Working with Local Farms

TCAPS Food & Nutrition Services works with local farms to provide fresh, tasty, and healthy foods to all students in the district.

Farm to School Newsletter

Michigan Farm to Freezer Initiative

Video DocumentView this Farm to Freezer video featuring Brandon Seng and Mark Coe, founders of Michigan Farm to Freezer, as they talk about their efforts to increase the year-round availability of farm-fresh, locally-harvested fruits and vegetables. The Michigan Farm to Freezer initiative began right here in Traverse City in 2013, and TCAPS is proud to have been an early supporter of the program. As Brandon Seng recently shared with TCAPS' Food & Nutrition Services Director Tom Freitas, "This all started with an asparagus contract with TCAPS! Crazy how it has grown since then. Thanks for all your continued support in our effort." 

The Michigan Farm to Freezer program has removed the limitation of only being able to offer produce while in season, allowing TCAPS to provide local food offerings throughout the year. 

School Meals Include More Local Fruit & Vegetables Via 10 Cents A Meal Program

The 10 Cents A Meal Program began as a pilot program in Grand Traverse County in 2014. TCAPS was one of the original participants in this pilot program. Since then, the program has expanded to the whole state and become part of the State of Michigan Budget which allows all Michigan schools to purchase Michigan produce for their schools. Please read the following links to find out more about this amazing program:

External Link

External Link

Farm to School Projects

May 2024

Taste Testing with North Bay Produce at Traverse Heights Elementary School

North Bay Produce recently conducted their fourth, and final taste test for the school year, at Traverse Heights. Dried cherries were the focus produce item in preparation for the upcoming Cherry Festival. Students sampled unsweetened dried cherries and a cherry oat blondie bar and were sent home with a small bag of sweetened cherries to share with their family. A big thanks to Mrs. Bogar, the Traverse Heights Kitchen Lead, who developed the cherry oat blondie in the school kitchen using North Bay dried cherries. Most students tried each sample and the majority who tried it loved it!

Some interesting facts about cherries are:

  • Michigan is the largest producer in the world of Montmorency tart cherries.
  • The first tart cherry tree was planted in Traverse City in 1852.
  • There are two main groups of cherries – sweet and tart.

 Staff pictured with dried cherries  Dried cherries poster Staff at table with dried cherries

Fresh Asparagus from Norconk Farm

Spring is officially here! TCAPS Food Service received its shipment of fresh asparagus from Norconk Farm in Empire, Michigan. All TCAPS buildings will be serving the local asparagus this week.

Back of truck full of asparagus

TCAPS Food Service also received its last shipment of fruit for the school year from Michigan Farm to Freezer. Included in that shipment were Michigan frozen blueberries, sweet cherries, sliced peaches, and sliced apples. 

TCAPS would like to thank our Michigan farmers and distributors who allow us to serve Michigan produce at all our buildings every school year.

April 2024

Taste Testing with North Bay Produce at Traverse Heights Elementary School

Students at Traverse Heights Elementary School enjoyed a taste testing by North Bay Produce. For this month's taste test, they brought local blackberries for all our students to try. The blackberries went over well and were a big hit with our students. Please see the photos below of the blackberries and other taste tests that North Bay Produce has done. Thank you to our community partner for giving our students a chance to try new food items. 

Picture of blackberry picture of volunteers with blackberries  Blueberry vinaigrette taste test poster              


February 2024

Taste Testing with North Bay Produce at Traverse Heights Elementary School

Students at Traverse Heights Elementary School enjoyed a taste testing by North Bay Produce. Out of the 262 students at Traverse Heights, 206 students tried the three types of apples. Of those students, 87 of liked the evercrisp, 73 liked the pink lady, and 46 liked the gala apple. The students were extremely excited to be involved in picking their favorite apple, and can't wait for the next one. 

September 2023

Quinoa Salad at Long Lake Elementary School 

The kids taste test at Long Lake Elementary went great, with lots of the kids trying quinoa salad. This was a new food for the majority of the students. The salad was a new gluten-free and vegan option for the kids to try. The results varied when it came to trying, liking, and loving the quinoa salad. It looks like the students who either “loved” or “tried” the quinoa were in the majority. The least voted option was “liking” the quinoa salad but was still very close to reaching the same number of votes as “loved” and “tried.” The recipe is gluten-free and vegan. The quinoa salad included quinoa, black beans, corn, bell peppers, tomatoes. The dressing included lime juice, garlic powder, cumin, red wine vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper.

Students at Long Lake try quinoa salad.












The Grow It, Try It, Like It (GTL) lessons continued with 83 students  from TCAPS and SBPS enjoying lessons involving spinach. The students enjoyed passing around spinach leaves, making observations, and learning how it grows. "I am a Seed" was the classroom reading and students planted spinach plants. The tasting was a plain spinach leaf along with spinach dilly dip with carrots and red peppers to dip. One girl took the smallest bite of dip with her carrot and exclaimed "I LOVE IT!". Many students were surprised that they even really like the plain spinach leaf. The planting activity is always fun and helps the lessons come full circle; the kids are all excited to see how their spinach plant will grow.

An additional 77 students from Blair, Traverse Heights, and Chums Corners Headstart enjoyed the cantaloupe lesson. Readings included "Farmers Market Day" and "Cantaloupe Cat". Students decorated and colored lunch sacks and the tasting was cantaloupe and honeydew melon balls. 

At Blair, 31 Kindergarten, 19 second grade, and 24 fourth grade students completed the fruit and veggie lesson. Students played the "What is it?" guessing game with a mystery fruit or vegetable in a bag and used their senses to figure out what it was. For the most part, the students figured them out pretty quickly, although the cucumber and pear stumped them for a bit! Students learned how to eat a rainbow, took a little fruit and veggie yoga break and ate kale pasta salad! 

Some Blair fourth grade and kindergarten classes also got the healthy lunch lesson in before spring break. They played a magnetic food game, which the students enjoyed and the nutrition educator set different challenges for the fourth graders, such as the first team to get a food from each food group (building a full lunch tray), the first group to get all the vegetables, etc. The all remembered MyPlate very well, which was very encouraging. Students did the drawing of My Favorite Lunch.  Kindergartners learned their five food groups, and we built some healthy lunch examples together! Tasting was a kale pasta salad with one student saying, "This pasta is so yummy; I even ate the green

At Traverse Heights, all K-2 classes did the fruit and vegetable lessons. In
kindergarten there was a rainbow color tour and 28 students went around the tables in the room and talked about each color and how they help our bodies. We read "Sylvia's Spinach" and then tried the pasta salad as well. In second grade, 41 students played the "What Is It?" game, built the rainbow together using food cards, and learned how they help your body. A wonderful observation was our Spanish speaking students were teaching the words of different fruits and vegetables to English speaking students.

The second grade students at Traverse Heights really liked the pasta salad! One student said, "This is the yummiest pasta!", and most students finished their plates. One of the teachers even tried kale for the very first time!

At West Senior High, two Linking Lesson were delivered to 50 students with the first two tastings: strawberry smoothies and hummus (chips and dips). Students did the food color poster activity, researched a different color group of fruits and vegetables, and made a poster with vitamins, benefits, and examples. This has been an excellent and well-received activity. 

Grow It, Try It, Like It (GTL) lessons continued during February with 160 pre-school students. A spinach lesson including a reading of "I'm a Seed", a planting of a spinach seed, and a healthy tasting of dilly spinach dip with carrots was shared with 77 pre-school students.

In addition, the GTL lesson on cantaloupe, comparing honeydew and cantaloupe, was shared with 83 pre-school students who voted on their favorite. A reading of "Farmer’s Market Day" was shared followed by an activity where students colored lunch bags decorated with a cantaloupe. A new class of GTL began at Central Grade School and they will receive five lessons
throughout the rest of the year. Continuous feedback from classroom teachers indicate very positive response to the GTL curriculum and our nutrition educators.

February PE-Nut lessons at Blair with six classes and consisted of the healthy snack lessons and trying the chips and dips snacks. The four lower elementary classes tried guacamole and red pepper hummus. Overall, they reacted pretty well to the new foods. One class knew what hummus was because they saw their teacher eating it in school! For the fourth and fifth grades, the healthy tasting was toum sauce with little naan dippers. Students loved trying something unique and brand new. Some reactions:
"Woah, this is garlic spicy but I like it!", "Why have I never tried guacamole before?" The fifth grade teachers tells our nutrition educator that students are now buying these items and eating them on a regular basis! 

At Traverse Heights, all six classes also did snack lessons. Our nutrition educator used the idea of a stoplight to learn healthy "go"  snacks and sometimes "woah/stop" snacks. It also worked out that the snack was stoplight themed too with the red hummus and green guacamole. There were many clean plates during those lessons. Our nutrition educator also challenged the upper elementary students to bring at least one “go-healthy” snack to school the next week to promote family engagement. The best reaction from a student was “ I love "woah" snacks but I guess I can try to have a "go"
snack at school, too.”

The always popular sweet potato lesson from Grow It, Try It, Like It, with a reading from Oliver’s Vegetables, sweet potato painting and a tasting of sweet potato muffins was enjoyed by 86 students from Blair Elementary, Traverse Heights Elementary School and Chum’s Corner (Headstart). Students love this lesson and are completely engaged during it. 

December 2022 Food to School Projects

All of the upper elementary classes at Blair and Traverse Heights enjoyed the Farm to Pizza lesson with the crunchy bagel pizza tasting. Also at Blair, our nutrition educator participated in a PEA—Math Night—where students made cucumber stackers, but made them into evergreen trees. Students counted the materials and made a pattern with cucumbers and crackers.  Many of the students also enjoyed a choice of hummus.


At West Senior High, the first semester of Linking Lessons was completed with four health classes. The students responded very well to the lessons. Smoothies, hummus, and veggies quesadillas were offered in the last three lessons. Linking Lessons has become an integral part of the health curriculum at West!

Preschoolers at Blair and Traverse Heights enjoyed the squash lesson from the Grow It, Try It, Like It curriculum. This included a reading of The Surprise Garden, a seed art activity, and a tasting of squash pasta salad. Many of the students had never tasted yellow squash and it was encouraging to see their willingness to try something unfamiliar. 

PE-Nut offered the "Where Does Food Come From?" lesson with students, creating crunchy pizza cakes of mini bagels with veggie toppings (red and yellow peppers, tomatoes, artichokes, spinach, pineapple, carrots, green onions). This lesson included a reading from Tops and Bottoms and student reviews of the tasting were very positive:  “I give this one billion out of ten” “This is better than regular pizza!” Discussion included the parts of plants, a FitBit that focused on identifying favorite fruits and veggies, and upper elementary students enjoyed the Farm to Pizza activity.

Linking Lessons at Traverse City West focused on the fruit and veggie lesson.  Students created posters displaying the “ food rainbow,”  with each group choosing a color and coordinating it with fruit and veggies. This allowed the students to use multiple learning styles. PowerPoint and a video were used and students also used food ads, magazines, and computers to do research.  Hummus and guacamole were the chips and dips tasting and many students asked for the hummus recipe.


TCAPS would like to thank R&K Farms, a local farm in Beulah, Michigan, for their generous donation of 20+ bushels of beautiful Michigan apples. TCAPS Food Service continuously works to find ways to serve our students Michigan produce and truly appreciates when local farmers are able to help us with that goal. Thank you R&K Farms!

Apples donated by R&K Farms


Courtade Elementary School has partnered with North Ed's Farm to School program to bring a "pop-up" farmers market to their school on Tuesday, October 11, 2022. There will be about 7 different vendors. All students and staff will get to visit the market and community members are also invited to attend!

Courtade Pop-Up Farmers Market will take place on October 11 from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.


Spring is here and we have received our first shipment of fresh local asparagus from Norconk Farms in Empire Michigan. All TCAPS buildings will be serving fresh roasted asparagus next week. 

Asparagus Harvest

TCAPS High School Students Participate in PE-Nut Program Taste Tests

WSH students participate in Good Morning Cobbler taste test

As part of the PE-Nut program, TCAPS educator Brooke Juday recently conducted taste tests at all three TCAPS high schools. Students were able to sample Good Morning Cobbler and Kale and Parmesan Pasta Salad. Students seemed to really like both recipes and thought they would be good additions to the school lunch menu.

This program is funded through a grant from the Michigan Fitness Foundation's Healthy Schools, Healthy Communities program.

Kohlrabi Sticks - Not Your Traditional French Fry

Kohlrabi sticks before and after baking

Blair Elementary School students were treated to an exciting alternative to traditional french fries. Students were introduced to Kohlrabi Sticks and the consensus was they were very good! 

9 & 10 News Story Highlights TCAPS' Farm to School Program

Photo from 9&10 News story on TCAPS' Farm to School program

October is National Farm to School Month. On October 15, 2019, 9&10 News visited Eastern Elementary School to learn more about TCAPS' Farm to School program. 

Spooky Saskatoon Crumble Taste Tests

Eastern Elementary School

Eastern Elementary Saskatoon Taste Test Poster

Students at Eastern Elementary School had the opportunity to taste Saskatoon berries in a yummy dessert on October 24, 2019. As part of the farm to school program, students can taste a variety of fresh local foods! After trying the Saskatoon Crumble students voted on it, seven tried it, 18 liked it, and 74 loved it!

Long Lake Elementary School

saskatoon taste testing

Ever heard of a saskatoon? Well, do you like blueberries? On Friday, October 11th, Long Lake Elementary School students were able to sample saskatoon crumble; featuring Michigan grown saskatoons. This was an excellent way to highlight Michigan produce while encouraging kids to try things they may not be familiar with. The dessert was prepared by TCAPS dietetic intern Elizabeth, with help from Long Lake kitchen employees Sue and Kelly.  Of the 211 participants, 24 tried it, 37 liked it and 140 loved it. PDF DocumentView the recipe.

Asparagus! Think Spring!

fresh asparagus delivered from Norconk Farms and to be served for school lunch



A true sign of spring in northern Michigan is the local asparagus from Norconk Farms in Empire, Michigan which  has been delivered to TCAPS schools. Students at all TCAPS schools will soon be served roasted asparagus for lunch. 



Michigan May Day Smoothie Fundraiser

Student senate volunteers waiting to serve up smoothiesTo help kick off the Michigan fruit growing season and promote healthy eating habits, the Student Senate from both Central High School and West Senior High School were able to help  TCAPS' Food & Nutrition Services staff make Michigan May Day Smoothies and sell them to classmates. The student senates were able to keep $1 per smoothie to put toward future student senate projects. West Senior High School sold 318 smoothies and Central High School sold 107. Here is the recipe:

Michigan May Day Smoothie Recipe

  • 3 cups of frozen Michigan farm to freezer blueberries, tart cherries and apple slices
  • 1 banana
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1/2f cup water
  • 6 ounces yogurt
  • Ice

Michigan May Day Smoothie Preparation

April 2019 Farm to School Projects

Spinach Pesto Taste Test of the Month

Spinach pesto in a bowlThis month's taste test of spinach pesto was a success and was loved by most of the students who gave it a try. Here are the numbers:

Central Grade School - 25 tried it, 24 liked it and 297 loved it

Courtade Elementary School - 10 tried it, 21 liked it and 149 loved it

Westwoods Elementary School - 45 tried it, 18 liked it and 221 loved it



Here is the PDF Documentspinach pesto recipe for those who would like to try it at home.

Ingredients (makes approx. 1 cup):

  • 2 cups packed spinach
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. oil (olive, sunflower, grape-seed oil)
  • 1 Tbsp. dried basil
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt


  1. Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor.
  2. Pulse until smooth, add more oil as needed.
  3. Taste and add any additional ingredients and enjoy.

Serve on pasta, add to a sandwich or use it as a dip with fresh vegetables.

Cooking Classes for Families

Families participate in healthy taco cooking class

Family cooking classes were held at Courtade Elementary School and Westwoods Elementary School in April. Loghan Call of Planted Cuisine was the guest chef and taught parents creative ways to add more vegetables to taco night. Students were able to press their own tortillas during the classes. 


March 2019 Farm to School Projects

Peas & Rice Stir Fry Taste Test

Students from Central Grade School and Courtade Elementary School sampled Peas & Rice Stir Fry for their March taste test. The recipe, made with fried rice, peas and topped with a pea shoot, was a great success! Here are the results:

  • Central Grade: 24 tried it, 53 liked it, 276 loved it
  • Courtade: 32 tried it, 26 liked it, 114 loved it

February 2019 Farm to School Projects

My Heart Beets for You, Hummus

My Heart Beets for you, Hummus poster and hummus samples

Students at Willow Hill Elementary School were able to try beets in a totally new way. Of the students who participated, 56 tried it, 70 liked it and 53 loved it. After trying the beet hummus, students place a sticker on a poster in either the tried it, liked it or loved it categories to get an overall picture of recipe's success. Recipes with high success rates may just find themselves on a future school menu.

Students Love Dry Bean Chili

Students taste test dry bean chili and loved it

Overall, students at three TCAPS elementary schools loved their February taste test of dry bean chili. Central Grade School results had 22 students try it, 68 like it and 253 who absolutely loved it! At Courtade Elementary School 23 tried it, 26 liked it and 81 loved it. Westwoods Elementary School had similar results with 41 students who tried it, 20 who liked it and 142 who loved dry bean chili.  Download the PDF Documentdry bean chili recipe and try it at home.

January  2019 Farm to School Projects 

Three Schools Give Rainbow Potato Salad A Try

Three Schools Give Rainbow Potato Salad A Try

Students from Central Grade School, Courtade Elementary School and Westwoods Elementary School had the opportunity to taste test rainbow potato salad in January. Here are the results:

  • Central Grade - 123 tried it, 63 liked it and 145 loved it
  • Courtade - 82 tried it, 33 liked it and 53 loved it
  • Westwoods - 88 tried it, 49 liked it and 112 loved it

Make the PDF DocumentRainbow Potato Salad Recipe at home.

December 2018 Farm to School Projects

Beet Hummus Gets Put to the Test

Students from Central Grade, Courtade and Westwoods give beet hummus a try

Students at Central Grade School, Courtade Elementary School and Westwoods Elementary School sampled beet hummus this month and the majority of students loved the recipe, saying things like "amazing", "magic" and "when will this be on the menu!"

Of the 385 students at Central Grade School that participated, 254 loved beet hummus, 72 liked it and 59 tried it.

Courtade Elementary School had 183 students give the recipe a try, with 126 students loving it, 25 liking it and 32 trying it.

Students at Westwoods Elementary School also had a majority (174) of the 274 students participating in their taste test loving the beet hummus. Fifty-two liked it and 48 tried it. 

November 2018 Farm to School Projects

honey glazed parsnips and carrots taste test samplesHoney Glazed Parsnips and Carrots

Students at Central Grade School, Courtade Elementary School and Westwoods Elementary School had the opportunity to taste honey glazed parsnips and carrots at recent taste tests held at each school. A total of 742 students participated in all and most students like it or loved it. The vegetables were sauted in butter and honey and sprinkled with rosemary. Second Spring Farm donated all the produce for the taste test. 

Taste Test Results by School

  • Central Grade - 355 students, 101 tried it, 97 liked it, 157 loved it
  • Courtade - 188 students, 46 tried it, 58 liked it, 84 loved it
  • Westwoods - 199 students, 52 tried it, 55 liked it, 92 liked it

October 2018 Farm to School Projects

Courtade Elementary School

School-wide Apple Crunch

Courtade Elementary students participate in apple crunch eventCourtade Elementary School students participated in a school-wide apple crunch event. Apples were generously donated by Bardenhagen Farms.




Central Grade School

Swiss Chard Taste Test

Swiss Chard taste test posters of tried it, liked it, loved itOver half of Central Grade School's student body participated in a taste test of swiss chard in sage butter. Of the 338 that tasted the recipe, 117 tried it, 110 liked it and 111 loved it. The swiss chard and sage were harvested from the school's very own garden. 



Westwoods Elementary School

Pop-Up Farmer's Market

Students checking out the booths at the school's pop-up farmer's marketStudents at Westwoods Elementary School enjoyed their time exploring the booths at the school's pop-up farmer's market. 

They also participated in a school-wide apple crunch. Apples were donated by Wunsch Farms.



2017-2018 Farm to School Projects Summary

Courtade Elementary School 

2 Healthy Snack Taste Tests

radish with hummus taste test posterBoth took place in the cafeteria & all students tasted snacks during their lunch period

Apples/Pears/Cantaloupe with low-fat greek yogurt dip and Radishes with hummus

Students voted Tried It-Liked It-Loved It


Family Cooking Class

Courtade students participate in a Farm to School cooking classAfter school event

Parents worked with Chef Adam McMarlin to learn how to break down a chicken while students taste tested local root vegetables

Each family went home with the ingredients/recipes to make the meal themselves

Co-convened with Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities, Taste the Local Difference


Westwoods Elementary School

Family Cooking Class

westwoods students participated in cooking classAfter school event, held in the Family-Consumer Science classrooms at West Middle School

Parents worked with Chef Adam McMarlin to learn how to break down a chicken while students taste tested local root vegetables

Each family went home with the ingredients/recipes to make the meal themselves

Co-convened with Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities, Taste the Local Difference

Pop-Up Farmers Market

westwoods students looking at lettuce at farmer's marketOne-time, school-based farmers market, held on the school lawn

Six vendors with local spring produce and value-added products

Teachers received vouchers to use to purchase produce for their classrooms

Most farmers allowed students to taste test their offerings (pea shoots, jam, etc)

Co-convened with Taste the Local Difference

Central Grade School

Two Family Cooking Classes

central grade school students in cooking classAfter school event

Parents worked with Chef Adam McMarlin to learn how to break down a chicken while students taste tested local root vegetables

Each family went home with the ingredients/recipes to make the meal themselves

Co-convened with Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities, Taste the Local Difference

School Garden Revitalization and Lessons

central grade school student planting with three sistersPartnered with three classrooms - one each of 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade

Facilitated three lessons with each classroom that incorporated garden work time with curriculum connections (math, science, social studies)

Partnered with TCAPS and the Grand Traverse Band to have GT Band members present to students about the legend of the three sisters and help the students plant their own three sisters garden (External LinkRecord-Eagle Article about the partnership)

Coordinated with Master Gardeners, parents, and community members to ensure summer garden care