Schools and Local Rancher Team Up to Provide Organic Local Beef to Schoolkids
Humboldt Co. Press Release:
For one day in March, students across the County will be served local, organic, grass-fed beef in their school lunches. It is part of a collaborative effort among public and private sectors to get more locally produced food into school meals. On Tuesday, March 19 school districts across Humboldt County will take part in the first-ever “Taco Tuesday,” featuring beef donated by Eel River Organic Beef. Their beef is completely free of steroids, antibiotics, hormones, genetically modified foods, and the cows are never fed any animal proteins. “We want to assist in providing high-quality, nutritious foods to our kids; foods produced right here at home,” said Clint Victorine, owner of Eel River Organic Beef and Pacific Pastures grass-fed beef.
Linda Prescott, Nutrition Education Program Manager for Humboldt County Office of Education, helped organize the event and saw value in involving many schools.
“We were amazed by Clint’s generosity, and decided to highlight his product through a coordinated county-wide effort,” said Prescott. “We want to especially highlight the community and health benefits.” Victorine is a Humboldt native who got his start through 4-H and the Future Farmers of America while attending Hydesville Elementary and Fortuna High. “I actually started my business in high school,” he said. A local family-run business, Eel River Organic and Pacific Pastures Beef produces 100-percent certified organic and grass-fed beef in Humboldt and Mendocino Counties. His company is now one of the largest of its kind in the nation. In addition to local beef, Taco Tuesday will also feature the salsa that was selected as “Most Marketable” in HCOE’s 2012 Culinary All STARS Salsa Recipe Competition. Bien Padre will be producing a limited run of the “Viva Las Veggies” recipe created by South Fortuna Elementary EXCEL afterschool program, with the first release scheduled in time for March 19.
“Good food is part of the Humboldt County identity,” said Angeline Schwab from the Humboldt County Economic Development Division, who worked with HCOE, Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) and Eel River Organic beef to set up Taco Tuesday. “We hope this project will spark conversations between producers and the schools to get more locally produced meats into our schools.”
Ironically, Eel River Organic and Pacific Pastures sell most of their grass-fed beef outside of the County through stores such as Whole Foods Markets in the Southern Pacific Region and Independent retailers from San Diego to Anchorage Alaska. Tony’s Fine Foods, Eel Rivers’ main distributor, is located in West Sacramento, making it better known in Los Angeles, the Bay Area, Sacramento, and Seattle supermarkets than it is in Humboldt. “As a community of beef producers, we would like to provide healthy, local beef to the schools more regularly,” said Victorine. He plans to donate grass-fed beef hot dogs to each school in the County by the end of the school year, and is working with HCOE for an on-going relationship.
Erin Derden-Little, the Humboldt Farm to School Coordinator for CAFF, is also helping with the project. CAFF has been working with Humboldt school districts to source local produce for their meal programs.
“This is an exciting development for the County,” said Derden-Little. “Schools have proven to be a viable market for a number of local produce growers, and now Clint has opened up the possibilities with his beef.” Derden-Little has been speaking with school districts outside of Humboldt that are currently purchasing local, high quality meat for their meal programs. Successful models exist from Oregon to Vermont. Her aim is to learn from their challenges and best practices to develop future opportunities for ranchers to sell their beef to Humboldt County schools.
“We are hopeful that we can make local beef a reality for schools beyond these donations.”