- Education and Training: mentoring, networking, technical assistance, workshop, youth education
Problem or Opportunity and Justification:
West Virginia farmers have the opportunity to increase market opportunities within their own communities. The passage of legislation in 2019, requiring 5% of institutional food purchasing to be locally sourced, creates a tremendous opportunity. Farm to School legislation and rollout in West Virginia has not adequately supported education and outreach to farmers.
The 2019 Farm to School legislation has created greater challenges and confusion. The rollout approach that has been to separate Farm to School’s three main activities—improving nutrition education, increasing youth agriculture knowledge—into discrete and isolated goals for school systems. This has failed to acknowledge the interconnectedness of these three goals. Sprout School will present farmers, teachers, and community volunteers with an integrated approach that will advance all three.
Agricultural service providers need additional support helping to serve as local liaisons between farmers and school systems. Farmers need additional training and coaching on production planning and packaging requirements. Local procurement policies are often complicated and differ from county to county and sometimes even within the same district. Farmers are left to navigate this process themselves. Child nutrition directors often have many responsibilities outside of basic procurement. The result is frustration from all involved parties.
Solution and Approach:
Future Generations University will create a tool kit and training program aimed at agricultural service providers to establish Farm to School programming with farmers, school system personnel, and community volunteers. Sprout School will train 80 service providers, across two cohorts of students, using a multi-faceted curriculum of Farm to School best practices. Each cohort will consist of 40 service providers. Out of these, 30 will successfully implement at least one Farm to School project with their teams. Attendees will receive a nominal stipend to encourage continued attendance.
Each cohort of students will complete 9-month virtual training program. Additionally, participants will have mandatory learning lab assignments that they complete in their communities. These real-world lab assignments will guide participants through the steps of creating a successful Farm to School program. Attendees to the training will also be given access to monetary resources to execute the school production space and child nutrition education portions of Sprout School curriculum.
Agricultural service providers will be also invited to join a network of Farm to School practitioners across the state. This network will meet four times annually, to share successes, troubleshoot challenges, and learn from one another. These quarterly peer network gatherings will also provide opportunity to introduce experts in the field and help connect to existing resources. This peer-learning network will form the basis for continued engagement and ensure that relationships drive continued Farm to School development in West Virginia.