Over the past two decades, Fayette County lost about 40% of its farmland. Many residents have lost their connection to agriculture and have little understanding about where their food comes from.
It's not an uncommon story in the rapidly developing Atlanta exurbs, but what is uncommon is the way that the Fayette County Public Schools and University of Georgia Cooperative Extension came together to help rebuild those agricultural connections.
On Tuesday, Sept. 17, Georgia Organics and UGA Extension presented the Fayette County Public Schools' farm-to-school program with the second annual Outstanding Extension Farm-to-School Program Award. The school system’s farm-to-school program also was one of only 22 school systems in the state to win a Golden Radish Platinum Award.
"The Golden Radish Award Ceremony is a wonderful time to congratulate all UGA Extension agents who work in farm-to-school efforts. Their hard work often goes unacknowledged, but Extension traditionally serves as a bridge between area farmers and local schools,” said Georgia Center for Urban Agriculture Community and School Garden Coordinator Becky Griffin. “A special congratulations to Fayette County Schools for winning this year's UGA Extension Outstanding Farm-to-School Program. Their efforts in farm-to-school are exemplary and creative."
UGA Extension, a partner in Georgia Organics Golden Radish Awards program, established the new award to honor the teaching that pulls agriculture into the classroom and introduces students to agricultural concepts. The award also recognizes an exemplary partnership between an outstanding Georgia farm-to-school program and county Extension staff.
Fayette County stood out because educators and Extension staff tie the school gardens and their farm-to-school program to the larger community. In one project, students help make jam from strawberries grown in school gardens and distribute the jars of jam to local firefighters. Fayette County Master Gardener Extension Volunteers are very involved in making sure the gardens are suitable for use by all grades and curricula.
Receiving the award has given Fayette County’s UGA Extension staff a sense of accomplishment and reassurance that their work is making a positive impact on their community, said Kim Toal, Fayette County Extension coordinator.
“Through educational outreach from the University of Georgia, the Extension office engages clientele through a wide array of educational platforms,” Toal said. “We value the partnerships with our schools and work to collaborate on programs that will enhance concepts to engage youth to use a holistic approach regarding their community, county, state and world. Every day we are making a difference in the lives of our citizens through educational programs and partnerships to create a positive community. We are honored to receive this award because it provides a tangible reminder of the impact we are making on the lives of our youth through our continued partnership with our schools.”
The Golden Radish Awards honor Georgia school districts for best practices in farm-to-school programs. Best practices include local food procurement, exposing students to new foods through taste tests, and incorporating cooking and gardening activities into classes. This year, Golden Radish partners included Georgia Organics and the Georgia Departments of Agriculture, Education, Public Health, and Early Care and Learning, as well as UGA Extension.
For a full list of school districts that have been recognized and to learn more about the award, visit GeorgiaOrganics.org. For more information about the school and community programs offered through UGA Extension, visit ugaurbanag.com/gardens.