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Small Farmer In Central Valley Takes His Strawberries ‘Farm to School’

By Rebecca Plevin, Valley Public Radio

Pao Saephan's strawberries are just days away from being fully ripe. (Rebecca Plevin/Valley Public Radio)

Pao Saephan’s strawberries are just days away from being fully ripe. (Rebecca Plevin/Valley Public Radio)

Pao Saephan crouches down in his sun-drenched field. He cups a red jewel in his hand. In a few more days, his strawberries will be fully ripe. He’ll pick them once they are rosy red from stem to tip.

“We want all the strawberries, to be full ripe, full flavor, with 100 percent sugar in them,” says Saephan.

In the past, he would sell the fresh berries at his roadside stand, in the small town of Reedley, southeast of Fresno.

The goal is for children to “experience fresh produce and make healthy eating choices over a lifetime.”
But this year, he will sell the bulk of his berries directly to the Fresno Unified School District. He says he is thrilled to share the fruits of his labor with Central Valley students.

“We have farmed a long time, but this is my passion, to be farming something that feeds local,” says Saephan.

Saephan is the first small farmer to sell his produce directly to Fresno Unified. He could pave the way for other small farmers to begin selling their produce directly with the school district.

Jose Alvarado, food services director for Fresno Unified notes that the district is located in the “produce and vegetable capital” of the world. “We have been taking advantage of that,” he says, “but now it’s taking it to another level, from the farmer, when the occasion is right, and it meets our needs. Strawberries were just a natural for us.” Continue reading