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Farm to school

Food program provides students healthy choices and helps farmers

As the project coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s Farm to School program, Tina Garland helps nutrition directors in the state’s 173 public school systems purchase more food grown by Kentucky farmers. It’s work that seems intuitive but slowed by federal regulations, distribution challenges, menu requirements, purchasing rules, and even by farmers not knowing that nearby schools might buy from them.

To educate students and administrators about Kentucky-grown food, Garland conceived the Junior Chef Competition. Teams of high school students across the state compete in a cooking tournament set up like basketball’s Sweet Sixteen, with district and regional cook-offs and finalists who go to the Kentucky State Fair to cook against each other on the Beef Council Iron Chef stage.

She says, “Creating a nontraditional market for producers gives local farmers hope that they can stay on the farm.” Selling to schools might give farmers just enough extra income to make that possible.

Garland, a Clark Energy member, raises beef on her Montgomery County farm and a favorite recipe is a “reverse sear” steak, which is cooked slowly in a warm oven, then browned at the last minute. It’s especially good for grass-finished beef that sometimes toughens with too-high heat. Garland likes the recipe’s predictable results: “On the grill, I’m not that consistent. Sometimes it’s rare, sometimes it’s medium. With this you will never fail.”

Reverse Sear Steak
By Tina Garland

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