Windham Northeast School Nutrition Director Harley Sterling.
Randolph T. Holhut/The Commons
Windham Northeast School Nutrition Director Harley Sterling.

For WNESU kids, a field trip to the farm

Students meet some heifers and learn where milk really comes from as their school district pilots a state organic milk program, thanks to a $250,000 grant

VERNON — More than 100 Windham Northeast Supervisory Union (WNESU) students visited the Miller Farm here recently, spending time with heifers, taking hay rides, and learning how to make butter.

"I get to learn more things about where the milk comes from," said second-grader Adeline Chamberland, who added she sometimes drinks milk before bed and also has it with cereal.

"I just like knowing stuff," said Maceo Mayhew, a third grader who likes both regular milk and chocolate milk.

Miller Farm bottles its own organic milk and recently expanded its processing operation, thanks to a $250,000 grant from the Northeast Dairy Business Innovation Center.

The grant enabled the farm to add the bulk bags the school nutrition service needs for meal service so organic milk can now be shipped directly to schools, explained Northeast Organic Farming Association spokesperson Helen Rortvedt.

"We are trying to demonstrate that it can be done - local schools can work with local farms," she said.

The Northeast Organic Family Farm Partnership is spearheading the pilot program along with partners Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT) and Farm to Institution New England (FINE) with the goal of not only introducing youngsters to organic foods, but also helping local economies by giving organic dairy farmers a financial boost through school sales.

An added $12 million is currently being rolled out across the region to expand organic dairy farmers' processing capabilities and thus, the program.

Miller Farm and owner Pete Miller served their milk for the field trip fresh from the New England Dairy Mobile Dairy Bar.

Schools participating in this year's pilot program, all part of the WNESU district, are Westminster Center School and Bellows Falls Union High School, Westminster; Rockingham Central Elementary School, Bellows Falls; Saxtons River Elementary School, Saxtons River; and Grafton Elementary School, Grafton.

Vermont Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts mingled with the cows and kids.

"Organic has gone through some serious growing pains," he said. "This project here is a piece of that puzzle - getting into more institutional settings, whether it be schools, correctional facilities, colleges, etc."

A news release about the pilot program, "Pilot program offers Windham Northeast students organic milk from Miller Farm," appeared in the Sept. 27 issue.

This News item by Virginia Ray was written for The Commons.

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