Growing Farm to School with FoodCorps

Warren County FoodCorps Workday

Tasting pumpkin hummus, putting up fencing around a high school garden and singing songs about fruits and vegetables – these are just a few of the daily activities of a FoodCorps North Carolina Service Member. FoodCorps is a national non-profit that partners with state organizations to place emerging leaders in local communities to nurture a child’s relationship with healthy food. Service members dedicate a year or more of service in low-resource schools to build and tend gardens, teach hands-on food and nutrition education and build pathways with local farms to source to school cafeterias.  This three-pillar approach has shown that kids are more willing to try and taste fruits and vegetables and can positively impact their lives.

North Carolina 4-H and the Center for Environmental Farming systems through the Department of Horticultural Science have joined together to host FoodCorps North Carolina and work collaboratively with local partner organizations to craft possibilities where fruits and vegetables are celebrated and eaten with fervor.  Local partners include Gaston County Cooperative Extension, Guilford Cooperative Extension, Cherokee Choices and Cherokee Central Schools, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Food Policy Council, Good Food Sandhills, Warren County Cooperative Extension, Dillard Academy, Wilson County Schools and Feast Down East.  Each local organization stewards service members in building opportunities for young people to actively engage in growing, cooking and eating fruits and vegetables.  In Warren County, Cooperative Extension, Working Landscapes and Warren County Public Schools cooperated to assist in GAP certifying a Warren County farm to produce cabbage, chopped and bagged the cabbage in Warrenton and the school system purchased and served the cabbage in the cafeteria. Students passed out samples and encouraged their peers to taste it. Today, there are thriving school gardens across the county, garden and cooking 4-H clubs and even the high school has a GAP certified garden.

FoodCorps Service Members (FCMs) have been working to establish or expand school garden programs. As studies have demonstrated, engaging children in the process of growing food increases their dietary preference for and consumption of fresh vegetables (Health Promotion Practice, 2009). FCMs break ground on new gardens, help incorporate garden programs into curricula, and engage parents, community volunteers and kids in the active outdoor play of growing fruits and vegetables. Though garden harvests are rarely sufficient to supply most school cafeterias, even taste-tests conducted with garden produce have been shown to help children build positive relationships with fresh food. Whether revitalizing an outdoor classroom space in Wayne County or building a cob oven for cooking garden produce in Moore County, FCMs use school gardens as gateways that connect classroom lessons on nutrition to real-world physical activity and healthy eating in the schoolyard.

FCMs have increased children’s access to and information about healthy food, offering them regular servings of the nutritious meals they’ve now studied and grown. Through holistic “Farm to School” programming, FCMs help transform public school cafeterias into educational environments where healthy food choices are promoted. They also facilitate relationships between child nutrition directors and local farmers who can supply nutritious ingredients at scale. Activities in this area are diverse: crafting displays that teach kids to identify and taste the winter greens in their salad bar; developing institutional recipes for sliced apples and spiced yogurt to replace fries and ketchup; or establishing an online message board that links child nutrition directors to farmers looking to distribute their produce. Research demonstrates that kids participating in Farm to School programs often consume one more serving of healthy fruits and vegetables each day (Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition, 2008).

Through this three-pronged approach, FCMs working in resource-strapped public school systems will be the primary drivers of well-designed and well-researched interventions aimed at increasing the health of students at risk for lifetimes of diet-related illness and disease. This holistic approach addresses both the childhood obesity epidemic and the growing trend of childhood hunger with the same mechanism–targeted investment in the human resource of AmeriCorps volunteers. These passionate, committed, engaged, and selfless leaders will envelop the students they serve in a wrap-around environment of health and wellness through strategies identified across health and human services agencies as critical in reversing the well-marked course toward diabetes and obesity.

FoodCorps members provide the boots on the ground, the motivation and passion to be physically present and consistently able to work in limited-resource schools, changing the school food environment. Since the start of the FoodCorps North Carolina program in late August 2011, FoodCorps Service Members have already reached nearly 30,000 youth, enlisted over 1,325 volunteers, built and revitalized over 28 gardens and revitalized 34. Beyond health and wellness benefits, school gardens will increase youth’s understanding of plant and soil concepts, foster wonder and curiosity; develop problem-solving skills, including critical thinking and creativity.  Garden programs build leadership skills, including self-confidence, communication and cooperation. School Gardens can become spaces that empower youth to become future food system leaders.

CEFS Celebrates its 20th Anniversary!

Greetings from the Center for Environmental Farming Systems!

CEFS: 1994-2014

CEFS: 1994-2014

We are fortunate in that 2014 marks our 20th anniversary and we have many events planned throughout the year to celebrate this extraordinary accomplishment. In case you were curious of our humble beginnings…

In 1994, a small circle of leaders in sustainable agriculture came together with a single vision: to create a center for the study of environmentally sustainable farming practices in North Carolina.

A task force of university faculty and administrators, state and federal agencies, non-governmental organizations, farmers, and citizens was charged with developing strategies to build a strong sustainable agriculture program in North Carolina. Out of that effort grew the CEFS Research Facility, a 2,000-acre research farm in Goldsboro.

The farm became home to CEFS’ core research programs and units. The Farming Systems Research Unit, Pasture-based Dairy and Beef Units, Alternative Swine Unit, Organic Research Unit, and Small Farm Unit all provide research opportunities for faculty, graduate students and visiting scientists, and educational opportunities for farmers, extension agents and students.

Over the years, CEFS has broadened its focus to include community-based food systems and local food supply chain development. CEFS also transformed the niche meat supply chains with the formation of N.C. Choices. In addition, CEFS has partnered with community organizations to support youth engagement and leadership development initiatives in areas most affected by food system inequities, educational programming – including NC A&T’s Discover Ag, NC State’s Agroecology Program, our Summer Internship and Apprenticeship Programs and so much more. CEFS has grown to become a local, state, national and international leader in sustainable agriculture and the local foods movement.

As we celebrate our 20th Anniversary, we have many exciting events planned. We are fortunate to have CALS bringing in as part of their “Future of Food” lecture series, Dr. Ricardo Salvador of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Previous to his position at UCS Dr. Salvador served as the program officer for Food, Health and Wellbeing at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and in this capacity helped CEFS secure twin endowments for both NC State and NC A&T State University. Find more events at

By: JJ Richardson & Lisa Forehand

What is the best kept secret in horticulture?

horticulture-webThe Department of Horticulture’s website!  Each year our department produces a huge volume of information from factsheets and presentations to research reports and journal articles.  In academics, we have dozens of scholarships, internships and travel and research opportunities for students.  But alas, for many years the information was not easy to find, if available at all.  Now, however, through the work of Brandon Hopper, the wonderful folks at CALS Extension IT, and many faculty and staff, you can find a wealth of useful information on the Horticulture Department Website.   Looking for information on a specific crop, check out our portals, such as the Blackberry and Raspberry portal.  Not sure where to find something, try our powerful search engines (lower left corner). Enjoy browsing!

– John Dole, Department Head, Horticultural Science

JCRA Grows Good Kids!

1977288_10152295674136153_901826189_nChildren in the Arboretum?

Since 2011, children and their families have been able to find programs specifically aimed toward them at the JC Raulston Arboretum.  Children haven’t always been part of the audience attracted to the Arboretum for programming.  They don’t quite fit into a magnolia symposium audience or a workshop on crevice gardening.  Just because an hour long lecture on plant collecting in China doesn’t captive a three year old doesn’t mean horticulture is completely lost on that age group.

The Arboretum’s children’s program has grown leaps and bounds the past 3 years showing that there is a thirst for being outside, learning about plants and our surrounding environment, and making that connection between plants and people.  From 2012 to 2013, there was a 27% increase in participants in the programs offered for children, youth, and their families at the Arboretum.  Those numbers will continue to grow as people continue to find “Raleigh’s best kept secret” and the word gets out.

So, what are these programs attracting children to a garden filled with plants and labels?  There are several different types of programs.  Some are ongoing programs that target specific ages.   “Garden Storytimes” are for preschoolers while “Afternoon Adventures” are for all ages.  “Family Fun” events involve the entire family getting them outdoors and having fun, learning, and exploring together.  This past year with the help of local scout leaders and graduate students from the department, the first scout badge workshops were presented.  Local girl scouts earned their flower, gardener, and tree badges while learning how to prune plants properly, how to arrange cut flowers, and all about xylem, phloem, perfect, and imperfect flowers.  Plans to expand the offerings to include cub scouts, boy scouts, brownies, and all ages of scouts are underway for 2014.  Other groups like Y Guides and Y Princesses visit and experience the gardens to earn the coveted JCRA patches.

Local schools are finding their way to the Arboretum as well.  This past fall, Root Elementary kindergarten class participated in our first public school field trip.  The tour’s success is inspiring the creation of field trips for other grade levels so even more students and teachers have the opportunity to use the gardens as their living classroom and enriching their classroom learning experience.

Local school aged students are getting familiar with the Arboretum this year during the first year of summer camps.  Four different camps will be offered for ages 4 to middle school.  Preschoolers will make friends with various garden critters during their week while middle schoolers become garden photographers during their week in July. Elementary aged students grab a magnifying glass for garden mysteries during “Nature Detectives” in June and learn about gardening while growing food during a week in August.

But why is the Arboretum doing all these programs?  Because children are our future.  They are our future gardeners, future nurserymen and nurserywomen, politicians that will shape our natural environment, plant breeders, plant explorers, and garden center owners and customers.  As a group of educators, industry professionals, and plant and nature lovers, we must share our passion and inspire them to become great horticulturalists!

Elizabeth Overcash, JCRA Children’s Program Coordinator

Congratulations Graduates!

Undergraduates practicing for PLANET competition

Undergraduates practicing for PLANET competition

Congratulations to our Graduates!
The end of the semester always brings a fresh set of students finishing their career at NC State and making their way in the world. We wish this group best wishes for a bright future! See the group of graduating undergraduates and graduate students here!

Undergraduate Graduates for December 2013

Thomas Michael Batts
James Ethan Bridges
Christian Randolph Britt
Jonathan Wayne Currin
Kurtis Craig Durrant
Don Raymond Edwards
Blair A. Lane
Matthew Vernon Leary
Nicole Theresa Lewis
Keith Albert Lukowski
Justin Miles Maness
Stanton Parker McDuffie
Mason C. McNair
Caitlin Iris Miller
Whitney Duncan Phillips
Kimberly May Shearer
Timothy Aric Weiler
Amanda Michelle Wilkins
Worth E. Williams

Undergraduate Certificate Graduates

Jerry Lane Cloninger
Rodney “Pete” Franklin Pearce
John Robert Suggs

Agricultural Institute Graduates

Joshua D. Jackson
James Robert Konowski
Christian Gregory Lonnecker
Tiffany Minjarez
Edward Alton Owens
Michael Dean Sizemore
Graham Lee Walker



Ms. Jamie Mikaela Anderson, Dr. Helen Kraus, Advisor


Ms. Xiaolin Huang (In Absentia) – Ms. Julieta Sherk, Chair
Sustainable Residential Design:  An Aesthetic, Environmental, and Area Use Assessment and Evaluation

Ms. Biaofei Jiang (In Absentia) – Ms. Julieta Sherk, Chair
Street Tree Planting Methods & the Impact on the Quality of the Streetscape: A Case Study in Downtown Raleigh

Ms. Dana R. Reynolds (In Absentia) – Dr. Lucy Bradley, Chair
Planting the Seed of a Children’s Garden

Ms. Michelle A. Rose – Ms. Anne Spafford, Chair
Valuing the Residential Landscape: Comparison of Selected Ecosystem Service Benefits between Conventional and Sustainable Design


Mr. Jared G. Barnes – Dr. Paul Nelson and Dr. Brian Whipker, Co-chairs
Quantifying the Factors that Influence Root Substrate pH

Ms. Connie Landis Fisk (In Absentia) – Dr. Mike Parker and Dr. Penny Perkins-Veazie, Chair and Vice-chair
Effect of Orchard Management Practices on Peach Tree Growth, Yield, and Soil Ecology

Ms. Suzanne O’Connell – Dr. Nancy Creamer, Chair
Short-term Nitrogen Mineralization and Soil Microbial Response to the Incorporation of Warm-season Cover Crops in Organic Farming Systems

Mr. Steven M. Todd (In Absentia) – Dr. Craig Yencho, Chair
Application of Near-infrared Spectroscopy to Study Inheritance of Sweetpotato Composition Traits