Farm to School tasting at the Oct. 10 Sparta vs. Tomah football game

Monroe County Schools on the Go will bring a free local vegetable tasting to fans attending the Sparta vs. Tomah football game Friday (Oct. 10) at Memorial Field in Sparta. A station will be set up with staff from both Districts serving Winter Moon Blend from Fifth Season Cooperative of Viroqua, Wis., and providing information on the program that coordinates farm to school efforts for Tomah, Sparta and Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton school districts.

Gates open at 6 p.m., and the tasting will go until the end of the first quarter or when it is gone. The game starts at 7 p.m.

“The grant we received from Transform Wisconsin is coming to an end, and we wanted to showcase the work Tomah, Sparta and Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton have done by allowing the community to taste a favorite dish of our students that is grown by our local farmers and prepared by our food service staff,” said Autumn Grooms, project coordinator for the grant. “We are proud of the work we have done during this two year time and look forward to continuing to build partnerships that will further develop farm to school programming.”

The blend of butternut squash, carrots, beets and potatoes is roasted and served to students as a side dish.

The Tomah, Sparta and Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton school districts were awarded a Transform Wisconsin Food Systems Impact Grant in 2012 and worked to improve nutrition practices and increase fruit and vegetable consumption for Monroe County children. Among the coalition’s accomplishments are installing school gardens, developing a Harvest of the Month program and increasing the amount of local produce on the school breakfast and lunch menu. Farm to school language was also incorporated into a district wellness policy.


Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack proclaims Aug 3-9 National Farmers Market Week

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has declared Aug. 3 through 9, 2014, “National Farmers Market Week.” Throughout the week, USDA will celebrate our nation’s thousands of farmers markets, farmers who make them possible and the communities that host them.

The declaration was made via an official proclamation signed by Secretary Vilsack. This year marks the 15th Annual National Farmers Market Week recognizing the important role that farmers markets play in the agricultural and food economy. The U.S. Department of Agriculture began declaring National Farmers Market Week in 2000.

“National Farmers Market Week is a great opportunity for farmers markets across the country to host special events to showcase all the tremendous services they provide,” said Secretary Vilsack. “Farmers markets play a key role in developing local and regional food systems that support family farms, and help grow rural economies. They bring communities together, connecting cities with the farms that support them and provide Americans across the country with fresh, healthy food.”

In honor of National Farmers Market Week, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Administrator Anne Alonzo will be at the Dane County Farmers Market located on the grounds of the State Capitol building in Madison, Wis., on Saturday, Aug. 2. The Madison farmers market is the largest producer-only farmers market in the U.S. On Aug. 8, the USDA Farmers Market, located at USDA headquarters in Washington, DC, will host a Healthy Back-To-School Challenge to show kids and their families how to cook simple, healthy, and delicious snacks with seasonal ingredients. Other USDA officials will be at other farmers market locations across the country throughout the week.

Locally, the Sparta Farmers Market is from 2 to 5 p.m. Wednesday and 8 a.m. to noon Saturday on Main Street; and the Tomah Farmers Market is from noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday and 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Gillette Park, corner of East Holton and Superior Avenue.

Thousands of farmers markets across the country offer consumers fresh, affordable, convenient, and healthful products sold directly from the farm. They also offer additional market opportunities for local producers, especially smaller or newer operations. Farmers markets increasingly offer electronic benefits transfer technology that can be used by recipients of USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – as well as low-income women, infants, and children and seniors participating in the WIC and Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Programs – to get fresh, seasonal ingredients.

Farmers market development is a cornerstone of the USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative, which coordinates the Department’s policy, resources, and outreach efforts related to local and regional food systems. Secretary Vilsack has identified strengthening local food systems as one of the four pillars of USDA’s commitment to rural economic development, along with production agriculture (including expanding export markets and improving research), promoting conservation and outdoor recreation opportunities, and growing the biobased economy.

Tennis court re-purposed behind Sparta High School

A tennis court behind Sparta High School has been re-purposed for a new type of recreation. More than a dozen wooden garden beds were installed June 30 and were planted June 3 at the site that is home to another school garden started through the Transform Wisconsin grant received by the Tomah, Sparta and Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton … Continue reading

Garden planted at Southside Elementary School

Students planted the Sparta Southside Elementary School Garden Friday, May 23. Classes took turns learning about the garden and planting seeds and plants, many of which were started by students at the Sparta High School Greenhouse.

First hydroponic lettuce harvested for school lunch program at Sparta High School

Students at Sparta High School were served lettuce Wednesday that was grown down the hall in the school’s greenhouse.

The first crop of hydroponic lettuce was harvested at 9:30 a.m. – just in time to be prepared for the student’s first lunch at 11:05 a.m.

“This is so exciting to have kids producing hydroponic lettuce that we can use in the cafeteria that we can use for our high school students,” said Cindy Thesing, nutrition services supervisor. “This is a fantastic opportunity for all of the kids involved in this new growing venture.”

The equipment was purchased through a Transform Wisconsin Food Systems Impact grant the school district received with Tomah and Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton school districts. Efforts have focused on increasing farm to school efforts and bringing local produce to the students meal trays. The hydroponic equipment will allow continued local produce during the academic school years when school gardens are not in production.

“Our students have really bought into this idea of growing food for our cafeteria. This is one of the things that the students are constantly pacing back to check out,” said Sparta High School Agriculture Teacher Eric Follendorf. “Every week they make comments about how much it has grown since the previous day.”




Monroe County Schools on the Go interviewed by NPR La Crosse

Just a fantastic Transform Wisconsin interview on NPR La Crosse with Mary Meehan Strub, Paula Silha (La Crosse County), and Autumn Grooms (Monroe County Schools on the Go)! They talk obesity, tobacco, and polling results. It’s all in there. Great job!

“This polling data shows that people in Western Wisconsin do care about this.” A must listen and victory to have this amount of time (over 20 min.) to talk about what we are all passionate about.

Link :

Tomah students learn first hand where their food comes from

Tomah students learn first hand where their food comes from

Check out this story from Farmer Jake Wedeberg’s visit to Lemonweir Elementary in Tomah! A big thank you to WKBT for stopping out!

The Two Bite Club

The Two Bite Club

This downloadable book from the USDA’s Team Nutrition encourages children to try new foods.

Monroe County Schools on the Go Celebrates Farm to School Month

Monroe County Schools on the Go is celebrating October as Farm to School month with student taste tests, farmer visits to schools and a community and school gardening workshop. 

Students are tasting roasted squash, potatoes and carrots; apple salad; local watermelon, and dried cranberry cherry craisins, among other items. 

Farmer Jake Wedeberg who works on his family’s century farm near Gays Mills, Wis., presented at schools in the three coalition districts Oct. 22 and 24. The farm has been certified organic for 22 years and he and his brother are proud and excited to be fifth generation organic farmers. 

Wedeberg’s interactive presentation included cow milking, a bean bag toss, butter making and taste testing. At Lakeview Elementary in Sparta, he was joined by Farm to School Chef Jason Boris and Community Health Education Specialist Jess Shown for additional taste tests and activities. 

The presentation and taste tastings are part of the coalition’s efforts to increase fresh fruit and vegetable consumption in Monroe County. Through a Transform Wisconsin Food Systems Impact grant,  Monroe County Schools on the go is working to create a sustainable food system by developing and implementing a strong farm to school effort in the Tomah, Sparta and Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton school districts.

The school and community garden workshop Oct. 24 at the Barney Center in Sparta was well attended. Beth Hanna from Community GroundWorks led the session and provided insight into the best practices for school and community gardening.Image




School garden workshop Oct. 24 with Beth Hanna from Community GroundWorks

Monroe County Schools on the Go will host a school garden workshop from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24, at the Barney Center in Sparta.

Beth Hanna from the Wisconsin School Garden Initiative at Community GroundWorks will lead the training that will include information on garden sustainability and farm to school.

“We are excited to be bringing Beth Hanna to Monroe County. She has great knowledge of creating sustainable school and community gardens and will be able to help us move the projects we have started toward becoming more sustainable,” said Autumn Grooms, project coordinator for Monroe County Schools on the Go. “Having installed school gardens at Tomah, Sparta and Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton schools through the Transform Wisconsin grant our coalition received, it is important that we look at ways to maintain them and make sure they are providing educational opportunities into the future.”

Those interested in gardening – especially school and community gardens – are encouraged to attend this free workshop. Please contact Grooms at (608) 269-3151 or email for more information or to register.

The Wisconsin School Garden Initiative is a three-year project of Community GroundWorks, which seeks to employ youth gardening and garden-based education to improve child health outcomes. At the end of the three years, the initiative intends to launch an ongoing Wisconsin School Garden Network as an independent body.

The Wisconsin School Garden Initiative builds off the success of the Got Dirt? Gardening Initiative and is funded by the Wisconsin Partnership Program at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health.