The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

July 5, 2014

Local food grown for school lunches

FAIRFIELD - Fairfield's Farm to School Research Greenhouse is feeding school children in a 13-county area.

The greenhouse only grows foods that are needed by schools for their lunch menus. Therefore, 100 percent of the food grown in the greenhouse is sold to public schools in the surrounding area.

"The gardening process is kind of the opposite of the schools' kitchen process," explained Local Food Coordinator Jan Swinton. "In the summers, when most of the food comes in from gardens and fields, it's not when the kids are in school, so we have to either figure out how to grow it when the kids are in school or how to preserve it."

The project started two years ago when the greenhouse received a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant that covered building costs. The greenhouse later received additional funding and various grants to meet the demands of winter production.

Winter production is important to the greenhouse because that is when they will have to grow the food that will be served to area children. The biggest problem was figuring out how to keep the ground warm during Iowa's cold winter months.

The solution came when Schaus Vorhies manufacturing plant decided to let the organization use a plot of their land and the heat that is produced from their plant to keep the ground warm.

"They are providing heat to us at really no charge. They have given us this land for 25 years for a dollar, so we will be out here for a good long time," said Swinton.

Swinton described Schaus Vorhies as a very forward-thinking company that is helping the greenhouse grow and better the community. The greenhouse water is metered through their plant, and in return they get charitable donation tax receipts.

Schaus Vorhies is a company that sand blasts the paint off various pieces of agriculture equipment. The temperature in their furnace can get to well over 1,000 degrees. The heat that is produced is then removed and cleaned before being stored in the greenhouse's recycled tank.

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