Appalachian Spring Cooperative held several grower workshops. In August of 2006 Jim Webster conducted a marketing workshop which was recorded. The tape is and has been available to any interested party wishing to take advantage of this presentation and to repeat this workshop. On October 28, 2008 another workshop on Wholesale and Retail Marketing and Pricing was presented by David Bilderback and Robin Robbins which was attended by 14 farmers.
A three quarter day training for growers, school food service and program staff in organizing retail events was held on March 11, 2008. The presenters were Emily Jackson and Mollie Nicholie from the Southeast Regional Farm to School lead office. It was titled “Organizing Retail Events”. An overview of retail events, organization and planning, was presented, with group work sessions planning a mock retail event following. There were 11 attendees for this event.
The first retail event was held the evening of the March 11, 2008 workshop. Staff, growers, school staff (Hawkins Family Resource) and the Child Nutrition Director of Hawkins County Schools held a “Family, Farms and Schools Event/Dinner” at Church Hill Elementary School. In attendance were 45 people including teachers, school board members, staff, growers, local legislators, and parents. The food was grown and processed locally. Guest speakers were growers, the Child Nutrition Director and the School Health Coordinator.
The second retail event was held at Hancock County Middle School on October 15, 2008. The event was called a “Taste Party” and reached all 75 children of the 7th grade class and their teachers. Staff, Deborah McDaniel (School Health Coordinator), Hancock County (UT) Extension personnel and the Child Nutrition Director in Hancock County were involved with planning and coordinating the event which coincided with National School Lunch Week. The activities included a basic explanation of Farm to School, a presentation from three local farmers, a tasting of dishes made from less common vegetables (spaghetti squash desert and eggplant casserole). Children were invited to take fact sheets about the vegetables and recipes home. After tasting the children rated the dishes and voted if they would like these vegetables in school meals.
Several grower workshops exploring means of opening up farm-to-school markets were held at the office of Jubilee Project.
Measurable results are that the growers increased their school sales from $3,000 in 2007, $4,580 in 2008, and thus far in 2009 $7,000 of an annual food budget of $1,260,500 in Hawkins county. These purchases included watermelons, cantaloupes, peppers and potatoes. Growers have a better understanding of what is needed and involved in engaging the school staff, parents and children in sales of produce to schools. We feel that children, teachers, staff, school board and parents reached through retail events and outreach have a much better appreciation and support for providing local food to children.
If we would do the project again we would place a greater emphasis on moving school systems from their established purchasing patterns to being more open to purchase locally grown seasonal foods.
The growers we reached – as a group – are continuing the work with schools to further promote locally grown produce to gain a greater share of the total food budget, and to continue to educate parents, children, teachers, food service personnel, as well as the community as a whole to benefit of locally grown fresh farm products.
The efforts of the growers have been documented by the National Farm to School Network newsletter of March 2008, coverage in the Kingsport Times-News of July 29, 2007, as well as Hancock County Today of October 22, 2008. Flyers and invitations were mailed and emailed to 58 farmers for all workshops, discussion sections and presentations as well as having been posted on Jubilee Project’s website. The recorded film of the August 06 workshop is made available for viewing to anyone interested in learning about marketing and pricing on the website as well as a power point presentation.
The growers involved in the “Growing Healthy Kids…Growing Healthy Sales” project have over the time of the project been able to use the tools provided to make some inroads into the Hawkins County school food program. The use of locally grown foods from 2007 to 2009 more than doubled (and no doubt will be higher as the current school year is not concluded), but is still only .008% of the school food budget year-to-date.
It has become obvious that in order to truly provide fresh, locally grown produce to schools to promote healthier eating for children there must be pressure on the schools to use local farmers as purveyors.