2019 has been an exceptional year for Florida’s Farm to School Initiative. Farm to school momentum in the state culminated with two exciting events this November. First, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services release their first ever Farm to School Annual Report. The report details Florida farm to school product sales and uses economic impact modeling (using IMPLAN software) to estimate the economic contribution of farm to school sales in the states. The results are powerful! According to the report, approximately $64,106,312 of Florida products were purchased by schools in the 2018-19 school year. Those purchases contributed to 639 jobs, $30,429,315 in labor income, and $144,765,615 in total economic impact (total output – direct, indirect, and induced effect).
The first Florida Farm to School Conference, held November 8-9 in Orlando, was a celebration of the state’s accomplishments and evidence of the drive to expand the work. The conference included tracks for producers and a track for school nutrition service and farm to school coordinators. While content focused on the unique need of each stakeholder group, meals and networking events facilitated collaboration and the development of new partnerships. Presenters brought the origins of farm to school together with the hope for farm to school future, with sessions from one of farm to school’s original champions Glyen Holmes of the New North Florida Growers Cooperative and emerging leaders like Lane and Brett Singleton of Singleton Family Farms. National Farm to School Network Program Manager, Lacy Stephens, contributed to the joyful learning with a session on Advocating for Farm to School Support.
A strong contributor to Florida’s farm to school growth is the support and championing of the efforts by Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner, Nicole “Nikki” Fried. Commissioner Fried articulated the goals of the Farm to School Summit and the Florida Farm to School Initiative in her welcome message to attendees: “Together we can ensure that every meal served is healthy, nutritious and Fresh From Florida.”
Photo: Lacy Stephens, NFSN Program Manager, and Beth Spratt and Andrew Smith, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, NFSN Florida Core Partners, at the Florida Farm to School Conference.