Nourish Farms to expand eating school on single site

Non- profit healthy food education program moves to Falls barn
by Jeff Pederson of The Review staff


NOURISH FARMS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Heather Cleveland (far right) works at the Nourish Educational Urban Farm in Sheboygan. - Photo by Brandi Bohlman NOURISH FARMS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Heather Cleveland (far right) works at the Nourish Educational Urban Farm in Sheboygan. - Photo by Brandi Bohlman In its 10th year of empowering community members to make wholesome food choices, Nourish Farms is on the move to a new location at the Miley Barn facility in Sheboygan Falls.

With the move scheduled to be completed by Sept. 1, Nourish Farms will transition its headquarters from at the corner of 13th Street and Georgia Avenue in Sheboygan to a scenic 13-acre property off of Alfred Miley Way in Sheboygan Falls with the historic Miley Barn owned by Dick Bemis serving as the centerpiece.

The barn will house the Nourish Farms offices and serve as a hosting facility for a wide variety of educational programming, as well as special events, activities and meetings.

“The move will allow us to increase our capacity considerably,” Nourish Farms Executive Director Heather Cleveland said. “We are at capacity in our current office space in Sheboygan, and having such a beautiful building to house our offices and our events is just such an exciting thing for all of us at Nourish.


NOURISH FARMS VOLUNTEER Eirick Nelson and his daughter clean vegetables at the Nourish Educational Urban Farm in Sheboygan. Nourish Farms is set to move to its new home at the Miley Barn facility in Sheboygan Falls next week. Photo by Brandi Bohlman NOURISH FARMS VOLUNTEER Eirick Nelson and his daughter clean vegetables at the Nourish Educational Urban Farm in Sheboygan. Nourish Farms is set to move to its new home at the Miley Barn facility in Sheboygan Falls next week. Photo by Brandi Bohlman “Down the line, we also plan to build a commercial kitchen in the barn and utilize the 13-acre space for an educational urban farm,” she said. “A huge benefit is that we will have the capabilities to do all of this all on one site. Right now, we are not as connected with our educational urban farm located two miles away from our office. For our Farm to Table mission, having everything all in one location is big for us.”

As part of the arrangement with Miley Barn owner Dick Bemis, Nourish Farms will take ownership of the entire property through a donation from Bemis.

“Mr. Bemis has been so generous throughout this process and knowing that he plans to donate the property to us is just amazing,” Cleveland said. “This is such a beautiful site that is sure to attract many new people. Having property to call our own is just such a huge thing. We will definitely be able to do so many cool things with this space.”

Nourish Farms was founded by Carol Christensen in 2009 through a partnership with the Sheboygan Interfaith Organization.

“The original mission, which still holds true today, is to introduce people to healthy food choices and show people how to do it,” Cleveland said. “The belief is that the more people know about making healthy food choices and how to prepare wholesome food options, the more likely they are to actually make a change in their lives about how they serve food.

“It started by serving fresh salads at the farmer’s market in Sheboygan,” she said. “That received such great reaction that we reached out to farmers throughout the county and we did a Farm to Table Tour, which showed people how to harvest fresh food and how to cook a healthy meal together. Later, through a partnership with Craig Harms of Restoration Farms, we increased our garden education and started a two acre Educational Urban Farm in Sheboygan. In the beginning, it was kind of focused more on the low income population, but it has evolved to include food education to help all people eat healthier.”

Nourish Farms is an independent, Sheboygan Countybased non-profit organization, which is comprised of seven full-time staff members, two part-time employees and 11 board members.

“We have a board of directors that makes the high-level decisions, but the day-to-day direction of Nourish comes from the staff,” Cleveland said. “We all do this because we have a passion for it. We share a common mentality as a group that educating people on the importance of eating healthy is a very important part of the overall health and makeup of our society going forward.

“Education is a big key for us and we are working every day to change the system and the approach we as a society take to consuming food,” she said. “We definitely don’t shy away from trying new things and at the same time we generally agree when something we try doesn’t work out so well. We look at ourselves more as change-makers than we view ourselves as a charity.”

A large part of Nourish Farms’ mission stems from its Farm to School programming.

“We operate our Farm to School program at nine different sites, including the Sheboygan and Plymouth school districts,” Cleveland said. “We are looking at the upcoming year as a year of transition for us with the move to Sheboygan Falls. Our plan over the next three years is to scale up what we do with the Farm to School program, including adding new school districts. We would love to add the Sheboygan Falls School District to our Farm to School program down the line for sure.”

Cleveland, who joined Nourish Farms in November 2013, says the Farm to School program includes After School Snack, Harvest of the Month and Good Food Education programs.

“We have three different program that reach into the school districts that we work with,” Cleveland said. “In addition to providing healthy snack options and doing some education about the benefits of wholesome food choices, we have secured a grant to introduce a garden and food education curriculum to the teaching staff.

“It has been a great process to work with elementary and physical education teachers in conjunction with the wellness education programs that are in place now at our area school districts,” she said. “These programs will help us to truly make a difference by helping to change the way young people think about food.”

Another element of Nourish’s outreach programming is its Farm to Community initiative.

“As part of our Farm to Community program, we offer three-course Community Dinners and Summer Dinners at our Educational Urban Garden, featuring food from local producers,” Cleveland said. “These dinners provide a great opportunity to bring people together and build a stronger community, which sharing a good meal together can do.”

“We also offer Cooking Class Dinners where we have up to 12 people cook a meal together,” she said. “Many community groups have been inquiring about our Cooking Class Dinners as it is a great way to build camaraderie within a group. In addition, we have a Breakfast of Champions that we do for teachers, which works in a similar way the cooking Class Dinners.”

Looking to the future, Cleveland is hoping to offer a corporate wellness program to businesses in the community.

“We have been talking about the corporate wellness program, but we haven’t done it yet,” Cleveland said. “I think this could be a really big thing and really help in changing our overall approach to food and strengthening our community as a whole.”

Dick Bemis was introduced to Nourish shortly after Nourish separated from the Sheboygan County Interfaith Organization (SCIO) in March 2015.

“After we separated from SCIO in 2015, we moved to Jake’s Cafe in Sheboygan,” Cleveland said. “Tryg Jacobsen was great to us and encouraged us to do presentations at Jake’s Cafe to help introduce us to people that may not know anything about Nourish.

“Dick Bemis happened to be in the audience at one of these presentations back in May 2015,” she said. “He was actually looking for a non-profit organization that was focused on healthy food choices because he had a personal goal of helping kids with nutrition and to address health issues kids encounter these days related to unhealthy eating. Dick joined our Nourish board shortly after that and we have been in discussions about the Miley Barn property very seriously for the past two years.”

In addition to using the second floor space at the Miley Barn for educational events, Cleveland said Nourish is planning to rent out the property for corporate events, parties and weddings as a way to create revenue to fund its community based educational activities.

“As a non-profit organization, we are always looking for new sources of revenue to allow us to continue our programming and to expand our offerings in the future,” Cleveland said. “Having this beautiful facility grants us a great opportunity to make it available for private events and to generate some additional revenue in the process. We are aiming to establish a preferred vendor list over time and make these special events truly unique and special.

“At the same time, we understand that we need to be conscious of the neighbors and listen and address any concerns they have about any of the special events that we hold or that we rent out to private groups,” she said.

One of the special events coming up at the Miley Barn is Nourish’s own fifth annual Good Food Party set for Friday, Sept. 28, from 5-9 p.m.

“This is the fifth year in a row that the Good Food Party has served as our major annual fundraiser,” Cleveland said.

“We will have live music from the Honeygoats, as well as cooking demonstrations throughout the evening. We will also be handing out the Good Food Champion Award on that night.”

As word about Nourish’s impending move spreads, Cleveland said the excitement level is building to a fever pitch.

“People are very excited about this,” Cleveland said. “We encourage everyone in the community to stop by and check out the space in September when we are all moved in.

“A lot of people are curious about Nourish right now and what we will be doing at the Miley Barn property,” she said. “We are accepting a very generous gift and we know there will be challenges ahead, but the Sheboygan Falls community as a whole has been so welcoming. We have joined Sheboygan Falls Chamber-Main Street and have already received a lot of great assistance from them. We couldn’t be more excited about this new journey.”

For more information on Nourish Farms, visit www.nourishfarms.org


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