- Fruits: apples
- Vegetables: beets, carrots, celery, cucurbits, onions, peas (culinary), sweet corn
- Education and Training: extension, networking, workshop, youth education
- Farm Business Management: marketing management, farm-to-institution
- Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, partnerships
The School-Supported Agriculture (SSA) project builds on the strengths and existing capacity of Maine’s Downeast farms. Many of the farms already employ community supported agriculture (CSA) as an effective tool to manage sales, production, cash flow, and distribution. The school-supported agriculture model will utilize agreements made between farms and schools similar to the CSA model. Farming and farmland is inseparable from the vitality of rural Downeast Maine communities. This is a critical time for farming in the region as acres of farmland in vegetable production continue to decline. Downeast farmers have responded to a challenging business environment by diversifying their customer base to include schools. School cooks have expressed strong interest in purchasing more local food. School-supported agriculture (SSA) addresses the challenges expressed by farmers in regards to vendor relationships with local schools. SSA provides farmers with a multi-week purchase commitment enabling them to plant crops for emerging institutional markets. Schools enjoy greater predictability in product, with a delivery and pricing schedule that enables school kitchens to serve seasonal lunches. SSA purchasing partnerships will expand the amount of food purchased by schools and improve student access to fresh foods, thereby creating an environment where students and families are provided with exemplary models on which to base their own consumption.
Project objectives from proposal:
Objective 1: Prepare farms and schools with information.
• March – May 2010: Project leader will prepare a guide for farmers with purchasing, delivery and payment requirements for school food service.
• April – June 2010: A print version of the farmer directory will be updated and distributed to sixty schools. Project leader will also prepare recipes and seasonal menus that spotlight and maximize local vegetable use in school lunches.
Objective 2: Solidify strong partnerships between schools and farms.
• March – October 2010: The project leader and Washington County Farm to School Coordinator will convene meetings between farmers and school cooks to introduce and solidify SSA agreements. Ten schools will agree to enter into SSA agreements with farms in the first stage. Over the course of the agreement, the project leader and coordinator will provide technical assistance to participating schools and farms.
• December – March 2011: After an evaluation of the pilot project, the project leader will write a best practices guide for farmers and school cooks. Then she will hold a farmer workshop to generate more support for the program and expand the number of schools and farms participating in SSA agreements. In the second stage of SSA agreements, the goal is for twenty schools to enter into contracts with local farmers.
Objective 3: Build community awareness and disseminate program progress.
• May – September 2010: Prepare and distribute outreach materials for school staff to provide parents (i.e., a flier about the SSA program and the farmer selling to the school); create a media advocacy campaign that will reach across the two-county region (i.e., regional and area press releases and two radio interviews with participating farmers)
• May – September 2011: Write a guide to using SSA contract agreements and distribute it through the Northeast and the National Farm to School network and Maine Local Foods Coalition.