Working with Local Farms

TCAPS Food & Nutrition Services continues to work 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." 

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

More Information About Farm to School

Last year, TCAPS planned more hot vegetables in our school meals in addition to providing daily salad bars to continue to increase local produce consumption in the schools. See the photo gallery below of local farmers who we purchase product from. External LinkFoodCorps, in conjunction with TBAISD, is working to develop classroom videos showing External LinkFoodCorps’ daily classroom lessons. They hope that these videos will allow more schools to incorporate the FoodCorps programs into their curriculum. We are working with the FoodCorps instructors to come up with recipes for future produce that we would like to introduce into our meals and that they can include in their lessons. TCAPS is also working hard to add more community businesses that we partner with to increase consumption of other local products. We recently worked with External LinkStone House Bread to increase our fresh artisan bread choices for this school year in our secondary schools which now feature Friday Panini day.

TCAPS is proud to be partnering with External LinkGoodwill Industries. Last year, the chefs at Goodwill Industries created a marinara sauce for TCAPS using local tomatoes. TCAPS students taste-tested the sauce and gave it their approval. Goodwill Industries roast and freeze local tomatoes, then make the district’s marinara on an as needed basis and deliver it to our schools. In addition to the marinara, Goodwill Industries also bakes breakfast muffins for TCAPS using frozen, local blueberries. They also look to source Michigan whole grain flour and sugar to use in the muffins.

External LinkCherry Capital Foods of Traverse City continues to supply locally grown honey, tomatoes, celery, cucumbers, watermelon, broccoli, onions, blueberries, strawberries, green peppers, zucchini, squash, and frozen cherries while supplies last. TCAPS is currently purchasing some of our produce from Mi Farms Co-op which is located in Leelanau County. Lastly, springtime brings us asparagus from the External LinkNorkonk Farm in Empire.

We have also been working with Brandon Seng of Goodwill Food Programs and the Farm to Freezer initiative. This program will help expand local food offerings throughout the year as Video Documentshowcased in the video of Brandon’s efforts in collaboration with Calvin Lutz Farms.

TCAPS will also be working to expand its Farm-to-School and local purchasing programs into concessions and catering operations this school year.

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

Michigan’s innovative 10 Cents a Meal for School Kids & Farms program is continuing—and it’s expanded. Gov. Rick Snyder signed the $16.8 billion education budget on June 28, 2018, including a $575,000 line item for the 10 Cents a Meal program. Michigan Prosperity Regions 2, 4, 6, 8, and 9 are now eligible to receive 10 Cents funding. TCAPS has applied for funding. 

Other Resources

Farm to School Projects

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!

 Pre-schoolers 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. See below for the recipes:

External LinkGood Morning Cobbler Recipe

External LinkKale & Parmesan Pasta Salad Recipe

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