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Experience Farm to Cafeteria in Action

NFSN Staff Thursday, March 08, 2018

Field trips aren’t just for kid – they’re for learners of all ages! For the 9th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference, we’re excited to offer a selection of 11 fields trips across the greater Ohio Valley region for local food advocates to experience farm to cafeteria in action. From food hubs and dairy farms, to healthy hospital cafeterias and college campus farmers, there’s something for every interest and level of expertise. Here’s a snapshot of some of the options: 

Interested in farm to college? Experience how colleges in Ohio are making sustainable choices on campus and engaging students in local food systems. The first stop is Wilmington College, where you’ll tour learning labs, greenhouses and a 260-acre crop and animal production farm, as well as hear how students are engaging in rural life issues and training to become the next generation of agricultural leaders. Next, visit the Antioch College Farm, where students and faculty explore environmental conservation and food sustainability. The Farm includes a two-acre growing area with a 600-square foot hoop house, pasture for animal grazing, two acres of food forest, and a composting site. Staffed primarily by Antioch students, the Farm produces 28% of the food served on campus. This “farm to college” field trip will offer new insights into how colleges are empowering students to be food movement leaders and changing local food system.

Perhaps your goal is to reduce food waste in your community through food recover. Deepen your understanding of food waste’s connection to food insecurity through our field trip to La Soupe. To bridge the gap between food waste and hunger, La Soupe rescues otherwise discarded produce to create delicious and nutritious meals for customers, non-profits and food-insecure families in Hamilton County. Each week, La Soupe rescues up to 5,000 pounds of perishables and feeds nearly 2,000 servings via 47 partner agencies - which include schools, community groups, pantries and more. On this field trip, explore the La Soupe kitchen, hear lessons learned about cultivating community partnership, and gain insight into how La Soupe has organized and mobilized a network of dedicated volunteers. Attendees will enjoy a delicious lunch prepared by Executive Director and Founder Suzy DeYoung and the La Soupe team.

Curious about alternative school garden models?
Sitting atop the fourth floor of a century old building, the Rothenberg Rooftop School Garden is home to raised beds, potted plants and a vast array of fruit and vegetable plants that are tended to and harvested by nearly 450 preschool and elementary students. It’s a unique model that serves both students and community by encouraging engagement with the natural environment and promoting issues of nutrition, healthy eating and sustainability. See some sights of Cincinnati along your 30-minute walk from the Duke Energy Center, then dig in with students during a garden lesson and take a first-hand look at how the garden program enriches and supports teachers and students with their learning.

Learn more about each of the 11 field trip opportunities on our conference website. All field trip options are offered as a part of our Full Registration Pass (Education plus Intensive). Additionally, all 11 field trip options can be selected a la carte. Save on all tickets option when you register before the Early Bird deadline on March 9. Learn more and register today at 

Growing Farm to Cafeteria Through Scholarships

NFSN Staff Monday, March 05, 2018

The National Farm to School Network staff and partners are busing planning for the 9th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference and we hope you’ve marked your calendars and registered to attend!

As part of our commitment to equity, we’re always thinking about ways to make our movement more accessible and ensuring that it reflects the full diversity of communities across the country. For the National Farm to Cafeteria Conference and the farm to cafeteria movement, we’re committed to increasing access, especially for many “on-the-ground” stakeholders who lack the financial resources to participate in a national conference. 

In order to grow the farm to cafeteria movement and increase access to the 9th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference, we’re excited to announce that we’ve secured over 166 free registrations (and counting)! These scholarships will benefit a wide array of individuals as part of the National Farm to School Network focus on increasing attendance from:

  • Farmers and producers
  • Food service professionals
  • Educators
  • Native communities
  • Youth
  • People of color
  • ECE sites, higher education institutions, hospitals, and prisons
  • All regions of the country 

Thank You! 

Scholarship awards were made possible by the generous support of our scholarship funders. Thank you all for your support to expand access to the 9th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference!

W.K. Kellogg Foundation
Whole Kids Foundation
CoBank (scholarships for farmers and producers)
Farm Aid (scholarships for farmers and producers)
Farm Credit (scholarships for farmers and producers)
Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems (scholarships for Michigan residents)
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation (scholarships for North Carolina residents)
Aetna Foundation (scholarships for attendees from Native communities)

To learn more about all of the generous supporters making the 9th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference, please visit our Sponsors and Supporters page

Announcing Keynote Speakers for 9th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference

NFSN Staff Thursday, February 01, 2018
As the 9th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference approaches, we are excited to share more details about the conference program. 36 conference workshops in 12 tracks will cover a wide range of farm to cafeteria content – from Youth Leadership and Engagement to Equity and Justice in Farm to Cafeteria, and Local and Sustainable Procurement to School Gardens and On-site Farms.  You can check out the full conference agenda and workshop descriptions here. In addition to workshops, we’re also offering 8 short course and 11 field trips to explore the farm to cafeteria landscape across the Ohio Valley region.  And there’s more!

We are thrilled to announce our conference keynote speakers. Rodney K. Taylor is the Director of Food and Nutrition Services for the Fairfax County Public Schools (FCSP), in Va. FCPS is the 10th largest district in the U.S. with 188,000 students, in 194 schools, providing 149,000 meals per day. Prior to his employment with FCPS, Rodney was the Director of Nutrition Services, for the Riverside Unified School District, in Riverside, California.  

A noted pioneer and expert in farm to school salad bars, he is particularly known for establishing the “Farmers’ Market Salad Bar” program in 1997, while working as Director of Food and Nutrition Services in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, in Santa Monica, Calif. Rodney is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the California Endowment’s “Health Heroes” Award and the Loma Linda University Award for “The Promotion of Healthy Lifestyles---For Outstanding Commitment to the Public’s Health.” 
Haile Thomas is 17 years old, an international speaker, health activist, the youngest Certified Integrative Health Coach in the United States, and the founder/CEO of the nonprofit HAPPY (Healthy Active Positive Purposeful Youth). Haile founded HAPPY when she was 12 years old to address the need for free/affordable plant-based nutrition and culinary education in under served/at-risk communities, as well as in schools and through annual summer camps.

Haile has personally engaged over 15,000 kids and thousands of adults around the world since beginning her activism in 2010. She was inspired to pursue this passion after her family successfully reversed her father’s type-2 diabetes without the use of medication, only healthy eating and lifestyle choices, and upon learning that kids were also increasingly being diagnosed with conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. All of Haile’s programs, projects, and initiatives, are geared towards engaging, educating, motivating and empowering young people to make healthy lifestyle choices to live their best life. Haile and her work have been featured on the Today Show, Food Network, CNN, Dr.Oz, Teen Vogue, Fortune, O Magazine, and Experience Life Magazine to name a few.

To highlight a local perspective of farm to cafeteria, we are honored to share that Dr. Roger Rennekamp, Associate Dean and Director of Ohio State University Extension, will be our Welcome Speaker. Dr. Rennekamp will share how the OSU Extension system and Initiative for Food and AgriCultural Transformation discovery theme, also known as InFACT, align with principles of the Farm to School movement. He will also give examples of how the university—an institution with 17,000 students on its meal plan—is getting closer to reaching its goal of serving 40 percent local or sustainably grown foods by 2025.

Read more about our keynote speakers here

Early bird registration is open now through March 9th, and we are accepted conference scholarship applications until February 12th at 8pm EST. For more information on registration and scholarships, please visit our conference website. We look forward to hosting you and your farm to cafeteria team in Ohio! 

Conference recap: Moving forward together

NFSN Staff Sunday, June 05, 2016

 Photo credit: EaCas Photography

On our final day together at the 8th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference, attendees flooded Dane County Farmers' Market, the country's largest producer-only farmers market, on the Capitol Square. Supporting local farmers and a local food economy is at the heart of our work, and Wisconsin offers an inspiring display of a vibrant and connected local food system. 

The morning opened with a multi-media presentation showcasing farm to cafeteria champions from across Wisconsin. Emceed by Tony Schultz, Farmer, Stoney Acres Farm, and Frankie Soto, Food Service Director, Abbotsford School District Food Service, attendees heard stories of success from farm to cafeteria partners including farmers, school food service directors, a hospital dietician and a local co-op manager. Farmer Chris Blakeney, Amazing Grace Family Farm, shared that his successful partnerships in selling to schools allowed him to quit his full-time, off farm job. 

Saturday’s program included two workshop sessions. A total of 48, 90-minute workshops organized into 12 topics were offered during the conference. Among Saturday’s workshops were conversations and hands-on learning opportunities for training classroom educators to be strong school garden users, curricula ideas for early care and education providers, and tips for navigating federal, state and local policy landscapes to maximize farm to cafeteria efforts. 

Our food conference would not have been complete without delicious meals featuring locally sourced ingredients. During Saturday’s lunch, we gave a standing ovation to Monona Catering in thanks of their amazing work to serve our 1,000+ attendees fresh, locally sourced meals. Saturday’s lunch included Wisconsin Rice and Wisconsin Cranberry Salad, a local bean salad, roasted local root vegetables, and chilled asparagus soup. 

Throughout the conference, we asked attendees to use paper plates to share what they love about farm to school and what child nutrition programs mean to their community. With the Child Nutrition Reauthorization process moving forward, now is an important time to take action and share with Congress why school meals are important. Soon, we’ll deliver these paper plates to legislators on Capitol Hill, sending a message that farm to school and school lunch programs are growing a healthier next generation. 

Open Forum, a perennial conference favorite, was held on Saturday afternoon. Open Forum gave attendees the opportunity to create discussion groups around the topics they’re most passionate about. Ideas were submitted and voted on using the conference mobile app. More than 20 discussion topics were selected, including state farm to school policy, farm to summer, forming a farm to college network, farm incubator start ups, state agencies in farm to cafeteria and using farm to school to drive racial equity. 

The Closing Plenary included keynote addresses from two food movement leaders who shared inspirational stories and lessons about creating strong and just local food systems. Matthew Raiford, Executive Chef of The Farmer & The Larder and a sixth generation farmer and owner of Gilliard Farms, discussed the importance of meeting everyone - farmers, school boards, chefs, children and more - where they are to continue building systems that bring the bounty of the earth to the cafeteria table. “It takes more than a village,” Raiford said. “It takes villages to build better systems.” 

LaDonna Redmond’s address focused on ending systematic oppression in the food system. Redmond, founder of Campaign for Food Justice Now, used a lens of intersectionality (race, class and gender) to describe the impact of the food system on the lives of communities of color, and to promote just solutions. “Every community that you work in has the intellect to heal itself,” she said. “Your job is to use your skill set to uncover that intellect and help people dig deeply.”

While the conference has ended, the work to change the culture of food and agricultural literacy across America has not. We hope this conference was the beginning of new pathways and partnerships that will continue to move the farm to cafeteria movement forward and strengthen local food systems. Read more about the conference on our day 1 and day 2 blog recaps. See social media highlights on our Storify and view pictures from the conference on our Flickr page. 

Conference recap: Growing the farm to cafeteria movement

NFSN Staff Saturday, June 04, 2016
 Photo credit: EaCas Photography
The first full day of the 8th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference kicked off on Friday, with more than 1,000 food service professionals, farmers, educators, policy makers, entrepreneurs, students, representatives from nonprofits and government agencies, public health professionals, and many others in attendance. The day started with regional networking sessions, where neighboring states met to build relationships, share ideas and resources, and fuel the farm to cafeteria initiatives in their regions. 

Immediately following the networking sessions, regions processed together from their rooms to the opening plenary - and with great fanfare! The festive procession was led by a local marching band, dancing produce and a very large chicken. Madison preschoolers with vegetable crowns danced on stage and welcomed attendees as they arrived. 

The opening plenary was kicked off by Anupama Joshi, National Farm to School Network Executive Director and Co-founder. Debra Eschmeyer, Executive Director of Let’s Move! and Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition to the White House, was the first keynote speaker to take the stage. As one of the farm to cafeteria movement’s true innovators, Eschmeyer’s address reviewed and celebrated the impressive growth that the farm to school movement has achieved in less than two decades. “I am deeply encouraged by our collective progress. In this next phase, we need to be even more creative and innovative. This is not some trendy issue. This is something we have to stay committed to for the long haul,” she said.  

“If we keep working together, we’ll give all children access to fresh healthy food.” -Debra Eschmeyer
First Lady Michelle Obama sent video remarks, celebrating all of the great work this movement has accomplished, and challenging us to think about what’s next. To the First Lady, we say, we’re not going anywhere, and we look forward to continuing this work with you. 

Carla Thompson, Vice President for Program Strategy at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and Ricardo Salvadro, Director and Senior Scientist, Food & Environment Program, Union of Concerned Scientists, also offered keynote addresses. Salvador discussed how disparities in public health, access, waste and exploitation of people and nature are designed characteristics of the global food system, and challenged us to use justice as the screen through which we do our farm to cafeteria work. 

Following lunch, conference-goers viewed 45 posters highlighting exciting projects, innovations, research and trends in the farm to cafeteria movement. Shortly after, 28 presenters offered fast-paced, information-dense, five minutes lightning talks, from building school gardens into social enterprises to how school districts are leading the charge to reform poultry production in the U.S.

The afternoon included two workshop sessions. A total of 48 workshops organized into 12 topical tracks will be offered throughout the conference. These interactive sessions are providing opportunities for participants to build skills, problem solve and innovate. 

The day closed with a local foods reception on the rooftop of Monona Terrace. With views of Lake Monona on one side and the Wisconsin State Capitol on the other, conference goers enjoyed a celebratory evening of delicious, Madison-inspired eats, live music and remarks from Madison Mayor Paul R. Soglin. 

Find more highlights from the 8th National Farm to Cafeteria conference on our social media channels, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Storify. Follow along with the hashtag #Farm2Caf16. To see more pictures from the conference, check out our Flickr. More stories, key learnings and exciting highlight to come - stay tuned! 

Conference recap: Exploring farm to cafeteria in Madison

NFSN Staff Thursday, June 02, 2016
 Photo credit: EaCas Photography
The National Farm to School Network is hosting the 8th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference in Madison, Wis., and pre-conference activities kicked off Thursday with hundreds of leaders in the farm to cafeteria movement exploring the Madison area food system and farm to institution landscape. 

From aquaponics to urban farms and hospitals to college campuses, more than 370 pre-conference attendees experienced Wisconsin’s farm to cafeteria initiatives first hand through 10 local field trips. One group of learners explored Wisconsin’s deep roots in dairy as they traveled to farms and processors who bring milk, cheese and other dairy products to institutional markets. Stops included a tour and tasting at Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese, a farm-based education experience at Sassy Cow Creamery and a visit to an Organic Valley dairy farm. 

 Photo credit: Maryland Farm to School

Another group explored innovative youth gardens across the Madison area that strive to cultivate healthy youth and vibrant communities. Among the stops was Goodman Youth Farm, a community nonprofit/school district partnership program that actively engages students in hands-on, farm-based education in an outdoor classroom. Youth are involved in the entire process of running a small-scale organic farm, from growing, harvesting, cooking and donating thousands of pounds of produce. 

 Photo credit: EaCas Photography
Back at Monona Terrace Convention Center, another 250 pre-conference attendees gathered for advanced short course trainings with movement experts from the Wallace Center, National Farmers Union, Chef Ann Foundation, Center for Social Inclusion, Spark Policy Institute, Vermont FEED, Farm to Institution New England and more. Courses included trainings on implementing farm to school practices and operations in school kitchens, starting cooperatives, and building racial equity in farm to cafeteria and wider food systems, among others.

The short course on network development welcomed farm to cafeteria practitioners from across the country to share and explore models of collaboration and coordination for creating state-level farm to cafeteria networks. With presenters from Colorado, Vermont and Wisconsin, a range of experiences were shared in describing the formation and success of various network models. At the end of the course, participants brainstormed ingredients for success in building effective farm to cafeteria collaborations.


As the 8th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference program kicks off on Friday, we’re welcoming more than 1,000 food service professionals, farmers, educators, policy makers, entrepreneurs, students and youth leaders, representatives from nonprofits, public health professionals, and others to Madison for a one-of-a-kind opportunity to learn, share, network and build momentum for the farm to cafeteria movement. Among them are the next generation of farm to cafeteria leaders, including students Christina Plyman, Trinity Sinkhorn and Kara Shelton. Accompanied by their teach Toni Myers, they traveled from Boyle County High School in Kentucky to present their farm to school successes and learnings as a National Farm to School Network Seed Change Demonstration Site, as well as to network and learn from other experienced farm to school practitioners.  

“I’ve seen kids in the cafeteria eat healthier foods because their friends grew it, and they know the garden it was grown in,” Plyman said. That’s success these student leaders are eager to see continue. Sinkhorn, a junior, commented, "I’m taking on new leadership in our farm to school program, and I’m interested in learning new approach and finding ways to grow our activities." 

With two full days of workshops, lighting talks, networking sessions, poster presentations and  keynote addresses ahead, there will be countless opportunities for learning. Stay tuned to our blog for daily recaps highlighting the day’s events and experiences. We’ll also be sharing live content on our social media channels, including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Follow along with the hashtag #Farm2Caf16. To see pictures from the conference, check out our Flickr page. There’s lots more great stories, key learnings and exciting highlights to come - stay tuned! 

Welcome to Wisconsin!

NFSN Staff Wednesday, February 17, 2016
This blog was written by the local hosts of the 8th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference: The Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, Community GroundWorks, and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Learn more about them here

 Credit: Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection
As the local hosts of the 8th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference, we are thrilled to welcome you to Madison, Wis. this June for a national gathering of local food leaders, community health professionals and sustainable agriculture advocates working to change the culture of food and agricultural literacy across America. 

As a largely rural state, ensuring the economic viability of agriculture has always been a priority in Wisconsin. While historically our farmers have been invested in dairy and vegetable processing (canning), Wisconsin’s current agricultural landscape includes many small and medium-sized diversified farms that increasingly support local food markets. This strengthening of our local food system, and the diverse partnerships that are helping make it happen, exemplify the opportunities and benefits of the farm to cafeteria movement.  

At the center of this vibrant agriculture scene is Madison. In addition to being a hub for local food across the state, Madison was also home to Wisconsin's first coordinated farm to school program in 2003, called the Wisconsin Homegrown Lunch Program with the Madison Metropolitan School District. Since then, the farm to school movement has grown rapidly across the state, with more than 55 percent of all K-12 schools engaging in farm to school activities.

Our state has grown well beyond farm to school, though. In recent years, Wisconsin has seen significant expansion of farm to hospital, farm to college and university, and farm to early care and education activities. “The growth of farm to cafeteria in these sectors has been made possible by strong partnerships across the state,” says Sarah Elliott, Director of Wisconsin Farm to School at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. In fact, it’s these collaborative and innovative partnerships that have inspired this year’s conference theme, Moving Forward Together. 

With its bountiful school and community gardens, bustling farmers’ markets, and delicious restaurants, Madison is the perfect location for the conference. “We’re sure attendees will fall in love with Madison,” says Beth Hanna, Training and Outreach Specialist for the Wisconsin School Garden Initiative at Community GroundWorks. “It's a great representation of what a strong farm to cafeteria effort can look like. We have great people, good food, and plenty of opportunities to bring those two things together.”  

In addition to sampling local foods at Madison’s restaurants, exploring Lake Monona and Lake Mendota, and visiting the nation’s largest producer-only farmers’ market, conference attendees will be able to immerse themselves in the city’s farm to cafeteria hotspots during hands-on field trips. “Whether you tour the food production center that preps schools meals or the hospitals making local, healthy food a priority, we are confident attendees will be inspired by the local food efforts powering Wisconsin’s farm to cafeteria movement, ” says Hanna. 

“We feel lucky to live among such lively and passionate farmers, food service directors, and advocates for local and regional foods,” says Vanessa Herald, Farm to School Outreach Specialist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison - Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems. “There is genuine enthusiasm for the farm to cafeteria movement here, and we can’t wait to share it with conference attendees.” 

And share we will! The unique flavors of Madison and Wisconsin will be included in every aspect of the conference, from the menu to the Local Food Reception to the local plenary. But at our core, we’re most excited to highlight the inspired work of our dedicated state and regional farm to cafeteria partners. “The best part about strong farm to cafeteria relationships is that we love to see our partners succeed, and we want to keep lifting up their stories,” Herald says. “We’re so excited for the chance to do that through the National Farm to Cafeteria Conference.”

Come join us in Madison, June 2-4, for three exciting days of skill-building workshops, short courses, lightning talks, keynotes, networking opportunities and a taste of Wisconsin’s vibrant local food scene to help you bring home real food solutions to your community. We look forward to seeing you there!

Register Now

Registration for the 8th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference is now open. The last conference sold out before registration closed, so secure your spot today! Find more information about the conference program, venue, scholarships and registration at

Announcing the 8th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference

NFSN Staff Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Save the date! The 8th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference is coming to Madison, Wis., June 2-4 2016.

Cafeterias in schools, universities, prisons, hospitals and childcare centers serve more than 40 million Americans every day during the school year, placing the farm to cafeteria movement at the forefront of the fight to end obesity and strengthen local food systems. Think of it this way: a single school district often feeds more people in a day than all of a city’s restaurants combined. The National Farm to Cafeteria Conference, hosted by the National Farm to School Network, is the only national gathering of stakeholders from across the farm to cafeteria movement, making it the premiere opportunity to learn, network and collaborate with likeminded leaders from across the country.

This biennial event will convene more than 1,500 diverse stakeholders working to source local food for institutional cafeterias and foster a culture of food and agricultural literacy across America. Attendees will include food service professionals, farmers and food producers, educators, policy makers, entrepreneurs, students and youth leaders, representatives from nonprofits and government agencies, public health professionals, and others engaged in the farm to cafeteria movement. 

The program will include 40+ workshops in a variety of topical tracks and formats, exciting plenary addresses delivered by leaders in the farm to cafeteria and local food movements, networking opportunities, a series of 5-minute “lightning talks,” a poster session and resource share fair, entertainment options and an evening reception showcasing Madison’s vibrant local food culture. The 2016 conference theme Moving Forward Together lifts up new and innovative partnerships to continue building momentum and ensure long-term sustainability in the movement.

Do you have farm to cafeteria expertise to share? We’re seeking workshop, poster and lightning talk proposals from individuals and organizations working to improve our food system, strengthen community health, empower youth, build equity and increase opportunities for farmers to share their expertise, successes and learnings with the farm to cafeteria movement. The Request for Proposals (RFP) is open now through Dec. 4, 2015.

Registration for the conference will open Feb. 15, 2016 – mark your calendars now! Learn more at  

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