A former candidate for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture is among the Governor’s appointees to serve on the new Farm to School Council . Denise O’Brien, along with her husband Larry, raises fruits and vegetables near Atlantic. O’Brien is one of seven people that will help guide a new program approved by the legislature last year.
The Farm to School program is designed to provide students with a more "hands-on approach" when it comes to learning about food production. O’Brien says Iowa can follow the lead of other states that already have Food to School programs in place.
"For example, in California, they have a state law where the schools need to have a kitchen garden," O’Brien says, "so kids actually go out and help raise the foods that they eat in their schools." The Iowa program could also link Iowa farms with local schools – providing those schools with fresh food for meals and snacks. O’Brien believes it will open a new market to small farmers and encourage younger Iowans to enter the business.
"It’s very difficult for a person to get into agriculture now, because it’s so heavily capitalized," O’Brien says. "If you have smaller farms and you can raise direct-market fruits and vegetables that you can take to restaurants, schools, and farmer’s markets – then those are the outlets for these smaller sized farms that are popping up and is a place where people can at least get started in farming."
O’Brien believes the program could even provide a boost to small town economies. "Possibly I can see this growing into…having to start some processing plants," O’Brien explains, "where the farmers can go to wash, cut, bag, and freeze the vegetables so we can use them year round."
In addition to O’Brien, Governor Culver appointed three other members to the Food to School Council. They are Debra Stephenson of Council Bluffs, Earl Hafner of Panora, and Laurie Crane of Davenport. The other appointees come from the Iowa Secretary of Agriculture’s office, the Iowa Department of Education, and the Leopold Center.