Expanding Farm to Cafeteria Connections with Harvest Preparation and Preservation Training

Final Report for CNE10-069

Project Type: Sustainable Community Innovation
Funds awarded in 2010: $12,950.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Deborah Denome
Seeking Common Ground
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Project Information


This grant was focused on increasing the use of local produce in local cafeterias through a series of workshops on preparation skills and preservation of local produce. We have completed all 4 of our events; 3 training events with 60 participants and one final celebration with over 1,200 participants. In addition to the new skills and connections strongly reported at the end of the training, all of the participants have since ordered increasing volumes of local fruits, vegetables, and black beans…as well as freezing broccoli, cauliflower and winter squash for winter use. At least 800 pounds of broccoli, 200 pounds of cauliflower and 70 pounds of winter squash were frozen by 7 school districts. Since our last report, we offered a Savor the Spring Harvest training, with 18 participants, 100% of whom reported learning new useable, local foods recipes, 83% reported learning technical skills, and 89% reported new farmer connections. We also hosted our final celebration at Ontario County Fun on the Farm. The celebration took a different form that we originally anticipated, in an attempt to directly reach thousands of parents and students vs. solely reaching out to Food Service Directors. It was a success. We served over a thousand servings of local food recipes and 77% of those we surveyed said they would make the food at home and 50% said they would ask for it at school. We also surveyed all participating cafeterias about the usage of their new skills, foods and farmer contacts 6-12 months post-training and received responses from 11 of 17 cafeterias. These 11 cafeterias reported purchasing just over $40,000 in local foods, which is a very conservative estimate of the actual total purchases in all 17 cafeterias.

Project Objectives:

1. 4 sessions total: 3 training and 1 final evaluation/celebration event - All 4 SESSIONS SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETED
2. 20 participants per training session – COMPLETED as projected (26, 16, and 18 participants over 3 training sessions)
3. Documented through a final survey an increase in participating farms, cafeterias, preparation and preservation skills, local foods utilized. – COMPLETED (see below for details)
4. Connection with over 1000 farm and cafeteria users for our final event where locally grown farm products were prepared and served at a Fun on the Farm local event.


This grant used addressed several significant barriers limiting the use of local farm products in local cafeteria. We used hands-on training sessions in local produce preparation to introduce locally available products, cafeteria friendly methods to prepare them, and the farmers that grow them. Second, foodservice managers and workers were introduced farm products that they might not normally use, be familiar with, or know how to prepare. Third, we explored the use of simple preservation techniques to expand the purchase and use of local farm products during off-seasons of the growing year. Finally, we connected a large number of cafeteria users and their parents to local farm products that were prepared and served to demonstrate the potential for tasty and nutritious menu items for home and cafeteria.

Since 2006, Fingerlakes Farm to Cafeteria (originally Canandaigua Foodshed) has worked to expand the use of local foods in local cafeterias. At that time, only 3 cafeterias were purchasing any local foods, mainly apples. We have organized Breakfasts with Farmers, many farm tours for Food Service Directors, Local Foods Community Dinners at colleges and schools, special Harvest Days with all surrounding cafeterias featuring the same item, created webpages and How To Guides offering technical support and much more. Our team consists of farmers, food services directors, non-profit community organizers and educators and CCE staff. Starting with schools, we now serve colleges, businesses, camps and health care facilities. This grant built on these previous efforts and knowledge by addressing one large barrier that FSDs identified to further expanding their use of local foods; staff training, both technical skills and recipes, for preparing and preserving seasonal, whole produce.


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Nancy Anderson
  • Todd Fowler
  • Christopher Luley
  • Patricia Pavelsky


Materials and methods:

1. For the training, we collaborated to with New York State Wine and Culinary to offer training in their state of the art Viking teaching kitchens. We partnered their chef/educator with one of our Food Service Directors, and highlighted different farms, recipes and seasonal produce in each season. Sessions lasted 3 hours and participants worked in groups of 4 to learn/prepare recipes.
2. Our Final Celebration was originally planned to be a summer celebration to sample more local foods and capture the progress, successes and challenges of this project through program evaluations and dialogue. Over the course of the project we determined that we usually attract 1 or 2 new cafeterias and 1 or 2 new farms to each training event. For our final celebration we began considering how we could reach out to more cafeterias and farms. Our CCE contacts suggested that we exhibit at the Ontario County Fun on the Farm Event in the Fall. After some research, we decided to do 2 things:
a. Invite all program participants to join us at Fun on the Farm, where we would reach out to thousands of parents and school children directly, to get them engaged in the Fingerlakes Farm to Cafeteria efforts.
b. Email survey/phone follow up with our existing cafeterias and farms to track post-training use of local foods
3. Development of How-To guide that detailed the training process.

Research results and discussion:

1. 2 training sessions were held in 2010: Anticipating the Fall Harvest at the New York Wine and Culinary Center (NYWCC) in July and Preserving the Fall Harvest at Bloomfield Central School (BCS) in October.
2. Anticipating Fall Harvest Training had 26 participants, and Preserving the Fall Harvest Preservation Training had 16 participants. We limited the second session as we used a smaller kitchen, at BCS, that had a Combi Oven. The NYWCC did not have a Combi Oven or Convection Steamer for preserving the fall harvest. Participants were from 10 school districts, 2 human service agencies, 1 hospital, 1 college and 1 camp.
3. At the end of the sessions, 92% of the participants reported new technical skills (esp. knife and freezing skills), awareness of new products/recipes (esp. organic black beans in burgers and hummus, frittatas with seasonal vegetables, pasta primavera with seasonal vegetables, mini mirai corn, Muranda cheese), and connections to local farms (Cayuga Pure Organics Beanery, Soul Food Farm, Muranda Farm, Fish’s Farm Market, and several new to Victor Apple Farm)
4. One Training Event, Savor our Spring Harvest, was held at the New York Wine and Culinary Center on April 14th, 2011. We had 18 participants, 18 of whom reported learning new recipes that they felt were usable in their cafeteria, 15 reported learning new technical skills, 16 reported connecting to new farms.
5. New recipes included Strawberry Spinach Salad, Asparagus Soup, Quinoa Asparagus Salad, Dressed Asparagus, Spring Vegetable Frittata, Honey Mustard Dressing, and Fruit/Yogurt parfaits. We also connected with another NESARE Farmer grant funded project, Small-scale commercial Juneberry establishment and marketing and utilized local Juneberries in the parfaits and a “Mystery Basket” contest, where participants created new recipes on the fly from ingredients found in their baskets. The trainers/chefs and a NYWCC educator judged the contest, which was great learning and fun for all. Trainers/chefs included Todd Fowler, Food Service Director of Bloomfield Central School and Eric Smith, Chef/Instructor, NYWCC. Farmer Phil Munson of Fisher Hill Farm spoke about what he sees in the spring harvest, and how to connect with his farm for delivery.
6. New technical skills included knife skills (making garlic paste, slicing cherry tomatoes, etc.), making a vinaigrette (emulsification), making a roux (for cream soup base), making a reduction sauce with berries, cooking new grains (quinoa and millet), using a food processor.
7. FUN ON THE FARM: September 24th, 2011. We had two booths. One booth was a tabletop display highlighting the benefits of Fingerlakes Farm to Cafeteria, and large maps indicating the locations of our participating farms and cafeterias. There was also an activity for people to indicate with pushpins where there last fruit or vegetable came from. Of the people who participated, the results were: 19-Farm Market, 26-HomeGarden, 15-Farm Stand, 32-Store, 3-CSA, 2-Upick . There were over 4,000 attendees at the event.
8. Our other booth featured a cornucopia of local produce, and we prepared and served samples of 3 recipes made with local ingredients; Raw Fruit Tart (raw crust too), Taboulleh, and Basil Pesto on baguettes with fresh mozzarella. We served over 1200 food samples and surveyed 195 tasters. 183 tried a new food they had never had before. 77% said they would make it at home and 50% said they would ask for it at school. All tasters received the recipes and contact information for FingerLakes Farm to Cafeteria. We did connect with 3 new regional school cafeterias at the event, and many people learned that their cafeterias already participate in Fingerlakes Farm to Cafeteria.
9. EMAIL SURVEY: 11 of 17 cafeterias responded to our email survey 4-6 months post-training. They all reported purchasing new local products and utilizing new skills learned. We know from word of mouth that the 6 remaining cafeterias also purchased local products, but still did not respond to the survey after repeated phone and email contacts. So the conservative total of local food purchased, from the 11 respondents, was $40, 940. The last time we surveyed local cafeterias in 2007, total use of new local foods was $9,745.07.
10. The How-To Guide is completed and printed and has been electronically shared with many email lists. It will be on the Cornell Farm to School website and the National Farm to Cafeteria website within the next 2 weeks.

Participation Summary

Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary

Participation Summary:

Education/outreach description:

Two articles in the Canandaigua Daily Messenger
Two articles in New York State School Nutrition Association magazine, FOCUS
One article in “Country Folks” West edition (NYS farming magazine)
One article in Edible Finger Lakes Magazine
PRESENTATIONS (In addition to the presentations mentioned in our last annual report):
NYS Association of County Administrators
Growing Health: Rural Health Network of S. Central New York
Diggin’ Diversity: NOFA-NY 2011 Winter Conference
Saratoga County CCE
Wyoming County Economic Development Board
GLOW (Genesee, Livingston, Orleans, Wyoming) ASBO (Association of School Business Officials)
Farm to School Day at NYS Fair – Prepared/Served local foods samples in the AgPod
Naples Central School – Talks with 5 Senior High Health Classes about the benefits of eating local and starting a Local Food Revolution Club.
Ontario County Agriculture Enhancement Board

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

In addition to the new skills and connections reported at the end of the training, all of the participants have since reported ordering increasing volumes of local fruits, vegetables, and black beans…as well as freezing broccoli, cauliflower and winter squash for winter use. At least 800 pounds of broccoli, 200 pounds of cauliflower and 70 pounds of winter squash were frozen by 7 school districts.
Made possible by a Rural Health Grant through Thompson Health (our local health system), these same 7 leading school districts formed a School Food Independence Committed led by Alyvia Burkey, a nutrition educator from the hospital. They took the black bean burger recipe we created in July and refined it and taste tested it with students. They ended up with a complete plant-based entree, Black Bean Sliders with Spicy Mixed Fries (tex-mex seasonings baked on sweet potato and russet potato wedges) that have now been served in these 7 school districts as the primary entree.

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Potential Contributions

All aspects of this project could be replicated anywhere. They have already been replicated in an urban/suburban setting, close to Rochester, NY in a neighboring county. Several school districts in the Long Island/Catskills areas have contacted us about organizing similar training for them.

Future Recommendations

While this training was successful in the introduction and adoption of new skills and practices, clearly cafeterias will need to continue to train their new staff regularly. Hopefully this will be self-sustaining with existing staff training new staff, but there could be the need for more training in the future, especially as new cafeterias continue to join the effort.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.