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Putting the CRUNCH in Farm to School Month

NFSN Staff Wednesday, October 10, 2018

By Elizabeth Esparza, Communications Intern

National Farm to School Month is a time when schools, farms, and communities come together to share and celebrate the fantastic work being done to build farm to school throughout the country. No matter where you are in the country, National Farm to School Month offers opportunities for everyone to share in the festivities in some way! 

One way that many states and regions come together each year is by hosting “crunch” events. By encouraging schools throughout a state and region to crunch into a local food on a specific day, at a specified time, or even simply anytime during the month of October, crunch events create a unifying experience and a sense of camaraderie amongst National Farm to School Month celebrators. (Plus, it’s a tasty way to celebrate!) 

How do you host a crunch event? 

First, find out if your state or region already has a crunch that you can participate in. Check out our calendar of Farm to School Month events to see if there is a crunch in your area. North Carolina, Iowa, Utah, Alabama, California, Montana, Florida, Hawai’i, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio are some of the many who are hosting crunch events this month. 

Pick your produce.
While apple crunches are most common, feel free to crunch into any local item you choose. Carrots and cucumbers are also great choices that give a great crunch sound! 

Get the whole school involved. Make sure that your crunch event really celebrates all of your hard work in farm to school. Invite a local farmer, invite families to participate, celebrate your food service staff and administrators that make farm to school happen in your school. Everyone can be invited to enjoy the crunch of a fresh, local food! 

Set a time for the crunch. One of the best things about a crunch event is the collective noise you can all make to celebrate farm to school. So whether you crunch to start out lunchtime or get everyone gathered to crunch in some other way, setting a time is another way to truly make your crunch an event to remember! 

Make it more than a crunch. Incorporate your crunch item into a meal or taste test. Once you’ve crunched, keep the tasting going! Work with food service staff to bring that item into breakfast or lunch, or try a taste test of that food cooked in several different ways. 

Print some stickers. Get students even more excited to crunch by giving them the opportunity to wear their tasting accomplishment with pride. Whether you want a National Farm to School Month sticker or a taste test specific sticker, we have a few to choose from here.

Spread the word. 
A crunch event is a great opportunity to share your farm to school story with local media outlets. Download our National Farm to School Month Celebration Toolkit for media pitch ideas and suggestions for connecting with local reporters. 

Share the celebration! No matter where or how or when you crunch, be sure to share it with the wider farm to school community by posting to social media with the hashtags #F2SMonth and #farmtoschool. Scan these hashtags now to see how others are crunching this National Farm to School Month! 

Are you participating in a crunch event at your school this October? Does this list inspire you to organize your own? We want to hear about it! Tell us how you’re celebrating National Farm to School Month this October - with a crunch event, or any farm to school activity! - and we’ll enter you to win a package of farm to school prizes for a school of your choice. This year's prizes include a "Build-Your-Own Blueberry Day" from the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, assets from the Captain Planet Foundation Project Learning Garden™ program, organic dairy products from Organic Valley, and a collection of seeds from High Mowing Organic Seeds. No action or crunch is too small - take the pledge today

Need a little bit more inspiration to get your CRUNCH on? Check out these highlights from recent apple crunches in Virginia and Washington. Happy CRUNCH-ing! 

2018 Fall Funding Round Up

NFSN Staff Wednesday, October 03, 2018

National Farm to School Month is a time to try new things and take action to grow your farm to school activities. One great way to try something new in your program is to apply for funding to help support or grow your efforts. If you’re new to farm to school, check out our getting started resources: 

Ready to kickoff or expand your farm to school efforts? Here are several fall funding opportunities to explore:

USDA FY 2019 Farm to School Grant RFA
The FY 2019 Farm to School Grant Program Request for Applications (RFA) is now open to applicants. Due to additional funding made available to the Farm to School Grant Program through the FY 2018 Omnibus Bill, the Office of Community Food Systems seeks to award approximately $7.5M in FY 2019 funding. Applications are due December 4, 2018. Learn more and apply here.

The National Farm to School Network advocated for the establishment of the USDA Farm to School Grant Program and is committed to ensuring it reaches the communities that need this funding most. NFSN is available on a consultation basis to provide assistance to potential applicants in the areas of: planning and preparing the application; customized support for Native communities; evaluation; and, focus on early care and education / pre-K. For more information about National Farm to School Network consultation services - including specific consultation offerings, pricing, and a form to express interest - click here

Nature Conservancy School Gardens
The Nature Conservancy is awarding grants to support projects that implement green infrastructure to address local environmental challenges. These include access to healthy food, air quality, heat island effect, climate change, and storm water collection. Young people will work as social innovators to help their communities through project design and implementation. A $2,000 grant will be awarded to up to 50 schools. Applications are due October 5. Learn more here.

National Education Association Grants
Student Achievement Grants, offered by the National Education Association (NEA) Foundation, are for projects that help students learn how to think critically and solve problems in order to improve student learning. Learning & Leadership Grants, offered by the National Education Association (NEA) Foundation, are for professional development opportunities for individuals or groups. Grants are available to current members of the National Education Association who are educators in public schools or public institutions of higher education. Preference is given to proposals that incorporate STEM and/or global learning into projects, which can include farm to school activities. Two levels of funding are available: $2,000 and $5,000. The next deadline for applications is October 15. 

Whole Kids Foundation School Garden Grant Program
The Whole Kids Foundation, in partnership with FoodCorps, is now accepting applications for its School Garden Grant Program, an annual grantmaking program that supports school garden projects designed to help students learn about topics such as nutrition and health, sustainability and conservation, food systems, and community awareness. These grants will be in the amount of $2,000 for year-long projects. The applications are due October 15. Learn more here.

Seeds for Education Grant Program
Teachers and students across the US are expanding learning opportunities by enhancing their schoolyards with butterfly gardens, nature trails, prairies, woodland wildflower preserves, and similar projects. These projects enrich the learning environment and provide aesthetic and environmental benefits. Wild Ones offers assistance for all aspects of such projects. Cash grants under $500 are available for plants and seeds, and in-kind donations from Nursery Partners can help stretch these dollars. Applications are due October 15. Learn more here.

Whole Kids Foundation - Bee Grant Program
The Bee Grant program allows for a K-12 school or non-profit organization to receive support for an educational bee hive. Four grant options are available, and all include remote consultation and assistance with Beekeeper partnership from The Bee Cause Project. Applications are doc October 31. Learn more here

Annie’s Grant for Edible School Gardens
Want a school garden? Annie’s believes that showing future generations how sustainable food is grown changes their lives. Connecting kids to gardens helps them to start thinking more holistically about their food, their communities, and the planet. Applications are due November 1. Learn more and apply here.

Safer® Brand School Garden Grant 
Safer® Brand is starting an annual school garden grant to help kids build healthy habits through gardening, bring classmates closer together and unite everyone in a common goal of better health. The $500 grant will be awarded to a school in the United States to start a school garden in 2018. Applications for this grant are due December 1. Learn more here.

2019 Youth Garden Grant
Any nonprofit organization, public or private school, or youth program in the United States or US Territories planning a new garden program or expanding an established one that serves at least 15 youth between the ages of 3 and 18 is eligible to apply. The selection of winners is based on demonstrated program impact and sustainability. The top 5 programs will be awarded grant packages worth $2,100. Grant packages worth $500 will be awarded to 20 additional programs. Applications are due December 17. Learn more here

Find more ideas for supporting your farm to school activities in our Funding Farm to School factsheet. Stay tuned to our This Week blogs, posted every Tuesday, for more farm to school funding, resources and engagement opportunities.

31 Days to Celebrate Farm to School

NFSN Staff Monday, October 01, 2018

October is a time of year when farms and gardens are overflowing with delicious harvests of every size, shape, color, and flavor – and a time when we come together with schools, farms, and communities from throughout the country to celebrate National Farm to School Month! The National Farm to School Network advocated for the creation of National Farm to School Month by Congress in 2010 (House Resolution 1655) and since then, the yearly October festivities have brought together thousands of students, teachers, parents, farmers, food advocates, school lunch professionals, and community members from a wide range of sectors to raise awareness of the important role of farm to school in improving child nutrition, supporting local economies, and building vibrant communities. This National Farm to School Month, join the celebration of food education, school gardens, and lunch trays filled with healthy, local ingredients. Anyone can get involved!

As National Farm to School Month has grown throughout the years, states have expanded their celebrations. Some states, such as New Jersey and Virginia, host their own statewide Farm to School Week to focus on the exciting farm to school efforts happening throughout their states. Others, such as Iowa, Massachusetts, and Minnesota, choose a specific day to raise awareness and highlight local food in their states with a “Local Food Day”. A number of states promote statewide apple crunches, including the Great Lakes region (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin), Montana, North Carolina, and Alabama. From garden harvests to locally sourced lunches, states throughout the country have seized the opportunity to celebrate their local bounty and encourage those throughout their state to get involved wherever they are, all while educating their communities about the origins of their food. 
No matter where you live, everyone can join in the National Farm to School Month celebration! Here are a few ways to get involved this month: 
  • Take the Pledge: Sign our Take Action Pledge and commit to taking action to advance farm to school in your community this October.
  • Explore resources: Download our new Farm to School Month Celebration Toolkit and check out other free resources for planning and promoting celebrations in your community, including customizable posters and bookmarks, stickers, activity suggestions and communications tools. 
  • See what’s happening: Explore our national calendar of Farm to School Month events to see what celebrations are happening in your community.
  • Donate to support our work: Invest in the future of farm to school. Donate to the National Farm to School Network and help us bring farm to school to communities across the country every month! Take one small step and make a charitable donation today. 
  • Share the celebration: We want to know how you’re celebrating! Share your Farm to School stories on social media with #F2SMonth and #farmtoschool.
  • Wear your support: Check out our Farm to School Month store for t-shirts, stickers, buttons, and more to wear your Farm to School love all month long! 
  • Stay up to date: Make sure you’re signed up for our e-newsletter. We’ll be sending a few emails this month with more action ideas and ways to celebrate. Sign up here
Farm to school is a grassroots movement powered by people like you taking small actions every day to grow healthier kids, support local agriculture and cultivate vibrant communities. These next 31 days are the perfect time to celebrate how far we've come, and dig in to keep growing the movement!
Special thanks to our 2018 National Farm to School Month Sponsors and Supporters - including CoBank, Newman's Own Foundation, U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, Captain Planet Foundation, Organic Valley, Farm Credit, FarmLogix, and High Mowing Organic Seeds - as well as the Featured Partner and Outreach Partner organizations that are helping us spread the word about farm to school throughout October. And, thanks to you for being a farm to school champion in your community.
Happy National Farm to School Month!

Farm to School Month Roundup: 31 Days of Action for Farm to School

NFSN Staff Wednesday, November 01, 2017
 Photo Credit: DC Greens
For the past 31 days, millions of schools, farmers and communities across the country have been celebrating the movement that’s connecting kids to fresh, healthy food and supporting local economies. From Florida to Alaska and everywhere in between, people are recognizing the power of farm to school to benefits kids, farmers and communities. That’s what National Farm to School Month is all about! 

This year’s campaign celebrated the small actions that people take every day to get involved and support farm to school and farm to early care and education in their communities. Through our Farm to School Month “Take Action Pledge,” we heard from hundreds of people across the country about the action steps they took in October:

  • Invited parents to join students for a lunch of fresh collard greens and South Carolina grown sweet potatoes – South Carolina
  • Worked to build an active Farm to School Committee that helps connect community entities and passionate people – Michigan
  • Continued to teach my daycare center children about the importance of growing vegetables by turning a recycled crib into a raised garden bed – New York
  • Incorporated produce from our own school greenhouse into school lunch menu and salad bar – Maine
  • Hosted a Fall Harvest Party in the school garden, featuring tasty treats using produce from the garden, reading from a garden-themed book together, and farmers who shared their stories with students – Iowa
At the National Farm to School Network, we’ve been leading Farm to School Month celebrations by sharing farm to school inspiration and stories from partners organizations including Alliance for a Healthier Generation, National CACFP Sponsors Association, The NEA Foundation, School Nutrition Association, USDA Office of Community Food Systems and Youth Empowered Solutions. Thanks to special support from CoBank, we also shared several stories about how small farmers across the country are experiencing the benefits of farm to school, such as new market opportunities, expanded profit margins, and consistent buyers for their products

On social media, we celebrated with a #FarmtoSchool101 tweet chat to spread awareness and generated new support for the movement. More than 289 people joined the conversation on social media, sharing stories about the positive impact farm to school has in their communities. On Instagram, we hosted #TakeoverTuesdays with Strike Farms, Loudoun County School Nutrition, and FoodCorps to share what farm to school looks like for the folks who do it every day! 

Millions of students celebrated Farm to School Month by crunch into fresh, local food with events like the Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch, Hawai’i CHOMP, Florida Cucumber Crunch and Montana Crunch Time. Policymakers from Arkansas, California, Kentucky, Rhode Island and Vermont made proclamations declaring October Farm to School Month in their states. In Georgia, kids learned about planting, harvesting and cooking legumes with Georgia Organic’s “Make Room for Legumes” celebration. In Massachusetts, farm to school advocates gathered at the State House for a Farm to School Awareness Day and announcement of their 2017 Kale Blazer Award. In Alaska, schools celebrated farm to school every week in October by focusing on a different Alaska agricultural products, such as tubers and roots (Eskimo potatoes), meat (Caribou) and leaves (fiddlehead ferns). We could keep going! 

Farm to school is a grassroots movement powered by people like you, taking small actions every day to bring more local food sourcing and food and agriculture education to students across the nation. There are 334 days to continue growing and strengthening the movement before Farm to School Month 2018! Help us keep the momentum going by joining our network and stay up-to-date on the latest stories, new resources, policy actions, learning opportunities – like the upcoming 9th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference, April 25-27, 2018 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Healthy kids, thriving farms and vibrant communities are worth taking action for every day!

Thank you to this year’s National Farm to School Month sponsors - CoBank, Territory Foods, Captain Planet Foundation, Organic Valley, Perdue, Emeril Lagasse Foundation, Stand2Learn and High Mowing Organic Seeds - as well as the Featured Partner and Outreach Partner organizations that are helping us spread the word about farm to school throughout October. And, thanks to you for being a farm to school champion in your community.

5 Tips for Celebrating Farm to School Month

NFSN Staff Friday, October 27, 2017

By Wendy Allen, Organic Valley

One of our favorite things about National Farm to School Month is October’s abundance of farm-fresh foods, many in a rainbow of colors that children don’t often associate with food. Apples in colors other than red; carrots in colors other than orange; white, yellow—even blue!—potatoes fresh from the soil. And nothing beats the flavor of vine-ripened, heirloom tomatoes in hues of red, orange, yellow and purple.
Schools that source local foods are providing an educational experience for our children that goes way beyond the classroom. Not only are the varied colors of unique, local foods beautiful, each color represents vital nutrients for growing bodies. Best of all, a rainbow-colored plate supports local farmers whose kids may be in your own child’s class. Schools that go one step further to source local and organic are also supporting a way of farming that reduces the use of chemicals on our food, our land and, therefore, in our children’s vulnerable bodies.

Here are a few more of our favorite ways you can participate in National Farm to School Month in your homes and communities!

Harvest the season’s bounty. Visit a local apple orchard or pumpkin patch and pick your own. Many children these days don’t connect that their food comes from the soil or animals rather than the store shelf. Teach them this valuable lesson with a fun and colorful fall experience! 

Know your farmer. Meet a farmer at the farmers market and learn the story behind your food. Ask them questions: Where is your farm? What’s your favorite part of your job? What can my family do to support you and other local farmers? Is your farmers market closed for the season? Look into fall and winter “community supported agriculture” (CSA) shares to get local foods nearly year-round. Find a CSA farm new you at

Be a leader! If your local school doesn’t have a farm to school program, talk to the school administrators about starting one! You can use the National Farm to School Network’s excellent “Benefits of Farm to School” resource to help explain why farm to school is a win-win-win for kids, farmers and communities! In addition, many states have organizations that help install gardens, and schools can get free curriculum to connect science, nutrition, health and physical education classes with their gardens. Here’s a resource from Organic Valley’s home state of Wisconsin, which any state could use to get started:

  • The Got Dirt? Gardening Initiative provides a toolkit with step-by-step plans for starting a community, school or childcare garden. To bring the classroom to the garden, the program also created the Got Veggies? Garden Based Nutrition Curriculum, which is a free download. Download both toolkits here
  • For additional curricular resources, visit the National Farm to School Network resource library.
  • Know of other great resources? Share them with us on Facebook or Twitter!
Grow your own! Start small with a window herb garden, a manageable space in the backyard, or even vegetables that are suited for pots on the porch. A great kids’ activity! Volunteer to visit your local school to help students plant their own classroom herb garden. 

Cook together. Cooking can be a great learning experience. Encourage lots of colors for balanced nutrition, and talk about where the foods came from – does your child know that butter comes from cream, which is part of milk, which came from a cow? Talk about it while making your own butter!

National Farm to School Month is a great time to engage with your child’s classrooms and encourage teachers to work in food and farming education. It’s so important to help our children learn to appreciate where our food comes from and the hard work it takes to bring that food to our tables.

Organic Valley is a 2017 National Farm to School Month sponsor, and happy to support the National Farm to School Network in its efforts to support family farming and teach children about where our food comes from.

Farm to School Brings a Consistent Market to this Kansas Farm

NFSN Staff Thursday, October 26, 2017

By Molly Schintler, Communications Intern

Growing up in suburban Dallas, Jill Elmers felt far from farm country. Even as a young adult, she did not envision her life as a farmer. Jill began her career as an engineer, got burned out, and took time off to farm in 2000. Ever since her first season, she has had a little bit of land every year. Then in 2006, Jill saved up enough money to buy her own farmland. Today, she owns and operates Moon on the Meadow Farm in Lawrence, Kansas. 

Moon on the Meadow is a six-acre, certified organic farm growing a variety of produce including: fruits, veggies, herbs and flowers. In addition to Jill, up to six employees work at the farm, some seasonally and a few year round. Through the use of season extension techniques such a tunnels, Jill is able to produce all year for the farm’s retail and wholesale markets including: farmers markets, CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), and farm to school. 

This is the farm’s second year selling to local schools, and Jill says that this business relationship has given her farm a consistently reliable market. “The core items that they (schools) buy, they know how much they need every week, and so those sales are consistent.”  Last year, the farm sold cucumbers and cherry tomatoes to the Lawrence schools, and this year they have added romaine, cilantro, and winter salad mix. 

Jill is one of a number of U.S. farmers discovering the economic benefits of farm to school. Economic Impacts of Farm to School: Case Studies and Assessment Tools, a recent report from the National Farm to School Network and Colorado University, examines the economic impact of local purchasing and provides new insight into the potential for farm to school procurement to positively impact local economies. This report finds that not only were surveyed farmers satisfied or very satisfied with most aspects of farm to school sales, but farm to school farms purchase more inputs from the local economy, which results in positive local economic impact. Beyond the economics, farm to school has far-reaching and positive impacts for students, farmers, and communities

Jill is happy that farm to school has secured her a more reliable farm income; however, she was quick to explain that farm to school is about so much more than that. The team at Moon on the Meadow Farm is proud to supply healthy, organic food to the schools surrounding them. Since the farm is located eleven blocks from the center of Lawrence, the schools that this urban farm supplies actually surround it. Jill’s favorite farm to school moments are when students make the trip to the farm. Specifically, the Lawrence 7th grade health students who take a field trip in the fall and spring.  Jill explained that the students not only inspire her but all of her farm’s workers. It seems some type of poetic that the students inspire Jill and her team, because I am most certain that the farm inspires the students - maybe even a future farmer or two.

The National Farm to School Network thanks CoBank for their generous support of this blog and our 2017 National Farm to School Month celebrations!

Tower Garden Grows More Than Plants

NFSN Staff Monday, October 23, 2017
By Jesse Graytock, Program Manager, The NEA Foundation
Students walking by the window to Sabrina Sullivan Conner’s classroom were perplexed. The large white column that they saw didn’t seem to make any sense. Was it a birdhouse? A piece of a maintenance equipment? Some sort of elaborate game board?

It turns out that it was simply a way to bring farming not just to schools, but to have it in schools. At Strongsville Middle School in Strongsville, Ohio Mrs. Conner, an intervention specialist who works with students with moderate to intensive disabilities, used a $2,000 grant from the NEA Foundation to work with her students to build a tower garden in their classroom. The tower, which pumps water through a central base and then filters it up to twenty different vegetables and herbs, allowed students to grow crops year-round and served as an invaluable hands-on learning tool.

Students were responsible for building the tower, choosing and planting the vegetables and herbs, and maintaining the system, which included pruning, checking water levels, filling the tank, and harvesting. “We wanted to teach healthy living and vocational skills to individuals with autism, Down syndrome, and multiple disabilities,” said Mrs. Conner. “I want my students to have access to opportunities to build skills to help them eventually live independently.”

In addition to acting as a catalyst for experiential learning, the garden also led to a significant change in students’ eating habits. Once the province of chocolate and pretzels, snack periods morphed into sessions with tomatoes, spinach, and thyme. But this transition was not without some hiccups.

“At first they were very confused,” remembers Mrs. Conner. “Most of my students have autism and are very rigid with their diets. Some of them have never really tried fresh vegetables. Many have never given a thought to the growing process – they only knew that vegetables came from the store.”

As time passed, and as students began to realize the fruits (and veggies) of their labor, attitudes changed. One student developed a deep love for basil. Others enjoyed sliced cucumbers with a light dressing. Every week, a group of students would choose a recipe, make a list of ingredients, and cook a meal for each other. Their pride in the garden was palpable. 

After a few months of having the tower in the window, students in the general education population began to ask how they could get involved. Eventually more than 100 students signed up to volunteer to assist their special needs peers with planting and harvesting.

The success of the project can’t be measured simply by students’ new appreciation for vocational skills, healthy living, and life science (although that was clear). For Mrs. Conner, the deep impact comes in the form of watching her students embrace this type of hands-on learning and turn it into a self-directed odyssey. “I’ll catch them smelling the plants and trimming off dead leaves or overgrowth independently and unprompted,” she recalls.

“They inspire me every day.”

Sabrina Sullivan is an intervention specialist at Strongsville Middle School in Strongsville, Ohio. She and thousands of other educators throughout the country have received a grant from the NEA Foundation. To apply for a $2,000 or $5,000 grant for classroom projects or professional development endeavors, visit

Seeds Farm Reaps Rewards with Farm to School

NFSN Staff Thursday, October 19, 2017

By Hannah McCandless, Network and Partnership Fellow 

With a mission to produce wholesome, quality food, Seeds Farm in Northfield, MN finds that farm to school initiatives are boosting their sales while bringing the community together. Becca Carlson, the founder of Seeds Farm, is extremely passionate about feeding her community farm fresh products and sees farm to school as a way to pursue this passion while preserving land for future farmers and bringing communities and families together.
Becca started Seeds Farm in 2010 with the motivation to connect more closely with her environment and to help her community eat in a more constructive, rather than destructive, way. Since then the small farm has blossomed. 

Since Seeds Farm began participating in farm to school initiatives, a number of things have changed and taken hold on the farm. On top of growing more food for schools and adding to the farms profit margin, Becca has found that schools are very understanding of potential mishaps on the farm, such as an early frost or a smaller yield than anticipated. Although the volume of food is not always large, the contracts have remained consistent. Often, contracts are set in the winter and delivered on in the fall, making schools a reliable market for small farms like Seeds Farm. Overall, Becca reports that the small increase in sales to schools has increased sales overall.

By becoming certified to sell to schools in Minnesota, Seeds Farm has been able to sell their products to schools and expand their wholesale contracts with other potential buyers. A number of contacts and potential contracts have been explored because of this new level of documentation, allowing for the farm to expand even further than before. 

As Becca looks back on her time participating in farm to school initiatives, she has some advice for farmers or food service directors on how they can get involved. For farmers, her greatest advice is to start early. There is some documentation to get squared away, a bidding process, and contracts to be decided on in the winter months for the following fall. Becca says, “It’s not hard or easy, it takes time, planning ahead, and forward thinking. Very achievable.” 

Concerning food service directors new to the movement, Becca says, “Farm to school is the whole package for kids,” and to remember that they are not only bringing healthy produce to students, but they are telling the story of where food comes from and the farmers who grew it. Helping kids view healthy, local food as fun and cool is the key to getting kids more involved. 

Like a number of farms across the country, Seeds Farm will continue to grow and thrive as they bring their communities together and provide healthy food, while growing their business and prospering as an organization. 

A new report from the National Farm to School Network and Colorado State University, Economic Impacts of Farm to School: Case Studies and Assessment Tools, offers additional insight into the potential for farm to school procurement to economically benefit farmers and the broader community. Using a survey and case study approach, this study aimed to fill this knowledge gap by documenting economic impacts of farm to school procurement and developing a standardized framework for farm to school impact analysis. 

Survey Findings
Most surveyed farmers started selling to schools after 2011 and all farmers planned to continue to sell to schools in the future. Farmers were most satisfied with delivery requirements, prices, reliable payments, delivery logistics, time commitment, and ease of communication. The biggest challenge identified by farmers was the volume of sales to schools. 

Case Studies
This economic analysis is unique in its rigor as it uses information from the farmer survey and information from previous studies (including the USDA Farm to School Census and the USDA ARMS data) to construct a model for farm to school economic impact. Unlike previous studies, this economic impact analysis takes into account reported farmer expenditures, direct to school and intermediary sales to schools (food hubs, processors, etc.) and opportunity costs of local sales. Researchers used this model to present farm to school case studies for Minneapolis Public Schools (MPLS) and the State of Georgia.

Case Study Findings
Farm to school farms purchase more inputs locally, keeping more money in the local economy: 
  • For every $100 spent, MPLS farm to school farms keep $82 in the region (vs. $70 for non-farm to school farms). 
  • For every $100 spent, Georgia farm to school farms keep $82 in the region (vs. $79 for non-farm to school farms). 
Without considering opportunity cost, for every additional dollar of final demand for farm to school farm products: 
  • An additional $0.93 is generated in related sectors in MPLS.
  • An additional $1.11 is generated in related sectors in Georgia.
Economic output multipliers and employment multipliers for farm to school farms from the case studies are larger than the more traditional fruit and vegetable production sector: 
  • Economic Output Multipliers – Minneapolis = 1.45, Georgia = 1.48
  • Employment Multipliers – Minneapolis = 1.96, Georgia = 3.35
This study offers a replicable survey tool and framework that stakeholders can use to implement their own farm to school economic impact assessments in their communities. While the two case studies in this study clearly demonstrate that farm to school farms purchase more inputs from the local economy per unit of output, which results in positive local economic impact, additional research and support is needed to better understand the benefits of farm to school and to reach more stakeholders with this information. This will fill an important gap in knowledge and open new opportunities for farm to school implementation and advocacy and build more opportunities for farmers like Becca to benefit from farm to school sales. 

The National Farm to School Network thanks CoBank for their generous support of this blog and our 2017 National Farm to School Month celebrations!

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