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Louisiana school administrators meet in Alexandria to cultivate farm-to-school programs

Gray-Walk Farms Facebook

Louisiana school administrators from across the state will meet in Alexandria Tuesday, July 14, to learn how they can incorporate more locally grown food in their school cafeterias.

Foodapalooza: Farm To School Edition” is sponsored by the LSU AgCenter and the Central Louisiana Economic Development Alliance or CLEDA. The day-long event is meant to get schools administrators talking face-to-face with farmers and food wholesalers to see what’s possible, according to CLEDA’s regional innovation director John Cotton Dean.

“We’re going to showcase to school administrators that this is easy to do. You will have healthier students, better food, and you will help the economy and community as well. This is a win for everybody involved,” Dean said.

Dean expects more than 100 people will attend. The schedule includes tours of local farms, including a large hydroponic greenhouse operation. Jay Pearson owns Gray-Walk Farms in Alexandria. His leafy greens are in 225 grocery stores across the South, but not yet in Alexandria-area schools – a wide-open market.

“The school program is very, very much wide open and I think it’s a perfect mix for other farmers just like us to start working with these school systems and providing really healthy choices for kids,” Pearson said.

Pearson bought an 18-hole golf course seven years ago and converted it to agriculture. He has 12 greenhouses and is adding several more this summer with a goal of 50 in the future.

He’s harvesting mustard greens now and the yield is very predictable, unlike row crops that are in the hands of Mother Nature, Pearson says. A reliable harvest is a selling point for schools.

Tuesday’s event is from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the Coughlin Saunders Performing Arts Center, 1202 3rd St.

A second event in New Orleans on July 16, “Edible Schoolyard New Orleans,” is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in Langston Hughes Elementary School, 3519 Trafalger St.

The events are open to anyone interested in local foods and farm to school work. The events are free, but registration is required.

Chuck Smith brings more than 30 years' broadcast and media experience to Red River Radio. He began his career as a radio news reporter and transitioned to television journalism and newsmagazine production. Chuck studied mass communications at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia and motion picture / television production at the University of California at Los Angeles. He has also taught writing for television at York Technical College in Rock Hill, South Carolina and video / film production at Centenary College of Louisiana, Shreveport.
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