The kitchen staff at Two Rivers worked overtime during the harvest season, so they could serve local peaches this fall. In partnership with the Childhood Obesity Prevention Research Program at Arkansas Children's Hospital Research Institute in their “Arkansas Grow Healthy Study”, Renee Austin and her staff at Two Rivers School District kitchen purchased 16 bushels of peaches from Peach Pickin' Paradise this summer. They spent a 2 full days in the kitchen processing and freezing them to use this school year!
The Study, funded through a grant from the USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, also purchased a new freezer and paid for the additional staff time required to complete the processing. The kitchen staff are excited to be in on this pilot program, which will bring a greater variety of local produce to students and support local farmers during their peak season. The Study challenged Renee Austin to fill the freezer they received through a grant, but her team processed enough to fill it 3 times! “It was really one of the coolest things I have ever accomplished and I love the fact that my kids are going to actually have fresh vegetables from real farms would love to take them to see one in action.”
Peach Pickin’ Paradise is one of the few long-term peach growing operations left in Arkansas. Johnson County, Arkansas, was once known as the peach capital of America. The Morgan family settled in more than 100 years ago, where they were peach growers during the peach growing boom. James Griffin Morgan originally settled on land in 1876 and purchased his first peach trees in 1890 for family fruit. The family business went into commercial peach growing during the 1920s, when George Morgan, Jr. returned from World War II in 1947. He is credited with starting the first “pick your own” business in 1977.
Today, the orchards have approximately 120 rows of peach and nectarines growing with four generations currently working together on the land. The Morgan’s’ share a strong commitment to quality produce and to their community. The farm sells at the Johnson County Farmers Market in addition to the U-pick operation. Family farms like the Morgan’s provides so much more than food – they remind us about the commitment required to farm, to support generations of family from the land and to eat locally and support our neighbors.
The TRSD staff developed a relationship with the farmer which led to the purchase of additional fresh peaches to be served the first week of school. The frozen peaches are on the menu throughout August, September and during October, which is National Farm to School Month and Arkansas Farm to School Month. The National Farm to School Month was designated by Congress in 2010 to demonstrate the growing importance of farm to school programs as a means to improve child nutrition, support local economies and educate children about the origins of food. Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson declared October 2015 Arkansas Farm to School Month on October 5th at the state capitol.
And last, but not least - AR State Representative, Mary Bentley, will be joining the students at Two Rivers for lunch on Oct 27th. It is great to have this type of support from our Representatives and know that they understand the economic and public health value of healthy, local foods!
We've heard reports that the students love them a little frozen - served on the salad bar - and eaten like a peach popsicle!