- Agronomic: potatoes
- Fruits: apples, citrus, melons
- Vegetables: sweet potatoes, broccoli, cabbages, cucurbits, greens (leafy), onions, peppers, tomatoes
- Animals: bovine
- Education and Training: technical assistance, farmer to farmer, participatory research
- Farm Business Management: feasibility study, agricultural finance, market study
- Sustainable Communities: infrastructure analysis, new business opportunities, partnerships
Appalachian Grown: Farm to School Project proposes to determine the viability of the farm to school market for farmers in western North Carolina. Farm to School (selling locally-grown farm products to local schools) is increasing in popularity as a market for farmers and educational opportunity for children. We will determine not only if there is a market, but how many farmers might it support and which crops are most profitable within this market. This research will entail working closely with a group of farmers (Madison Farms) that currently grow and sell their produce to two school systems and two local colleges. We will draw upon the expertise of the Child Nutrition Directors (and their staffs) of school systems that are currently engaged in farm to school to gain the perspective and information from the schools. While conducting this research, we will also work with farmers to prepare them for this institutional market and assist them with business planning, marketing and promotion.
Concurrently with the research, we will be implementing educational farm to school programming for children, to see the impact not only on the children themselves but what influence it can have on the market. Drawing from local and national experience, it is our theory that the combination of educational programs with the opening of markets for farmers significantly strengthens the relationship. We will examine questions such as – if children are engaged, can that lead to engaging and educating families? What impact could an educated audience have on this market? Could this be extrapolated to other existing markets (CSAs, farmers' markets and other local food outlets)? We have a solid foundation of many years of implementing educational farm to school programming to rely upon and have the necessary partners to insure success.
Because farm to school is a growing market phenomenon, it is very important that the information we glean be shared widely. By collaborating with Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG) and the Community Food Security Coalition (CFSC), we will be able to share the results of our research throughout the region and country (via their websites as well as their annual conferences). SSAWG and CFSC will both provide consultation throughout the grant, to insure that we are on track with the work outlined in this proposal and that we are serving our priority constituency (farmers) in the best way possible.
The work outlined in this proposal solidly fits within the mission statement of the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project – to create and expand regional community-based and integrated food systems that are locally owned and controlled, environmentally sound, economically viable and health-promoting. We are committed to determining whether farm to school is a viable market for farmers in western North Carolina and if engaging children, parents, and community in farm to school strengthens the market for farmers.
Project objectives from proposal:
Objective #1 “Research and assess existing/potential conditions for Farm to School (F2S) in western NC”:
Survey Child Nutrition Directors and their staffs to gather information regarding: preferred food products/level of processing, insurance/liability coverage,quantities. Extrapolate information to conclude what crop would be the most profitable, how many farmers F2S could provide a market for. Farmers interviewed for data collection of current F2S market, opportunities/barriers to this market, develop business plans
Objective #2 “Educating market participants and consumers to expand market potential” - Provide information/training to Child Nutrition Directors interested in sourcing locally grown food for school. Outreach/training to recruit new farmers to market. Provide 5 farm trips and 5 local food cooking classes to schools to promote the F2S market. Evaluate effectiveness of this educational experience on the market potential for farmers.