A remarkable man helping get fresh food to Minnesota students

The following column appeared during late October and early November in several APG of East Central Minnesota newspapers such as the Forest Lake Times.  Some of the papers used a long list of participating district and charter public schools.  Some used only the ones nearby.   The only ones listed are those in communities served by the APG of East Central Minnesota newspapers.

A remarkable man helping get fresh food

to Minnesota students


Thousands of Minnesota youngsters are eating fresher food because of people like Ed Eiffler Jaramillo, of New Hope. Since October is “Farm to School” month, this is a perfect time to describe this remarkable man and the valuable work he does.

Jaramillo has helped Minnesota farmers make direct connections with district and chartered public schools all over Minnesota. He’s worked with state legislators and other advocates to promote, arrange and support farm-to-school programs.

Photo courtesy of Ed Jaramillo

On Oct. 22, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture announced that it has $374,000 available for schools seeking support for this program. In announcing these grants, Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Thom Peterson explained: “These grants let us invest in schools and expand markets that support local farmers. Kids eat healthier, small farms have local buyers and our agricultural economy benefits. It’s a win for everybody.” (More information from Minnesota Department of Agriculture.)

Jaramillo’s emphasis has been to help relatively new farmers, some of whom are immigrants, be included in this program.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture survey found that 51% of Minnesota schools and districts report that at least some of the food they serve students has come from farms in this state. Among the more than 500 district, charter and parochial schools participating are Anoka-Hennepin School District 11, Art and Science Academy (Isanti), Bloomington Public Schools, Braham Area Schools, Brooklyn Center Community Schools, Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District 191, Caledonia Area Public Schools ISD 299, Cambridge-Isanti Schools, Chisago Lakes School District, Cologne Academy, Columbia Heights Public Schools, DaVinci Academy Arts and Science (Ham Lake), Eagle Ridge Academy (Minnetonka), Eden Prairie Schools, Edina Public Schools, ISD 728 (Elk River, Otsego, Rogers, Zimmerman), Excell Academy for Higher Learning (Brooklyn Park), Foley Public Schools, Forest Lake Area Schools, International Spanish Language Academy (Minnetonka), Kaleidoscope Charter School (Otsego), Lakeville Area Schools, Little Falls Community Schools, Long Prairie Grey Eagle School District, Milaca Public Schools, Minnetonka Public Schools, Monticello Public School District, New Heights School (Stillwater), North Branch Area Public Schools, North Lakes Academy (Forest Lake), Orono Schools, Osseo Area Schools, PACT Charter School (Ramsey), Pierz Public Schools, Princeton Public Schools, Robbinsdale Area Schools, District 196 (Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan), Royalton Public Schools, Rush City Public Schools, Seven Hills Preparatory Academy (Bloomington-Richfield), St. Croix Preparatory Academy (Stillwater), St. Louis Park Public Schools, Stillwater Area Public Schools, Swanville School District, Upsala Area Schools, Waconia Public Schools ISD 110, Wayzata Public Schools, and Westonka Public Schools.

The complete list and other information from the USDA is here.

Erin McKee of the Minneapolis-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy has worked with Jaramillo on legislation. She describes him as “passionate, tenacious and deeply committed to social justice.”

McKee told me: “COVID has definitely presented huge challenges to school food service, as many had to completely adjust their meal model to remote learning. However, I know that many are still using local products as they can.”

When we talked, Jaramillo explained he is “deeply thankful for everything this country has offered my family.” He sees many problems here. But he and his family also seem to illustrate “the American dream.”

He told me: “My mom is from a barrio in Santa Rosa, Mexico (northern Mexico). She worked her way up from picking tomatoes in Minnesota to being a meal server at a hospital in Washington, where she suffered systemic racism and sexism. She went on to gain a double master’s at the University of Washington. Now she’s a tenured professor here at Minneapolis Community Technical College. These are all things that would have been harder, almost impossible, for her to earn in our homeland.”

Jaramillo grew up in Blaine and attended Spring Lake Park High School. He learned about the Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) program from his mother. He took a bus an hour each way, every day during his junior and senior high school years to take courses at the Minneapolis Community Technical College. He feels that PSEO “taught me to take responsibility and be independent.” While still in high school, he joined a Latinos in Higher Education group.

After graduating from the University of Minnesota, he earned a law degree in Boston “because I’d never been on the East Coast.” Then he moved to Seattle, where he spent a year teaching in local district middle and high schools.

Because his family was here, Jaramillo returned to the Twin Cities. He began working for Shared Ground Farmers’ Cooperative, helping farmers in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. He’s worked successfully with state legislators on food and criminal justice issues. Jaramillo is just 29. He’s already seen and done a lot.

When we talked, he told me that his grandfather had been “held at gunpoint during a robbery” in Mexico. “They sought refuge here in Minnesota. And they found resources and opportunities they never had in our homeland.”

He concluded: “I recognize that the U.S. has systemic racism, sexism, and imperialism, but today I also recognize that I am thankful for the opportunities and refuge my family has found here.”

Joe Nathan, formerly a Minnesota public school educator and PTA president, directs the Center for School Change. Reactions welcome at Joe@centerforschoolchange.org