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Farm to School Supports Small Farmers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Patrick Leahy Farm to School Grant Program supports small farmers and their families. Meet one of the Farm to School beneficiaries, Anna Nakamura Knight, a fifth-generation farmer.

Children sitting in the back of a long truck bed outside.
YCJUSD students tour the Old Grove Orange Farm.

Old Grove Orange is the name of Anna’s family farm, where her father Bob Knight is the senior partner and she is the junior partner. Old Grove Orange is also the name of their farmer-led food hub of over 25 farmers, most of whom sell exclusively to local public schools in San Bernardino County, California. It is the oldest food hub in the area and a 2022 Farm to School Grant awardee.

With the award, Old Grove Orange is piloting farm field trips for its local school districts’ child nutrition departments and 2,000 elementary school students. The goal of this project is to increase access to local produce and increase procurement from local producers by stimulating student demand and helping child nutrition directors generate buy-in from parents, administrators, and teachers. The project will also increase access to agriculture education by providing students with an experiential learning opportunity that will increase their exposure to local farms.

Three women standing next to a tractor.
YCJUSD's nutritionist Lilyanna Montenegro (left) and child nutrition director Ann Van Damme (center), visit with farmer Anna Knight (right) at the Old Grove Orange Farm.

According to Farmer Anna, Old Grove Orange is a pioneer of Farm to School in California. With more than 17 years of experience, they have found a model that truly works -- Farmer-Active Farm to School.

“This farmer-centered approach is powered by very active lead farmers and receptive, engaged child nutrition departments,” said Anna. “Our farmers proactively approach school districts and innovate new products in response to school district needs.”

Anna stressed that Farm to School is not possible without farmers, supportive child nutrition services partners, and deep, meaningful relationships. Farm to School and child nutrition programs are the right approach to sustainable and economical farming.

Old Grove Orange’s original client was Yucaipa Calimesa Joint Unified School District (YCJUSD), located about 10 miles east of the farm.

"The truth is, school meals and local farmers are made for each other,” said YCJUSD’s Child Nutrition Director Ann Van Damme. “We want the freshest, most nutritious produce for our students. These are supplied by our local farmers, making us a large one-stop-shop customer for their organization."

A child holding a tray of food with rainbow chard, an orange, and chocolate milk.
A YCJUSD student includes healthy choices on his lunch tray.
A picture of a woman pointing adhered to a salad bar with rainbow chard.
Farmer Anna's rainbow chard is available at the YCJUSD salad bar.
Page updated: March 18, 2024