The Ottumwa Courier

December 5, 2013

Pekin FFA, Hometown Harvest partnering for school lunch program

By JOSH VARDAMAN
Courier staff writer

---- — PACKWOOD — The Pekin FFA program is dedicated to developing students through agricultural education, and they have shown a high interest in helping the community, too.

Their success in showing innovation and agricultural progress in the community led to the program being one of the 12 Iowa FFA chapters selected to receive a “Be the Seed” grant, in which more than 40 chapters from around the state applied.

Sponsored by the Iowa Food and Family Projects, the grants were awarded to help FFA chapters throughout the state partner with community or school groups to educate on the importance of agriculture, sustainability and community involvement. Each chapter was given $2,500 through the scholarship, then the chapter that has shown the most success will receive a $5,000 Award of Achievement.

Pekin FFA is partnering with Hometown Harvest of Southeast Iowa for their grant. The two are working together to provide more goods for the school lunch program, which gives schools in the area locally grown fresh produce.

“We’re mostly working together, trying to educate one another,” Jan Swinton, local food coordinator, said.

Last year, Pekin FFA built a mobile greenhouse where they would plant on one side and move the greenhouse from one end of the plot to another whenever necessary. With that greenhouse, they will be able to work together with THE Greenhouse, which is currently being constructed by Hometown Harvest in Fairfield, to produce food for the school lunch program.

The schools that receive produce for the program will not be able to feed the entire school solely based on what they get from the program, Swtinton said, but they will definitely not waste any of it. THE Greenhouse and Pekin FFA will work together to provide for the schools, and basically the schools will be getting produce from whichever has it available.

According to Swinton, it will be an interesting mix between the two. She said THE Greenhouse is more of a larger production facility than the Pekin FFA’s mobile one, but nonetheless they will help each other learn and provide quality, locally grown produce to the surrounding schools.

Swinton had very high praises for the work Pekin FFA and their advisor, Juston Lamb, have done in the past.

“They are awesome,” she said. “[Lamb] works hard with keeping them on task and allowing a lot of creativity. He is one of the best FFA guys in the state.”

— To see reporter Josh Vardaman's Twitter feed, go to @CourierJosh