Attention local farmers!

The Farm To School Pre-bid Conference is being held this Friday, Jan. 11, at the Big Picture High School in Durango (same building as last year), 215 E. 12th Street in Durango.

Farmers can come to the conference at 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.

The purpose for this conference is to give farmers the opportunity to work with local school districts to source more locally grown foods into our schools' breakfast and lunch programs.

Janet Fogle, Food Service Director for the Mancos School District, currently uses about eight different area farmers. Sunnyside Meats is one of her suppliers, as well as Vic Vanik from Four Seasons Greenhouse, Mary Vozar and Paul Bohmann from Confluence Farm, Berrie Goodall of Bountiful Ridge Farms, Stone Free Farm, Marybeth Gentry from Eagle Tree Farm, Kellie Pettijohn from Wiley Carrot, McElmo Melons and Andy Carter from Yellow Jacket Farm. "We also received quite a bit of food from our very own Mancos School Garden," said Fogle.

The kids in the Mancos cafeteria have seen local beef and pork, melons, apples, pear, peaches, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, kale, carrots, lemon cucumbers, chard, sunflower sprouts, lettuce and many varieties of squash.

"Our producers are eager to please," Fogle said, "and are finding ways to lengthen the season." They enjoyed local potatoes, winter squash and onions for their Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts.

"The Farm-to-School program worked really well for our school," she said. "The love having the salad bar, and we've introduced them to some foods that they normally may not have had access to." Her goal is to get them "thinking outside of the grocery store", and teaching them where their food comes from. They especially liked the kale chips, lemon cucumber salads and the different kinds of squash, she said.

So far, the only problem as been a well-planned delivery system. They currently don't have a central place to pick up the food, which makes it difficult for both the producers and Fogle.

"We want to support the community as well as provide nutritional local foods to our children; however, it still needs to be affordable for school districts to purchase, and that is hard for our producers to do." said Fogle. "Negotiating prices is probably the hardest part, and our producers are willing to take cuts for their products so that we can make this work. So far the producers have been really great to work with and I look forward to going through the bid process with them this year."

For more information, contact Krista Grand at 970-247-5411 ext. 1436