LISBON — In a community where agriculture has always been part of the social fabric, there is no irony in the Lisbon Central School District’s involvement in a pilot farm-to-school program promoted by state officials.

The school district recently received new vegetable-growing racks as part of a $300,000 grant secured by Assemblywoman Addie A. E. Jenne, D-Theresa, for a program designed to promote local agriculture while improving the nutrition of the food served in school lunch rooms. The new agricultural racks at Lisbon Central will be used to grow and harvest fresh produce that can be served to students in the district year-round.

In recent weeks cafeteria staff have already started planting a variety of greens and other plants using the new equipment. The produce will be incorporated into the cafeteria’s lunch menus as soon as they are ready.

In addition to adding another healthy component to the school menu, the produce growing racks will also be used by science and technology teachers in the rural district to add a fresh educational component to their classroom curriculum, according to officials.

Ms. Jenne said the technology being used as part of the farm-to-school initiative has great potential for use in sponsored school gardening projects. She said the quality of the produce grown is also superior,

“The quality of the produce being grown in this greenhouse is obviously much higher than something triple-washed and bagged in California and sitting on a shelf for who knows how long,” Ms. Jenne said in a statement.

The growing racks are sold by a company known as 2445 Organics, Massena, and patented by north country businessman Andy Maslin, according to Ms. Jenne. She said Mr. Maslin recently visited the Lisbon Central School District to help set up the project.

The push to enhance farm-to-school opportunities at Lisbon Central and in other parts of the state is part of a larger effort being promoted by Ms. Jenne and other lawmakers known as the “Drive for 25” program. The effort is supported by the New York School Nutrition Association.

Ms. Jenne helped secure $300,000 in state funding for the Adirondack North Country Association to oversee the program, aimed at providing up to 25 cents more in reimbursements per lunch for schools that expand usage of local food.

In June, Ms. Jenne said she supports the effort because she believes access to fresh food will help the students learn and grow while providing enhanced opportunities for local farmers.

Story from Watertown Daily Times