- Education and Training: extension, mentoring, networking, participatory research, workshop, technical assistance
- Farm Business Management: farm-to-institution
- Sustainable Communities: leadership development, local and regional food systems, partnerships, community services
Building Capacity: Farm to School is a two year project designed to build the capabilities of Extension, agricultural professionals, and communities in the development of Farm to School initiatives. In this project, Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP), a leader in Farm to School in the southeast, will organize project teams for NC, SC and GA to design and implement Farm to School trainings relevant to Extension and other professionals. Teams will include farmers, Extension, School Food Service Directors (SFSDs), and sustainable agriculture coordinators from land grant and non land grant universities. Project team members, ASAP, the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG), and the National Farm to School Network (NFTSN) will collaboratively develop the training methodology, create outreach plans, devise a needs assessment tool, determine the scope of mentoring/consulting services, and develop a comprehensive project evaluation plan. Each project team will develop tools and resources specific to their region and conduct one workshop in their state. In order to design trainings that are participatory and that reflect the needs of Extension and their respective communities, each project team will conduct a needs assessment to potential training participants. The project team will be mentors and available for consultation to training participants throughout the project period. Dissemination of materials and resources will be provided through the ASAP, SSAWG, and NFTSN websites. A team of project partners will present at a workshop at the National Farm to School Conference.
Project objectives from proposal:
1) 75 Cooperative Extension agents will define their role in the implementation of Farm to School programming. As the Farm to School movement continues to grow, farmers and other community members will look to Cooperative Extension for help implementing Farm to School initiatives. The workshops will provide Extension with the information and resources they need to define their role in this process. Several roles will be examined through the workshop trainings – farm and farmer assessments to meet school requirements, assistance implementing educational components of farm to school (help establish school gardens, recommend farms for farm field trips, utilize the Family and Consumer Science portion of Extension to offer local food cooking classes and demonstrations, for example).
2) 75 Cooperative Extension agents will increase their knowledge of the Farm to School market (the market potential and market requirements) and the accompanying educational components. Project teams that include farmers, School Food Service Directors (SFSDs), state sustainable agriculture coordinators, and representatives from Departments of Agriculture will develop and conduct trainings in each state. SSAWG and the National Farm to School Network will provide their expertise through consultation. At the end of each workshop, participants will understand school market requirements (liability insurance, GAP certification, distribution and other infrastructure needs, for example) and will be able to determine the potential for a given market based on the school population (size and demographics). Workshop trainers will provide information to familiarize Extension agents with the educational components of Farm to School and be able to provide this information to farmers, teachers, parents, and other community members. Outreach efforts for the trainings will uncover community resources and current Farm to School programs.
3) Extension agents will have access to pertinent and useful information through the training materials created by project teams. Workshop and Farm to School manual materials will be gathered from throughout the country to provide the best and most current information on Farm to School: best practices and lessons learned, case studies, market requirements. Extension agents will increase their knowledge of available Farm to School resources, gain a deeper understanding of the growth of the Farm to School movement, and better understand the barriers and challenges of the Farm to School market. These resources will be available to Extension agents attend trainings (75). Extension agents and other ag professionals unable to attend these trainings will be able to access them online (500).
4) Extension will be a Farm to School resource to farmers in their area. Whether for farmers in rural, tobacco-dependent and development-pressured areas or for farmers simply seeking market diversification, the farm to school market can be a key risk management strategy. Rural areas often lack sufficient markets (especially if the area was heavily dependent upon tobacco and are now under heavy development pressure) but school systems exist in every county that have the potential to provide a steady market for farmers. Moreover, farmers that learn to work with school systems can also apply that knowledge to expand their market potential to work with other institutional markets (i.e., colleges/universities and hospitals).