Dawson County Schools has partnered with Costley Family Farms in Dawsonville to provide students with the freshest local produce in the form of hydroponically-grown butter leaf lettuce.
“Dawson County Schools wanted to partner with a local family farm as a part of our commitment to support local farmers,” said School Nutrition Director Linda Byrd.
The nutrition department has already partnered with Georgia Organics and Farm to School to provide benefits to students, farmers and the community. Students are provided with fresh, locally grown food and receive nutrition education as well as opportunities to meet the famers who produce their food. The farmers in turn experience expanding market opportunities for their agriculture, and by purchasing Georgia grown products the local economy is supported.
Costley Family Farms specializes in hydroponics, a way of farming without the use of soil. By using mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent, the butter leaf lettuce at the family farm can be grown year round.
“Supply is not dictated by the weather, less risk of a product recall, and improved quality and nutritional value,” said Byrd of the benefits of hydroponic lettuce.
Once the lettuce completes an eight-week growing cycle, it will be delivered to Dawson County Schools and be used in salads, sandwiches and wraps, according to Byrd.
Creating partnerships with local farms is part of the 2020 Vision for School Nutrition and Farm to School, a joint collaborative initiative between the Georgia departments of agriculture, education and public health. The program aims to provide quality foods that are safe and nutritious to Georgia’s students, support agriculture by strengthening local markets and reduce the carbon footprint of food utilized.
By the start of the 2020 school year, at least 20 percent of the required menu components for student meals will be comprised of Georgia and locally grown products.
“Each year we are increasing the amount of Georgia grown and Farm to School products used in student meals,” Byrd said. “Georgia grown seasonal fruits and vegetables are featured monthly on the Dawson County Schools' menus and offered daily to all students. Georgia and locally grown peaches, apples, cucumbers, watermelon, peppers, blueberries, poultry and sweet potatoes. The local foods movement is big and schools can enhance flavor and improve perception by using more Georgia products.”