The Sibley East High School Future Farmers of America organization and local businesses are on board with the growing farm to school movement.
A school garden northwest of Arlington produces cantaloupe, pickles, squash, red and white cabbage, onions, pumpkins, yellow, green and purple beans that wind up in school lunch hot dishes, salads, salsa and desserts.
Sibley East High School food service employee Joan Budahn said the school has 40 gallons of beans and 10 ice cream pails of refrigerator pickles in a freezer.
Sibley East FFA members at work in the school garden.
"It's a lot of work, but students have given us lots of good feedback about the fresh food," Budahn said. "They enjoy eating food they haven't had since their grandmother served it to them."
Sibley East Agriculture instructor Tim Uhlenkamp, who won the 2010 South-central Minnesota Outstanding Young Ag Teacher award, said he hopes to increase the size of the school garden.
"We're talking about growing apples, grapes and pears," said Uhlenkamp who teaches agriculture along with Jeff Eppen.
Uhlenkamp and Eppen began talking about starting a garden six months ago.
Garden costs were aided by $5,525 from the Minnesota Agriculture Education Leadership Council, a $2,500 AgStar grant, and $1,000 each from Operation Roundup with the Minnesota Valley Electric Coop and Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP).
A recent University of Minnesota study found that farm-to-school gardens provide about $20,000 annually to the regional economy if each school serves one-locally grown meal a month.
Benefits climb to $430,000 a year if large amounts of locally-grown food is used in all schools.
The study focused on apples, beef hot dogs, cabbage, carrots, oatmeal, potatoes, sweet corn and wild rice.
The National Farm to School program shows 46 states with 2,255 operational programs involving 2,136 school districts and 9,714 schools.