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Local wheat in school pizza? It’s back to class for Oregon farmers

The passage of HB 2649 has the power to seed partnerships that can sustain and grow Oregon agriculture.

 

Plastic bag full of wheat berries
Photo by John Valls

Farm to School typically brings to mind fruits and vegetables — a bowl of bright red apples, or a salad bar station. But for Tom and Sue Hunton, owners of Hunton’s Farm and Camas Country Mill, located southwest of Junction City, Farm to School means freshly baked rolls, springy pizza d ough, and supple tortillas, all made with their own locally grown and processed grains. This is the second year that the Bend-LaPine School District has sourced flour from the Huntons. This February, Tom and Sue joined other Oregon farmers, food processors, school district staff, and food security advocates in Salem to voice their support for expanding the Farm to School and School Garden Program. This was one of a series of hearings on Oregon House Bill 2649, which, if passed, would bring $5 million dollars to Oregon school districts to support Farm to School initiatives that help bring healthier, local foods to the lunchroom and provide kids with invaluable food and farm education, both in the classroom and through hands-on experiences. HB 2649 will compensate school districts around the state up to 15 cents per meal for buying Oregon grown and processed foods. Tom looks forward to expanding their reach within the school food market. The day following their testimony, the Huntons received an order from the Bend-LaPine School District for 12,500 lbs of Hard White Spring Wheat flour and 2,500 lbs of Club Wheat Pastry Flour, which they believe is the single largest order they have ever received. The passage of HB 2649 has the power to seed partnerships that can sustain and grow Oregon agriculture. The Huntons also offer experiential education to students through farm and mill tours. A sign in their fields designates plots for the school district, and students can visit the wheat as it grows. State funding will allow new opportunities for partners like the Willamette Farm & Food Coalition to develop educational materials and programs that give more depth to students’ hands-on experiences. Legislators say they love Farm to School programs, but they haven’t committed to funding them, so they need to hear from you! How can you help bring more local foods and garden-based education to schools statewide? Call, email or attend an event this month! Click here to get more information on how to contact your legislator, and where, and when public budget hearings are taking place! Learn more about the Huntons and others involved in forging a local grain economy in Edible Portland’s spring article, Grist for the Mill. Upstream Public Health and Ecotrust are among the nonprofits leading the charge to grow Farm to School and School Garden funding in Oregon. Learn more about Ecotrust’s Farm to School program at www.ecotrust.org/farmtoschool.