D.C. group gets glimpse of Delmarva’s vegetable industry

Managing Editor

With intentions of making connections that could lead to selling Delaware-grown produce to nearby school systems, a group of people involved the Washington D.C Farm to School program, got a day-long snapshot of Delaware agriculture on Thursday, July 29.
The group of about 10 people was organized by Andrea Northup, D.C. Farm to School Network coordinator and David Marvel, a farmer in Harrington, Del., and member of the Mid-Atlantic Farm to School steering committee.
Northup said her role in planning the trip was to “just expose them to an agricultural world that they and myself don’t see on a day to day basis.”
The group saw string bean, watermelon and sweet corn harvested for processing and fresh market sale, visited the Laurel Auction Market, talked with farmers and stopped in at the Delaware State Fair for dinner before heading back to Washington.
Monica Tomasso, founder of the Falls Church, Va., based Health e-Lunch Kids company, which makes and delivers lunches to charter and private schools in and around Washington said she came the trip to see what other options her company could utilize for locally grown food. One highlight of the trip, she said, was the Laurel auction.
“We were working with an auction in the Shenandoah Valley,” Tomasso said. “I didn’t know one existed out here so this is fantastic.”
With Gordon Johnson, University of Delaware Extension vegetable specialist along for part of the trip, the group was also given an idea of the scope of what Delmarva as a production area can offer as well as harvesting windows and other logistics.
Marvel said the point of the trip was “to give them an idea of what’s available in the Mid-Atlantic area and to help with their Healthy Schools Act.”
Passed in May by the Council of the District of Columbia, the Healthy Schools Act, among other things, establishes an incentive of an additional five cents for each lunch meal that includes local food.
According to the legislation, local is defined as originating from the Mid-Atlantic region which, in this case, stretches from North Carolina up to Pennsylvania and west to West Virginia.
Northup added that on the van ride back to Washington, D.C., everyone commented not only on how great it was that the people they met were so willing to take time to explain their business but also to see that there are some real possibilities in getting more food grown on Delmarva into D.C. area schools.
“I think the educational component of that trip was just huge,” she said last week in a telephone interview. “Supply is there and growers are willing to meet the demand. It’s just a matter of working out the details of invoices, transportation and processing.”
Along with the five-cent incentive for meals with local foods, the Healthy Schools Act creates a grant program to encourage creative ways people on the food service side can work out those details.
Marvel said going forward, he hopes to “really try to work on relationships for next year,” by getting farmers and buyers together to discuss further details and perhaps create a few pilot programs to get food grown on Delmarva onto D.C. students’ lunch trays.