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Imperial Valley Farm to School

The Farm to School Initiative is a growing movement that aims to integrate agriculture into schools, organizations, and the community. Farm to School programs include the procurement of local fresh foods for school lunches, providing hands-on learning experiences for students, and the incorporation of nutrition and ag education at all levels of learning. 

In the Imperial Valley, the Farm to School movement has the unique potential to create a greater sense of connection and pride in our community as well as connect underserved populations with high quality, fresh, and nutritious food. The field of agriculture is a dominant industry in our county, yet many of the people within the area do not always have access to healthy foods or the knowledge to understand where food comes from and make informed decisions. With the USDA-NIFA Farm to School grant, Farm Smart and UC CalFresh Healthy Living Imperial Valley has been able to make positive steps toward promoting agricultural and environmental literacy, and connecting stakeholders to advance change. 


Media and News Coverage

Farm-to-School Links and Resources

Healthy Choices Through History Field Trip (4th-6th Grade)

Field Trip Flyer

Healthy Choices Through History Interest Form

Questions? Contact

Valeria Landeros, Farm Smart Educator


 Office: 760-356-3067 | Cell: 760-791-0261

2023 Farm-to-School Conference

More information coming soon

2022 Farm-to-School Conference

Conference Details

Day 1: Imperial County Farm-to-School Initiative Conference Meeting

Date: Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Time: 8am-1pm

Location: University of California Desert Research & Extension Center

1004 Holton Rd

Holtville, CA 92250

UC DREC: Entrance and Parking Map

Day 2: Intro to Imperial Valley Ag Tour

Date: Thursday, June 16, 2022

Time: 8am-1pm

Location: University of California Desert Research & Extension Center

1004 Holton Rd

Holtville, CA 92250

UC DREC: Entrance and Parking Map

Host Organization

UC ANR: Desert Research and Extension Center & UC Cooperative Extension

True to the mission of the land grant universities, University of California (UC) Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) connects the expertise of UC research in agriculture, natural resources, nutrition and youth development with local communities to improve the lives of all Californians. Imperial County UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) and Desert Research and Extension Center (DREC), as local entities of the UC, conduct regular needs assessments in Imperial County, identify local issues, and conduct research and extension programs including: the CalFresh Healthy Living (SNAP-Ed), 4-H, and Farm Smart.

Key personnel managing and administering the grant include:

  • Dr. Jairo Diaz, Director of DREC
  • Dr. Yu Meng, Youth, Family, and Community Advisor of UCCE
  • Farm Smart Program Manager Stacey Amparano
  • CalFresh Healthy Living, UC Team

Host Organization


Day 1: Imperial County Farm-to-School Initiative Conference Meeting

Conference Agenda

Yu Meng
Opening Session: Dr. Yu Meng is a UCCE advisor specialized in nutrition education, positive youth development, and community development. Her research and extension focus on obesity prevention, food security, and climate change literacy. Her work in Farm-to-School aims to strengthen community connections to assist school districts in FTS efforts and resilience to food insecurity. She will talk briefly about the background of the Farm-to-School grant DREC and UCCE got last year, why we are offering this conference, and what we want to achieve through this conference.

Contact Yu Meng at ucmeng@ucanr.edu    

Ag Education Nutrition Curriculum Session: CalFresh Healthy Living, UC Program will lead this session to introduce four research evidence-based agriculture and nutrition curriculum to support Farm-to-School activities in garden, classroom, field trips, and cafeterias. Farm Smart Program manager Stacey and volunteer lead Stephanie deliver FTS curriculum and field trips opportunities to schools. Christopher Wong is the program supervisor and his team members are Martha and Rigo. Together the team is going to expand their reach to schools and community sites, offering more onsite education, and are ready to collaborate with you and support your Farm to School grant and activities.

Contact Chris Wong at cgowong@ucanr.edu


San Diego Farm to Institution Center 

The Farm to Institution Center (F2I Center, https://f2icenter.org/) is a division of Community Health Improvement Partners (CHIP). Established in 1995, CHIP has been a leader in innovative, collaborative solutions to address critical community health issues in the San Diego region. CHIP brings together diverse partners to assess community health needs, educate, and advocate to create policy, systems and environmental change which reduce health disparities. CHIP provides backbone support to plan, coordinate, and support collaborative initiatives to solve our most complex health problems.

Keynote Session Speakers:

keynote speakers

The mission of the Farm to Institution Center is to promote healthy local communities and build a vibrant agricultural scene through facilitation, collaboration, and education. Within this work, the F2I Center: 1)  increases access to and consumption of healthy foods in collaboration with school districts, hospitals, and institutional partners. 2)  instills a passion for local healthy food through education, advocacy, and community engagement; 3) supports farmers in the creation of a vibrant, diverse, and growing local agricultural scene.

Toni Earned a BS in Hospitality and Restaurants from Madison University with an emphasis in Agribusiness and culinary destination management. Proud past president of Slow Food San Diego North, Chopra trained Lifestyles and Functional Nutrition Instructor, cooking class teacher with over 7000 students from around the globe and Amazon Best Seller cookbook author.

Dane earned a B.S. in Kinesiology and Health Promotion and a minor Psychology from California Polytechnic State University, Pomona. In his role with the Farm to Institution Center, Dane leads program coordination, logistics, and brokering of local farm-to-buyer sales.

Natalie earned a B.S. in Environmental Science and began as an intern for the F2I Center, then became Program Assistant during the height of the pandemic. In her role, Natalie leads program curriculum development, direct education, communications, and administrative logistics. 

University of California, Davis

Thais UC Davis
Thais Ramos: Associate Specialist, Department of Food Science & Technology, University of California, Davis. Dr. Ramos earned her Master’s degree (2010) and her Ph.D. (2013) in Food Sciences from the Federal University of Lavras, Brazil. Dr. Ramos has over 7 years of experience in applied research and extension in microbial food safety. Since the start of her professional career in the US, she has been working on science-based extension programs and developing applied research that address food safety from production to the end consumer. 

Contact Thais Ramos at tramos@ucdavis.edu  or visit the website: https://ucsmallfarmfoodsafety.ucdavis.edu

California Department of Food and Agriculture

Nick Anicich is the Farm to School Program Manager with the California Department of Food and Agriculture, where he manages the California Farm to School Incubator Grant Program, Farm to Community Food Hub Grant Program, and the California Urban Agriculture Grant Program. Before coming to CDFA, Nick worked as a school garden and culinary teacher, as well as a local food system organizer. He lives in Sacramento with his wife and two children. 

Contact Nick at nicholas.anicich@cdfa.ca.gov or cafarmtoschool@cdfa.ca.gov


Chef Fernando Nuñez -  Calexico High School

Former Executive Chef for 20 years.
Calexico Culinary Arts Instructor for 15 years.

Chef Nunez values student work ethics and attitude toward the future and well-being of our families, communities and our planet as a whole, I have been working at Calexico High School with elementary and high school students in a variety programs including “Teens as Teachers” and “Farm to Table” as well as advising student leadership clubs creating awareness on important issues like sustainability and responsibility. A favorite club of mine is Eco- Garden at Calexico High School since 2016 I have co-advised along with Mr. Chris Wong, Eco -Garden members have grown herbs, fruits, flowers and vegetables for a good number of years with a lot of success when paired with the Culinary Arts Cooking Club Farm to Table happens. FCCLA, Family Career and Community Leaders of America is another student leadership club that has been at the core of student personal growth and in becoming better citizens in our community by showcasing student cooking skills in regional, state and national culinary arts competitions, in the past five years Calexico FCCLA chapter has dominated in this field. I would like to see this trend of student empowerment going forward in to the future after retirement I hope to see one of my former students pick up the torch and keep the CHS Culinary program strong and flourish into the future.  

Michelle Taylor
Michelle Taylor – Brawley FFA

I started at Brawley Union High School in 1996 as an agriculture teacher and FFA Advisor. I am an animal science major from Fresno State and received my agricultural teaching credential from Cal Poly Pomona. I am the mom of three kids who were active in 4-H and FFA during their youth. I enjoy hiking and have started getting involved in shooting sports recently.

In 1996, the ag department only had a very small greenhouse that was not being used. During an advisory board meeting ideas were formulated and from that meeting a hydroponic greenhouse was conceived. We spent a year driving all over Az and Southern CA looking at greenhouse. We consulted with Merle Jenson from Univ of AZ who helped us with our final plan, a 30 by 120 ft hydroponic greenhouse. The greenhouse was built with mostly community funding and the school provided many hours of construction staff to help as well. For 20 years the greenhouse only produced tomatoes, about 850 plants at full capacity. During the 2 to 3 weeks of peak harvest about 2,000 lbs per week were picked. Most of the tomatoes were sold to San Diego farmer market vendors. About 5 years ago the cool cell pad end of the greenhouse needed to be rebuilt and this stopped its use. During the pandemic school received extra money for various projects and that allowed for the end wall to be rebuilt but without cool cell pads. 2021-22 the greenhouse went back into production with a smaller tomato growing area but with an added lettuce bed, student research area and storage room. Also the outside of the greenhouse was give a remodel as well. 5 large raised garden beds were installed. Perennial beds with brick walkways are being built currently and a small citrus Grove will be planted by the end of May. The next phase will be to add a small animal barn and add an edible landscaped entrance way with the Kermit Keiwer dedication sign reinstalled. 

Contact Michelle at mtaylor@brawleyhigh.org or (760)791-8544 (cell) Please only call during daylight hours

Day 2: Intro to Imperial Valley Ag Tour Host and Speakers

Conference Agenda

Tour Guide: Stacey Amparano is the Program Manager for Farm Smart, the outreach program located at the UC Desert Research & Extension Center in Holtville, CA.  This program began in 2001 and continues its mission to promote a better understanding of agriculture, the source of our food, fiber, and energy, and its impact on our economy and daily lives, as well as protecting natural resources and cultivating healthy people and communities.

brooke latack
Brooke Latack, UCCE Livestock Advisor for Imperial, Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties http://ceimperial.ucanr.edu/ Contact Brooke at bclatack@ucanr.edu





Dr. Jairo Diaz, UC DREC Director  http://drec.ucanr.edu/ 

Dr. Jairo Diaz is a first-generation Latino graduate. Jairo achieved BS, MS, and PhD engineering degrees from major universities in Colombia, Puerto Rico, and Mississippi, respectively. His professional career has been in academia performing various roles from teaching classes, performing agricultural and water resources research and extension, mentoring underrepresented students in agriculture and STEM careers, to managing research centers. Currently, Jairo is the director of the University of California Desert Research and Extension Center located in Imperial County. 

Contact Jairo at jdiazr@ucanr.edu

Dr. Apurba Barman, UCCE Imperial County Low Desert IPM Advisor http://ceimperial.ucanr.edu/ Contact Apurba at akbarman@ucanr.edu




Kristian Salgado, UCCE Imperial County Master Gardener Program Coordinator http://ceimperial.ucanr.edu/ 

Kristian Salgado has been working for the past three years for the University of California Cooperative Extensions (UCCE)-Imperial County, Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) program, as a Community Education Specialist II. In this position, she has greatly enjoyed working with ranchers and farmers in the low desert region brainstorming, applying, and successfully being awarded state funds that support the adoption of CSA practices. She has had the opportunity to visit feedlots and farmer’s fields to see first-hand what management practices are currently used, and how the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) – Climate Smart Agriculture Grants can assist farmers in sustaining their operation in the face of Climate Change. In Mrs. Salgado’s experience, farmers and ranchers greatly appreciate knowing that there is someone housed at their local Cooperative Extension dedicated solely to support and help them access these funds, and who can help demystify the grant application process.

Mrs. Salgado graduated from Cal Ploy Humboldt in 2018 (formerly known as Humboldt State University) with a Master’s of Art Degree in Social Science as part of an interdisciplinary program called Environment and the Community. The E&C Program provided her with the opportunity to engage with a wide range of literature and research methods (not to mention amazing interdisciplinary faculty) that profoundly shaped her community organizing, research, and career work in the far southeastern corner of California - the Imperial Valley. It also gave her the opportunity to shape a graduate project/thesis that explored her identity and place-based knowledge as a Xicana from the small border town of Calexico where she has been working on environmental justice issues for over a decade.

Mrs. Salgado’s graduate research methodology is grounded in Participatory Action Research (PAR), and citizen science, environmental justice discourse, and the environmental decision-making process. She feels passionate about the proper dissemination and development of knowledge that can help support community development. As an undergraduate at San Diego State University (SDSU) she double majored in both her passions: Psychology and Environmental Studies with a minor in Counseling and Social Change.

She is excited to be the new Master Gardener Coordinator for the Imperial County, a county that will be beginning their program in 2023 with their first group of trained Master Gardeners. She is an avid gardener and supporter of a handful of small community-based gardens.

Contact Kristian at kmsalgado@ucanr.edu