The Female Farmer Project

documenting the rise of women in agriculture

guest essay: farm-to-school part one

The Female Farmer Project will be following farmers on their quest to bring their fresh farm produce to school lunches. The farmers will be sharing their thoughts in these guest posts.  We are all excited about the opportunities and community that can be built by bringing a lot of great minds together to solve the problems.

The first farmer that I would like to introduce to you is educator and farmer Sarah Cassidy of Oxbow Farm.  Sarah is known and loved by the local school children.  Many of the schools visit Oxbow during their field trips, or one of the spring and fall festivals and of course the pumpkin patch.  Her enthusiasm for education is truly contagious.

I invite you to follow along as these women, the Farm-to-School think tank, take their mission to the schools, parents and community.  

“Water, Water, Everywhere—and not a drop to drink”

By Sarah Cassidy, Farmer and Educator


That is what I feel when I consider the irony of the Riverview District School Cafeterias, surrounded by verdant, fertile farmland…and nary a local vittle on the lunch plates.  Not that we don’t try…

Every year for the past 4, Kaye Wetli, Riverview Cafeteria Supervisor, and me, a farmer at Oxbow Farm, like to meet for our annual attempt at deconstructing the Farm to School puzzle.   Every year, Kaye and I sit down with one another and anyone else interested in trying their hand at Farm to School Rubik’s Cube.  “Okay, how can we address the problem of produce packaging/preparation/delivery/price/Request For Bids?” etc ,etc, etc…  

 4 years now of baby steps:  finding an annual school entrée for farms at “Taste Washington Day”; another inroad from Kaye and her Lunch Ladies was holding their monthly meetingat Oxbow, where I walked them through fields of rapini and, to my amazement, all the lunch ladies gushed, “We gotta try this stuff on our salad bars!”  Little breakthroughs like these…bookended with looong stretches of no farm food in the school cafeterias, the cost/delivery/supply/preparation of the farm goods being the insurmountable of the equation.  Sisyphus and his uphill climb.

But our meeting YESTERDAY felt like a breakthrough…did anyone else in the valley feel the ground shifting?? 

 Anne Becker is new over at Cherry Valley Dairy and is sworn to getting their cheese into local school lunches.  She wanted an audience with Kaye, and I welcomed another head and heart into our floundering Farm to School Think Tank.   If you didn’t already know, Cherry Valley Dairy is resurrecting our valley’s dairy roots, churning out award-winning cheeses, butter that is naturally buttercup yellow…excellent stuff.   It did not hurt our meeting that Anne and Cherry Valley Dairy were highlighted on the front page of the Valley View this week!  Anne “buttered up” Kaye, no joke, bringing her INSANELY wholesome and rich Cherry Valley butter and cheeses for Kaye and her staff to try.  Anne met every “How on earth…?” with a “Let’s try this…”  Anne was reassuring, completely positive, committed to making this work for Kaye and her dairy. 

Upshot for 2014: a monthly local food highlighted in the Riverview cafeterias for the ’14-’15 school season!  Baby Steps, growing into strides…

Originally published January 17, 2014

Copyright Audra Mulkern 2017