(The Marshall County school system sent out this story about Gov. Kay Ivey's visit to DAR School on Tuesday). 

Gov. Kay Ivey visited Marshall County Schools on Tuesday to help the system celebrate Farm to School Month and National School Lunch Week. Congress established Farm to School Month in 2010 as a way to promote and celebrate an initiative that encourages schools to purchase produce from local farmers as a means to support nutrition in school cafeterias.

The KDS DAR campus has taken the initiative to a whole new level by growing produce through the agriscience program at KDS DAR High School which is then purchased by the Marshall County Child Nutrition Program. The fresh produce is then served to students in the DAR school cafeteria.

Superintendent Dr. Cindy Wigley said “The Farm to School program is a win-win for our students all the way around. Our high school agriscience students are given real world experience growing produce which is then made available to all of our KDS DAR students. This, of course, means that our cafeteria is then able to serve the freshest vegetables grown right there on the DAR campus.”

She added “In everything we do, we try to encourage real world activities in our classrooms to help better prepare our students for the world of work. This type of program is exactly the type of learning that we like to see in our schools.”

Gov. Ivey’s visit included a stop at the Marshall County Board of Education and then a visit to the KDS DAR campus where she enjoyed a home-grown meal in the cafeteria with DAR students.

Dr. Wigley said “It is a special day for our school system anytime the governor visits. Gov. Ivey has been an amazing friend to Marshall County Schools and we greatly appreciate her spending the day with us as a way to help us celebrate Farm to School Month and the work that our students and staff do in our schools. It is also a tremendous honor to have Ag Commissioner Rick Pate visiting with us as well. We are huge supporters of the Farm to School program. It is an opportunity to support local farmers and provide quality nutrition for our students. Our Child Nutrition Supervisor, Mrs. Casey Partain, and her staff do an amazing job. Because of her leadership, we were one of the first districts in the state to implement the Farm to School program. Our KDS DAR High School Agriscience teacher, Mr. Chris Hicks is a top notch teacher. Whatever he does, it is 110 percent!”

Mrs. Partain was thrilled when she received word that Gov. Ivey had accepted her invitation to help the district celebrate.

Partain said, “The last couple of years have been so difficult for our CNP staff due to the pandemic. We have faced so many challenges such as shortages of supplies and being short-handed at times due to illness and quarantines. It is such a morale boost for our CNP staff to have the governor visit and to be able to serve her lunch in our cafeteria.”

Tuesday’s lunch menu included country fried steak and gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, roll and a side salad harvested from the DAR High School agriscience department.

Partain said that “As a school district, we always want to be good stewards of our limited funds. Another positive thing about the program is that the USDA provides an additional reimbursement to our school system when we are able to serve products grown right here in Alabama. Obviously, it is a win-win all the way around.”

KDS DAR High School agriscience teacher Chris Hicks said, “We have a 300-plant hydroponic growing system which allows us to grow lettuce from seed to harvest in about 45 days. The hydroponic system allows us to control everything such as water, temperature, pests, and nutrients for optimal growth.”

Hicks said that the project began two years ago when he wrote a grant to help fund the program. The school was able to purchase equipment during the spring of 2020. The school was approved this school year to be a Farm to School grower.

Hicks said “We operate the program as a student run business. We have a team in charge of growing the vegetables, another team in charge of transportation and another team in charge of the financial aspect of the business such as invoicing. Our kids do everything from start to finish which obviously gives them great real world experience. It is awesome for this to begin with a few ideas and to see it grow into something where we are being recognized for providing food for people.”

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