In Aprils past, our farm to school team could be found busily preparing for garden volunteer work parties, farm field trips, and tastings of locally grown spring veggies like crisp radishes and tender salad greens. When we got the news that school buildings would be closed, at first for prolonged spring break and then for the rest of the school year, we were unsure how to adapt hands-on learning in the garden to distance learning at home.
A seed order for six school gardens was in the works already so we added a few more packets of our favorite, easy-to-grow veggies and contacted principals: could we provide free seeds to families with a little help from the school? The answer was a resounding yes! Our hope to provide two or three little baggies of seeds to a few interested families quickly became a plan to distribute hundreds of seed packets across the county.
The word started to spread. The Tillamook County Library dropped off three big boxes of packets leftover from the Seed Libraries earlier in the spring. A couple days later, our farm to school team (following social distancing!) picked up a pallet’s worth of boxes of donated packets from Oregon Food Bank Tillamook County Services. Our two-person team ended up sorting over 24,000 vegetable, herb, and flower seed packets.
At the same time we were sorting seeds, principals were sending us the numbers of families who wanted seeds. A hundred families from the first school, every family from two others, another hundred from a district wide survey, 150 families from one-on-one check in calls done by teachers in another district.
Over 550 families total, from Manzanita to Neskowin.
We were blown away by this enthusiastically positive response, and quickly had to get to work packing up the seeds to get them out to those 500 families! With support from OSU Extension and SNAP-Ed, we were able to provide printed gardening, nutrition and cooking, and local food information. Each family would get a manila envelope with this information and ten different varieties of seeds, including things like green beans, snap peas, summer squash, cucumbers, salad greens, carrots, radishes, beets, basil, cilantro, sunflowers, nasturtium and marigolds.
Over 10,000 seed packets were distributed directly to families through pickup at schools and our office, home delivery and mail. Twelve hundred additional seed packets went to buildings that are doing packet or meal pickup on-site, 600 to the Marie Mills Center, and 75 went to Lower Nehalem Community Trust’s Alder Creek Farm.
And the momentum continues! We’re encouraging families to connect and share pictures of their gardens on social media all summer long (with a chance to win a FarmTable gift certificate!), and starting May 26, FarmTable customers can get free seeds with their groceries!
We want to give a huge thank you to the school partners who helped us get these seeds to families: Nehalem Elementary, Garibaldi Grade School, Tillamook School District, Tillamook Early Learning Center, Tillamook Head Start, Nestucca Valley Early Learning Center, Nestucca Valley Head Start, Nestucca Valley School District, and Neskowin Valley School.
Food Roots' Farm to School program is funded in part by Columbia Pacific Coordinated Care Organization, Tillamook County Creamery Association, Spirit Mountain Community Fund, Braemer Charitable Trust, Oregon Department of Education, and the USDA Farm to School Program, as well as community members and local businesses.
You can follow our farm to school team’s gardening progress in the school gardens all summer on Facebook and Instagram, and cheer on all of Tillamook County’s new home gardens by checking out posts tagged with #f2sAtHome.