Veggies produce profits for schools

By Debora Van Brenk (The London Free Press)
May 8, 2012

The schools and parents were tired of time-consuming chocolate-bar fundraisers that generated little cash.

The farmers were looking for new customers for their vegetables.

That was the genesis of the Farm to School fundraiser, an innovative program that illustrates how easily partnerships can be cultivated between urbanites and the food that grows only a short distance away.

Mark Wales, who grows 20 different products on his farm near Aylmer, said he expects the fundraiser to expand this fall after its inaugural season last year.

Three schools participated, earning $10 for each $20 bushel-basket of produce they sold. (The four Aylmer-area farms that supplied the vegetables got the other half of the proceeds.) Pupils sold more than 200 baskets filled to overflowing with locally grown potatoes, apples, carrots, onion and garlic.

“It’s a really good deal for the parents. It’s a great fundraiser for the school; and it’s a really good idea for the farmer because they’ve now got 200 new potential customers,” said Wales, who is also president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture.

Though it won’t make the schools or the farmers rich, Wales said it’s one way to make lifelong, tangible connections between consumers and growers in Ontario’s richest farmbelt.

The Elgin-St. Thomas Health Unit is also a partner in the project.

It’s similar to a farm to school program in Manitoba, and Wales believes it’s the only one of its kind in Ontario.

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