October’s National Farm to School Month shines a light on the local farmers and producers that meet cafeteria purchasing needs all across the country. Farm Fresh Rhode Island is proud to shine our local light on our neighboring apple orchards that grow thousands of apples for local schools each year: Steere Orchard, Jaswell’s Farm, and Barden Family Orchard.
Through local channels like our Market Mobile local food service, farmers sell local apples to cafeteria Food Service, who then create and deliver apple-inspired cafeteria menu items for students to enjoy throughout the season. And thanks to coordination by our Farm to School team, entire schools celebrate apple season through an “Apple Crunch” day — when farmers involved in the procurement process are celebrated for their hard-working efforts, their commitment to community, and the joy their apples bring!
Spotlight on Steere Orchard.
John — alongside his father, Jim — are fourth and fifth generation apple farmer who are proud to call Greenville, RI, home. Steere Orchard is the largest orchard in Rhode Island, and as Farm to School partners John and Jim send apples to schools all across the state. It’s hard to estimate how many apples they grow each year, but John thinks hundreds of thousands is an accurate measure. Out of all the apple varieties, John wagers his favorite is a Macoun apple, a variety not to be missed.
We asked John what it means to him to be involved in the Farm to School Network of RI:
“It’s great being involved with the Farm to School Network. We’ve been providing apples for almost 20 years, and have worked with almost every school in the state — and being a part of the Apple Crunch is a really great feeling.”
Thank you for your dedication to the Farm to School Network John, Jim, and the crew at Steere Orchard!
Spotlight on Jaswell’s Farm.
Allison from Jaswell’s Farm calls Smithfield, RI, home. Located in the heart of the “Apple Valley,” Jaswell’s Farm is the oldest operating apple orchard in Smithfield, and currently run by the fourth generation of the Jaswell family, and one of the few brother/sister farming teams in RI agriculture, Allison and Chris.
Jaswell’s Farm is extremely proud to work with the Smithfield school system, amongst others, as Allison and Chris themselves are products of the Smithfield school district. Allison estimates they maintain around 7,500 trees each season. Allison’s favorite apple changes with different points of the season. She enjoys the season’s early Macintosh, then Macoun and Mutus, followed by Pink Lady. If Allison had to pick one apple for the rest of her life though, it’d be Honeycrisp.
When asked what it means to be involved with the Farm to School Network of RI, Allison shared:
“We’re big proponents of being involved with school programs, and we’ve been a part of Farm to School and partnering with Farm Fresh RI from the get go, which is such a special feeling. It’s truly heartwarming to be a part of such an incredible program and offer fresh food to our kids. It’s really neat being able to be directly involved, creating an opportunity to give back to a community that raised us.”
Thank you Allison, Chris, and Jaswell’s Farm for your involvement in Farm to School field trips, and the “Apple Crunch” events taking place in RI throughout the month of October!
Spotlight on Barden Family Orchard.
Barden Family Orchard was founded in 1931, and has since been growing a wide variety of apples, pumpkins, winter squash, peaches, blueberries, raspberries, and periodically, sunflowers. They began offering sweet apple cider in 2008, and their apple cider doughnuts are not to be missed.
In 2005, Gil and Sandie Barden became full-time farmers, dedicating themselves to growing quality fruits and vegetables for those who are dedicated to buying locally grown produce. Since then, the entire Barden Family has been involved in the farm. The family works together from crop production through harvest, attending farmers markets around RI, and meeting customers who make their annual trip to pick apples and peaches, or those who purchase freshly picked fruits and vegetables at the farm market, which opened in 2007.
In addition to growing a bounty of delicious produce, Barden Family Orchard supplies apples to local schools, where apples are enjoyed in cafeteria meals all season long. Thank you to Barden Family Orchard for supplying apples to local schools for the highly anticipated Apple Crunch!