Making a Difference: Fayette County farm provides fresh food to local schools

HICO, WV (WOAY) – For our final edition of Making a Difference Monday, we are featuring a local farm who has stepped up to provide Fayette County Schools with farm fresh goods.

There has been a long history of a farm to school program in Fayette County, and when Andrew Pense took the reins of the child nutrition program in July, he reached out to farmers in the area to reestablish those relationships.

T.J. Franklin at West Virginia Homegrown Farms in Hico jumped on board immediately. 

“Since about the first of August, I’ve been able to deliver produce over here at Midland Trail for a while and recently over at Oak Hill Middle School,” Franklin said. “Bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, cucumbers when we have them, things like that. Hoping when the kids get back in school they’ll be a few more things. Like I have garlic. I took some corn while I had corn.” 

For Fayette County Schools having farm fresh, local produce to give out in their lunch packs during the summer and remote learning and eventually having it on their trays at school is a win-win for the community. 

“It’s picked right off the vine at the peak of ripeness,” Pense said. “It wasn’t picked early so that it can be shipped across the country so our kids are getting the best quality food that we can source. Another beauty of it is that we are taking some of our dollars, our school dollars and we’re putting that right back into the community.” 

During these times with a heightened sense of awareness of where food comes from and who has touched it, being able to say it came from just up the road, Pense says, is huge for the school system. 

For Franklin, who had extra produce from a challenging season, it was something that did not require a second thought. 

“I think it’s important that we take care of each other especially with the way things are right now,” Franklin said. “We need to look out for one another as best we can. And if I’ve got something that I can help make sure that the people around here are getting to eat good, that’s important to me. What they were doing making sure the kids got taken care of all summer is a good thing.” 

If you are a local farmer and would like to be involved, Pense says the best thing to do is call the board office at (304) 574-1176 and ask for the child nutrition program. 

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Anna Saunders is a weekend reporter for WOAY. With a diploma from Princeton Senior High School and a mother from Fayette County, she is no stranger to the area. She received a degree in Media Arts and Design from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia and wanted to return home to start her career as a reporter.