Appalachian grown:Farm to School Project
Most schools’ expenditures on produce are on processed products purchased from traditional foodservice providers; expenditures on locally grown products are concentrated on a few products. Accordingly, analyses of price potentials for fresh and processed products should be expanded to include products grown in the region but not currently purchased by schools. Additionally, research must go beyond quantifying demand to look more closely at school policies/nutrition programs that create barriers & opportunities to the incorporation of more local food into school menus. The existence of several regional wholesale distributors provides potential to increase the distribution of local food to schools.
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.
- Quarterly Meetings: Project partners have convened four meetings. Meetings are used to provide updates on project activities, discuss lessons learned, and assess activities and the project timeline in the context of project objectives. In addition to the quarterly meetings, in early January 2008, O’Sullivan & Associates and ASAP met to discuss the design and implementation of the steps to achieve Objective #2 specifically relating to outreach and demonstrations in the schools.
Memorandums of Understanding: MOUs detailing partner roles were drafted and signed between each partner and ASAP.
Project Management and Evaluation: O’Sullivan & Associates, in collaboration with ASAP, developed a collaborative evaluation model to track and assess project activities.
Project Logic Model: Between October 2007 and January 2008, O’Sullivan & Associates—with input from project partners—created and then updated a project logic model that outlines activities, outcomes, impacts, and parties responsible for each of the project activities. Based on the logic model, a detailed timeline of project activities was established at the quarterly meeting in February with all partners present. In January 2009 ASAP and O’Sullivan & Associates met to evaluate project activities and outcomes in terms of project objectives. From this meeting, O’Sullivan and Associates revised the project logical model to reflect new information.
Farm-to-School Sales Assessment: Madison Farms conducted a farm-to-school sales assessment. The assessment detailed the inventory of commodities produced by Madison County farmers that were bought by Madison Farms (MF) (for sale and distribution); detailed the inventory of commodities sold to Farm to School program accounts; conducted a cost analysis of production of the various commodities, by farm, that were sold to these accounts; performed a cost analysis of production and the cost (labor and processing) of freezing and packaging two specific crops for public schools (broccoli and yellow squash); identified the purchasing patterns of accounts in order to prepare for a farmer planning meeting held in January; participated in meetings with Farm to School accounts to discuss purchasing activity, obstacles to purchasing at a higher level, and any product problems that might exist; performed a comparative analysis of 2007 Farm to School sales with previous years (2006, 2005, 2004) and assessment of crop value changes during the period ($’s paid to farmers); and documented weekly assessment of MF product availability and sales to F2S accounts.
Data collection: Collected information from Child Nutrition Directors (CNDs) regarding fruits and vegetables and processed food purchased (both from local and outside sources) in Madison, Mitchell, and Yancey counties. A report summarizing and analyzing the data provided by the CNDs was prepared and submitted to project partners for review by Carlos Carpio, an agricultural economist at Clemson University; it focused on the current and potential demand of locally grown products by public schools in Madison, Mitchell, and Yancey counties in North Carolina. Specifically, the amount and value of produce and processed fruits and vegetables purchased by these three schools districts were described and analyzed.
Collected secondary data (from University extension services and the USDA) regarding yields, costs, and profitability of production of the crops with highest demand in the public schools districts in Western North Carolina. A preliminary report exploring the supply side of the farm to school program in Western North Carolina was prepared and submitted to project partners for review by Carlos Carpio, an agricultural economist at Clemson University. The report focused on two main issues: 1) estimation of the amount of land that is required to satisfy the demand for produce by the school districts and 2) identification of the crops with the highest potential of profitability in the region.
Conducted an in depth interview with farmers participating in the farm to school program to document farmers’ experiences with the farm to school program, which will result in a case study for the final report. The interview was conducted by a Clemson University sociology professor and students.
Conducted farm field trips and cooking demonstrations with school children (Fall 2008) and measured the impact of those experiences on the children through surveys. A preliminary analysis of surveys has been completed.
Disseminated information about Farm to School at several workshops and conferences:
2008 & 2009 Marketing Opportunities for Farmers Conference (MOFF): MOFF is ASAP’s annual marketing conference for producers. The conferences in 2008 and 2009 offered workshops to producers on the farm to school market.
Two half-day workshops in Franklin and Old Fort, NC in May 2008: workshops covered market and business planning and the requirements of different market segments including the farm to school market; 40 farmers attended.
Two food safety workshops at farms in Buncombe and Haywood counties in July and October 2008: workshops were conducted on-farm to provide producers with hands-on training. Workshop outreach targeted producers selling to school markets. Combined, 70 farmers and extension agents attended.
2008 Southeast Region Farm to School Conference in Asheville, NC. 125 attended included producers, child nutrition directors, agricultural professionals, and school personnel from Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.
2009 National Farm to Cafeteria Conference in Portland, Oregon. ASAP staff conducted a workshop on reaching institutional markets and included farm to school
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
- This project is benefiting producers and consumers in the region through an approach that combines research and outreach & education and that engages multiple stakeholders (farmers, NC Cooperative Extension, child nutrition directors, ASAP, and a locally based food processor, and others). This is accomplished through an ongoing dialogue to introduce farmers to a new and emerging market and to capture the opportunities and barriers to the farm-to-school market.
The impact and contributions from this project will include:
Increase understanding and document the viability of different Farm to School models for both farmers and school districts
Increase understanding about the possibilities of expanding current Farm to School buying practices (in 3 locations: Yancey, Mitchell, and Madison counties)
The creation of outreach education and training activities based on research findings
A change in children’s & teachers’ perceptions about food and food systems
Improved children’s eating patterns
Increased interest in eating local foods
Additional farmers participating in Farm-to-School
Farmers new to Farm-to-school are better informed
Barriers standing in the way of a better functioning Farm-to-School identified
New Child Nutrition Directors participate in Farm-to-School programs
Information learned from this project is available to farmers, Child Nutrition Directors, community members (i.e., parents, teachers, etc) through ASAP, SSAWG, and CFSC information dissemination
Additionally, through project activities ASAP staff has become aware of other regional wholesale distributors of local produce to public school systems and colleges as well as the farmers whose produce they distribute. This unanticipated outcome is important because the existence of these regional systems of food distribution have the potential to help producers overcome barriers to local markets and increase the distribution of locally grown food to public institutions. ASAP can work with these distributors and farmers to provide marketing and promotional support to identify local food.
Yancey County Child Nutrition Director
Yancey County Schools
100 School Circle | PO Box 190
Burnsville, NC 28714
Office Phone: 8286826101
Blue Ridge Food Ventures
1461 Sand Hill Road
Candler, NC 28715
Office Phone: 8286659464
Madison County Child Nutrition Director
Mitchell County Schools
72 Ledger School Rd.
Bakersville, NC 28705
Office Phone: 8287662240
O’Sullivan and Associates
PO Box 21928
Greensboro, NC 27420
Office Phone: 3363347957