To mark the final day of National Farm to School Month, Farm Aid and the National Farm to School Network celebrate the harvest and honor the roots of Farm to School – America’s family farmers, who are growing the good food for our children’s cafeteria plates and planting seeds for a lifetime of healthy eating!
After years of hard work, more than 12,000 schools across the country have successful Farm to School programs, and students and farmers are reaping the benefits. Farm to School is an important way to create new markets for local and regional farmers, and to build infrastructure for these systems to grow. As major purchasers of large amounts of food, schools sourcing locally are a boon for local farms and the network of businesses they utilize.
Farm Aid fosters connections between farmers and eaters by growing local and regional food systems and promoting good food from family farms. For more family farmers to thrive, we must expand the reach of good food, including bringing it to schools everywhere. By building local and regional food systems that deliver good food from family farms to everybody, we ensure the best possible future for our farmers, our children, our communities and our country.
As a farmer, there are a number of ways to start or participate in a Farm to School program in your area:
- First identify your school district’s Food Service Director, since most schools actually source school lunches at the district level. Talk with him or her about the district’s sourcing policies and capacity to buy directly from you. It may help to start small and identify one or two foods, such as apples or pears, which can be used to launch a program and build from there. Starting an open dialogue with the school district about your own production capacity, pricing options and harvest schedule will sow the seeds for a robust and practical Farm to School program.
- Another idea is to speak with other farmers or farmer associations and cooperatives to see if they have interest in participating in a Farm to School program. There is strength in numbers, particularly when you can collectively present a range of products available for schools to source and maintain a steady volume and product availability, which schools often need to keep their school meals programs cost-effective.
- Don’t be afraid to think big, of course. Why limit your Farm to School ambitions to sourcing and logistics? Many school districts nationwide are expanding Farm to School programming to include farm field trips, unique education curricula, installing a school garden and many other projects! Also consider the many other institutions in your area that may be interested in sourcing from local farmers—colleges and universities, hospitals, local businesses and other public institutions can all gain by localizing their menus.
For additional tips for getting involved in a Farm to School program in your community, check out Farm Aid’s Farm to School 101 Toolkit.