rose.

This tasting event is designed to expose students to different, healthier foods from local producers.

“Hopefully they like it. If not, at least they’ve tried it. You know the main thing is to get it on their plate,” said food service director John Swanson.

It’s all part of efforts to implement the Farm to School program, which encourages healthy lifestyles in children and supports local economies.

“The quality of the food is a lot better. The taste of a fresh apple in October when it’s coming from right across the street or down the road is much better,” said Swanson.

Johnson says bringing the goats to the school offers an educational experience that likely helps to attract more students to sample the cheese.

“At a young age to start realizing where and how to make food. Not just go and buy it. And kind of respect the animals and where it comes from, and not just take them for granted,” said Johnson.

Rose helped pass out cheese samples with Rass. Both sit on the student council food service committee, and help make these events happen.

“We need to be showing kids that it’s okay to eat green vegetables and to have like salad with cheese in it,” Rass explained.

What kind of reaction did they get?

“Seventy percent of people like it and twenty percent of people don’t.”

Apparently 10 percent remain undecided?

“Yeah,” confirmed Rose.

The district plans to continue working on bringing healthy, locally grown foods into the cafeteria, and educating students about making good choices.

“Definitely, that’s going to be our number one goal,” said Rass.

A UW-Madison report shows that students in Farm to School programs increase their knowledge about eating fresh fruits and vegetables.

It found the more exposure kids have, the more fresh foods they eat.

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