Farm to School in Hancock County

2006 Annual Report for CNE06-012

Project Type: Sustainable Community Innovation
Funds awarded in 2006: $9,965.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $5,619.00
Region: Northeast
State: Maine
Project Leader:
Doug Michael
Healthy Acadia Coalition
Heather Albert-Knopp
Healthy Acadia Coalition

Farm to School in Hancock County


The Hancock County Farm to School Project has established working relationships with ten of approximately 40 public and private schools in Hancock County and contacted over 50 farmers to begin making connections that will result in more students improving nutrition and eating fresh and locally grown produce in school meals and snacks. As of December 2006, two schools, with a total of approximately 320 students (4 % of the total students in Hancock County) had worked with the Hancock County Farm to School project to incorporate locally grown food products in their menus, including salad bars and entrées. These schools spent a total of approximately $1430 on local foods from four farms during fall 2006, compared with no local expenditures in previous years. Eight other schools have expressed interest in expanding locally grown food in school meals, some starting in fall 2007. More than 20 local farms and several food distributors who feature Maine products have expressed strong interest in selling their products to Hancock County schools.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Based on a successful Farm to School Workshop in September of 2005 (prior to SARE funding), project staff and advisory committee members were to identify three to four pilot schools and farmers in the region who would be interested in working together to address health and nutrition needs of students through increased offerings of locally grown produce served in school meals and snacks. The project was designed to assess the amount of money spent by farms on local farm produce, or local farm produce as a percentage of overall food budget, and to assure that 1000 or more of the 7650 students in Hancock County will have farm-fresh food choices in school meals and snacks, and to track the number of students and adults who took part in Farm to School activities. The project was also designed to note changes in policy or practices in schools and on farms related to increasing locally produced food for school programs, and to capture community perceptions about the value of the project.


The project began in April of 2006, with Heather Albert-Knopp, an experienced community consultant, hired by the Healthy Acadia Coalition to staff the project. As of December 2006, she had made initial and follow-up inquiries in ten of the approximately 40 schools in Hancock County and had in-depth conversations with more than 25 farmers and distributors of locally grown produce. Heather also collected information from more than 50 farms and several food and seafood distributors on their interest in selling to local schools, the variety and volume of products available and over what seasons, food distribution and trucking options, along with other relevant information, as the basis for a directory that schools can use to explore purchase of local foods.

Heather connected Mount Desert Elementary School cook Linda Mailhot with Ken Sebelin, food services coordinator at College of the Atlantic, to help strengthen Linda’s knowledge and skills for working with local foods. Ken provided Linda with recipe ideas, food preparation tips, and a tour of the college’s kitchen facilities. Back at Mount Desert Elementary School, Linda trialed Ken’s suggestions – and found that local roasted root vegetables went over well!

In order to help expand local knowledge of farm to school partnerships, the project coordinator arranged newspaper coverage with two stories in the Mount Desert Islander (circulation 2600) in March and November, one story in the Bar Harbor Times (circulation 4000) in April, one story in Mount Desert Island Hospital’s Health Current spring insert (circulation 5000), and one story in the Hancock County Time Bank’s monthly newsletter with a circulation of approximately 500. The project coordinator also spoke to an audience of approximately 60 people at a local foods workshop in Blue Hill in April.

In addition, the Farm to School project was featured in a one hour interview and call-in program on community radio station WERU, produced and hosted by Ron Beard, a project partner from University of Maine Cooperative Extension. The show has an estimated audience of 7500-9500 people in a five-county region of Maine, including the project area. In addition to farmers and school cooks, the show featured a school principal’s endorsement of the project’s impacts on his students in the Mount Desert Elementary School. “Our job is to grow healthy students,” said Scott McFarland, “and our cook is delighted to find support for her changes in the food service from parents and farmers, but most of all, in the appetites of our students.” When asked why she went the extra “mile” to make locally grown food an integral part of her menu, she said, “while teachers may have students in their class for a year, I have them in my lunchroom for up to 8 years. These are my kids, and I love them.”

Healthy Acadia also created a new Farm to School page on its website, with Farm to School resources and a link to the audio archive of the radio show, available online at:

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

As of December of 2006, schools in the towns of Mount Desert and Surry were designated as participants in Farm to School and had made purchases from Beech Hill Farm (Mount Desert), Clayfield Farm (East Blue Hill), a homestead farm in Pretty Marsh (Tremont), and J&P Farm Market (Trenton), expanding lunch options for students on an ongoing basis. In the Mount Desert Elementary School, Linda Mailhot, the school cook, has incorporated locally grown produce in entrée and salad bars offered on a daily basis. In the Surry School, school cook Naomi Watson is championing local carrots through a bi-weekly salad bar at the school. Between September and December 2006, these two schools together spent approximately $1430.00 on local food.

With help from the Farm to School project coordinator, both cooks are working with teachers and local farmers to enhance student’s knowledge of the importance of fresh produce to nutrition, elements of how food is grown, and the contributions of local agriculture to the community. At Mount Desert Elementary, teacher Sue Tripp’s fourth-grade class went on a field trip to Beech Hill Farm in September, where they worked with the farmers to harvest vegetables. The students then delivered the vegetables to the school (via school bus), and worked with the kitchen staff to prep and cook the “Fourth Grade’s Famous Fresh Vegetable Soup”.

By the end of the 2006 growing season, Diane Lokocz of Beech Hill Farm, was referring to Mount Desert Elementary School as her “favorite customer.” “They’re just so happy to see me when I deliver the vegetables,” she said. When the farm had an excess 600 lbs of carrots at the end of the year that they needed to sell, the school agreed to buy half of them. During the growing season, Beech Hill Farm added the school to their regular wholesale call list and delivery route.

After beginning a partnership with Surry Elementary School, Clayfield Farm’s Phil Norris joined a new statewide Farm to School email listserv and shared the following message: “This is the first year we have participated in the farm to school program and we are very excited about it. So far we are only selling carrots to the Surry Elementary School but it feels like a beginning. I am writing because it gladdens my heart that there is a farm to school program and that there is so much interest in the Local Foods Movement.” The school cook, Naomi Watson, plans to strengthen her relationship with Clayfield Farm in 2007, buying larger quantities and more products.

Other schools have expressed interest in working with local farmers and suppliers to increase purchase of local foods in the fall of 2007. These include Pemetic Elementary School in Southwest Harbor, Brooksville Elementary School, Lamoine Consolidated School, the Ellsworth school system, and Kid’s Peace (an educational facility for teens with special needs). In phone conversations with farmers from across the region, the response to the Farm to School project has been overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic. “I’m so glad you’re doing this,” said one farmer, “Getting kids involved with their food – it’s such an important connection.”


Ron Beard

[email protected]
Extension Educator
University of Maine Cooperative Extension
63 Boggy Brook Road
Ellsworth, ME 04605
Office Phone: 2076678212