How Sweet It Is: South Texas Citrus Stays Home to Delight Local School Kids

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By Robert Maggiani, NCAT Agriculture Specialist

Regional and local food systems are in the news often. And rightly so—they are truly important to all of us. But what really is a regional or local food system?

Think of a place that you know by name and by feeling. Now think of all the people who live there. What do they eat? Where do they eat? Where does all that food come from? How does it get from point A to point B? Answer those questions, and some others, and you see what a regional or local food system is.

One part of a local food system involves the participation of school kids, probably the most important group we could think of feeding. We all want to provide the best possible food to them. This part—and it’s a huge part—of a local food system is often called the farm to school (FTS) market.

A great example of the workings of a FTS market took place in Mission, Texas, in late January. The Mission School District and the owners of Triple J Organics, also in Mission, came together to provide oranges and grapefruit to the kids in some of their elementary schools. Mission, Texas, is located in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas, about 10 miles from the Mexican border.

The fruit traveled less than one hour from the Triple J orchard to the MISD central warehouse. Talk about reducing the carbon footprint of the system!

Triple J Organics is a certified organic citrus operation located on the north side of Mission. One of the co-owners, Jesse Lozano, has been involved in the citrus industry for over 40 years and has operated Triple J Organics for 27 years. Most of their fruit goes to Whole Foods Market in Austin, Texas, and much of it goes to Common Market Texas, a new food hub in Houston.

Lorenzo Araujo of the Mission ISD, Dr. Alex Racelis of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Hernan Colmenero, and I worked together to make this sale happen.

These transactions in January were the first time that Triple J had ever sold any fruit to local school districts. It won’t be the last time!

Related ATTRA Resources:

Local Food Systems 

Farm to School Sales: Profiles of Ranches Making It Work

Connecting with Institutional Markets: Strategies and Programs for Producers

Episode 199. Fiery Ginger Farm and Natomas School: Why Farm to School 

Other Resources:

Bringing the Farm to School: Producer Resources, National Farm to School Network

This publication is produced by the National Center for Appropriate Technology through the ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture program, under a cooperative agreement with USDA Rural Development. ATTRA.NCAT.ORG.