Nicki Jiminez is a FoodCorps Service Member in Ronan, MT.

“Are you the farmer?!” inquired curious elementary schoolers as I greeted them at the entrance to the cafeteria.

“I’m the farmer’s helper,” I laughed, “You can see Farmer Will inside!”
Tuesday, October 16th was a very special day at K. William Harvey Elementary School in Ronan, MT. Students loaded their trays with a cup of taco soup featuring local beef from White’s Wholesale Meats in Ronan, slices of farm-fresh apples from Dupuis Orchards in nearby Polson, and crinkle-cut carrot coins sourced from the Western Montana Grower’s Cooperative and processed at Mission Mountain Food Enterprise Center(MMFEC), a program of Lake County Community Development Corporation and my service site. 

Montana Team Nutrition posters helped tell kids where local ingredients come from.

While all the students ate their Montana Made Meal, lucky students got to dine with local farmer, Will Tusick. With the help of all the Kindergarten through 4th grade teachers, all the students entered a drawing to win a spot at that table. Five students from each grade talked with Farmer Will and MMFEC’s MTCC AmeriCorps Vista Shay Boudreau about farming and eating local, healthy food. The conversation with the farmer, as well as the general excitement generated by the contest helped to strengthen the lesson of the Montana Made Meal: that real, delicious, and healthy food comes from the farm and is grown by farmers near to home in Ronan, and all around Montana.

Farmer Will Tusick waves goodbye to students who sat with him during lunch.

The cafeteria was not only festive because of the yellow lunch with a farmer table and posters about where the food came from, but also with students’ farm-to-school artwork. Art teacher Barnaby Smith got creative with incorporating fresh vegetables into art class. Mr. Smith made beet juice watercolor and had his students paint pictures of beets and beet leaves. I brought in samples of roasted beets for all the students to taste. Lots of hands shot into the air when I asked who had never eaten a beet before, and again after I asked who had tried the beet. There were even a few new beet lovers in each class!

Students used this beet juice to paint pictures of beets while sampling pieces of roasted beets. 

Students’ beet paintings have been mounted and hung up at the entrance to the cafeteria and are now accompanied by signs proclaiming “Farm to School” and “Unbeetable Art,” painted in beet juice, of course.