A Beginning of a New Era

By: Emilio Richardson
June 1, 2016

Farm-to-Fork is the oldest concept known to mankind (aside from breathing). This tradition of growing, cooking and consuming local food was more than a basic way of life. It was the only way. This way provided fresh, healthy, local food used not only for nutrition and nourishment, but also as modern medicine. We were stronger, we looked younger and we never felt better.

Somewhere along the way we lost this tradition of local consumption as we progressed through our existence in the search of new and innovative ways to live. Everything changes with time, but not all things change for the better. In an effort to restore mankind to the golden age of food, drink, and health, one school has emerged as an educational pioneer. Del Oro HS has ushered in the newest extension of Farm-to-Fork… Farm-to-School.

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It all began on Dec 15th and just in time for Christmas. Terri Griffin, a career specialist for the Placer County Office of Education, contacted us on behalf of Del Oro HS with 2 goals in mind; making sure students are career ready and linking industry partners to the classroom. We were honored to say the least.

Terri’s focus was on the Farm-to-Fork community. A community that includes farmers, chefs, truck drivers, ranchers, butchers and so much more. Each industry acting as a link in a very intricate Farm-to-Fork supply chain, is dedicated to the mission of providing the freshest local food and drink right to our homes.

This is not a task to be taken lightly so we immediately began to ask 21 questions. How did they get started? Why now? Who was in charge of this change and how can we get involved were just a few. In the process, two names surfaced; Regina Dvorak & Scott Domeny.

Regina Dvorak runs the agriculture program, which includes the planting, growing, and harvesting of all the seasonal greenery while Scott Domeny runs the culinary arts program that includes preparing and cooking the harvested food and catering staff lunches. Regina and Scott decided to bring their courses together in the hopes of showing how the culinary and agriculture industries work hand in hand. Hence, the farm and the fork.

Regina and Scott were so passionately involved in their student’s lives and the community that in 2012 they created this Farm-to-Fork program themselves with only the hopes of empowering their students to pursue careers in these fields. They saw the importance in the agriculture and culinary career fields that went beyond money. It was a responsibility to care for the world we live in and the people who live in it.

Caring for the environment and its inhabitants is no small feat. Being farm-to-fork doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes proper planning and foresight to connect all the moving parts together, but fresh local food is worth the work. Regina and Scott have put in more than their share of overtime hours to build this community of environmentally aware youth and the world is taking notice.

For Regina and Scott’s vision of career ready youth in the culinary and agriculture fields to be achieved, they needed a bit of assistance. The reached out to a community of people who are dedicated to building a better tomorrow known as CRANE.

“CRANE (Capitol Region Academies for the next Economy) is a consortium of 23 districts and county offices that include Nevada, Placer, Sacramento, El Dorado and Yuba Counties. CRANE supports six industries- agriculture, manufacturing engineering, information communication technology, Heath and bio-medical, engineering, and entrepreneurship. They also support schools in building pathways that offer career technical education combined with academic rigor.” (Terri Griffin, personal communication, February 29th, 2016).

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The CRANE grant, which was created in 2012, is designed to aid schools like Del Oro, who have programs geared towards career readiness in the fields listed above. Regina and Scott took full advantage of this grant every year it was made available and here’s what they’ve done with it.

Del Oro HS has 1.5 acres of farmable land (that’s a lot of grass to cut). This land consists of raised bed gardens for growing vegetables like peas, pens for pigs, cattle and chickens, an Aquaponics farm and an entire assortment of additions traditionally found around a working farm. Most of all, this sustainable ecosystem is managed by the students (that’s right, the students) by what’s known as SAE Projects (Supervised Agriculture Experience Projects).

These SAE Projects along with CRANE have been a major reason why this program has been so successful. We were so impressed that we had to see for ourselves. So we did.

On April 16th, 2016, we attended the Del Oro HS open house where all of these projects were displayed for the world to see. We had the privilege of meeting high school junior and Chapter President, Ally Lower, who gave us the tour of a lifetime. It was no wonder why she was elected to her position. Ally told us how she would be graduating next year, but looked forward to returning to help the program in other ways as many of the graduating students had done in the past.

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How good does a program have to be to make the students want to stay after school and not because they received detention? Pretty good.

The tour was amazing. A different student managed every part of the farm and the process. The growing of the vegetables, the caretaking of the animals and even the building of the facilities were all student led. This was highly advanced work compared to making gingerbread houses and mail holders.

We ate fresh peas right from the pods. We learned the regulations that governed the ownership of chickens in Placer County from the incredibly knowledgeable Shyan Childers. And we don’t think there’s anyone in Placer County who knows more about chickens than her. We even petted the pigs, which were set to appear at the county fair.

The SAE program may have been designed to ensure the career readiness of the students, but it’s done so much more. It’s instilled a sense of ownership through accountability, hard work and achievement. The amount of passion and knowledge that stemmed from these students was beyond their years. That program belonged to them and they were not afraid to get their hands dirty to make it work.

The staff at Eat Farm-to-Fork applaud the students of Del Oro HS and their champions, Regina and Scott; along with the Placer Union High School District, are a shining example of what it looks like to entrust the future of our world into the hands of our youth. This community of growers, builders, breeders and cooks is paving the way towards complete local freshness, not only from a food perspective but the activation and growing of young minds.

The future definitely looks bright.

 

Be well and Live Fresh!

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