Farm to School is an initiative from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
When Sarasota students take a bite out of a fresh fig or a mango, they know the two fruits weren't grown thousands of miles away.
They were grown on a five-acre farm right off McIntosh Road in Sarasota.
The Sarasota Farm to School program is part of an initiative headed by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, with a goal to increase Florida-grown products served in schools and offer healthier options for students.
"Our goal is to get the food that we produce here in as many hands and mouths as possible," said Sara Dan, director of food services and a registered dietitian.
In addition to nutritional value, the program offers educational value as well allowing students to get involved with the agricultural side of working in the gardens.
The farm, at McIntosh Middle School, is managed by Suncoast Technical College and students from the program come out each Monday to harvest produce that will eventually go to 67 Sarasota County cafeterias.
For now, the farm is in its first growing season. Crops that were planted in May are just starting to be harvested, according to Carrie McDonald, the Farm to School program coordinator. The farm is filled with a fruit tree forest, dragonfruit trellises, and a three daughters grove made up of squash, sunflowers and corn, among other crops.
Outside of the farm, students are engaging in taste tests with produce from the gardens. They've already gone through sessions with carambola and figs –– two foods that many students have yet to try in their lives. It's through these tasting sessions that students and the farmers can get a feel for what crops should populate the farm.
"We try to have fun with the kids and should them that we're all in this together," said KateTraugott, Farm to School liaison. "Even if we're just slinging dirt around we try to have fun with it."