After an extensive hiring and interview process, SustainFloyd is proud to announce that it’s hired Amy Avery-Grubel as Floyd County’s first Farm to School Coordinator.
Amy, 36, was selected from a pool of 26 strong applicants. The hiring team consisted of SustainFloyd Director Mike Burton, Operations Coordinator Mason Adams, Floyd County Schools Nutrition Specialist Pamela Harris and Old Millstone Farm co-owner Lynette Vest.
Amy goes to work on Monday with the big job of building a cutting-edge Farm to School program in Floyd County by the end of 2015. For the last few years, SustainFloyd has made in-roads toward this goal by working in close partnership with Floyd County Schools, county farmers and a series of groups such as New River Valley Community Services, Plenty!, Virginia Cooperative Extension, the School Health Advisory Board and more.
We started with a potato-planting field trip in the spring and a potato planting field trip in the fall, along with occasional food deliveries for Farm to School week. In 2013 we began working with Fertile Crescent Farm and Good Food-Good People to deliver local foods once a month to Indian Valley Elementary School. Last fall, we expanded that program, delivering potatoes once a month to all five county schools (including the high school), apples twice a month to all five schools and lettuce twice a month to the four elementary schools.
In November, the USDA awarded SustainFloyd and the Floyd Farm to School Working Group a grant to ramp up the program in a dramatic way. The grant will cover Amy’s salary, new kitchen equipment for school cafeterias, educational and field trip expenses, and a cutting-edge career & technical program for Floyd County High School’s agriculture class. They’ll be growing lettuce in the heart of winter using a hydroponic system set up by teacher Joe Tesauro. In fact, we ordered grow lights just a few weeks ago, and Joe’s already got them set up and ready to go!
Amy comes into this program with a wealth of local experience. She’s lived in the county since she was 3 years old, graduating from Floyd County High School in 1995. She’s worked extensively in food service and administration, most recently for the Jacksonville Center and the Floyd EcoVillage.
Amy says she applied for the job for “my interest in the schools and Floyd County students more than anything, and my interest in good healthy local produce.”
She’ll be taking on a series of objectives set out in the grant application, including the expansion in fall of 2014 to weekly deliveries of food to the schools and beginning to develop a regional system.
Her ultimate objective is to build a Farm to School system that requires little if any outside money and which can serve as a model for rural communities around the country. We’re using a grant to develop the program, but we want it to stand on its own once that grant runs out.
It’s a tough challenge: There are lots of support resources but no single road map for this program. That doesn’t daunt Amy, as she’s got both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in geography.
“Getting our students to regularly eat local food at school would be part of the more short-term but also the sustainble goal,” Amy says. The longer-term goal is “making it sustainable both for the schools and for the farmers, and if that means extending the network to other regional schools or regional producers, that’s part of the goal too.”
Check out SustainFloyd’s Farm to School page and expect to hear a lot more about this program over the next two years.