Farm to School

ftslogo.jpgWhat is Farm to School?

The National Farm to School Network says: "Farm to school enriches the connection communities have with fresh, healthy food and local food producers by changing food purchasing and education practices at schools and preschools.

Students gain access to healthy, local foods as well as education opportunities such as school gardens, cooking lessons and farm field trips. Farm to school empowers children and their families to make informed food choices while strengthening the local economy and contributing to vibrant communities.



Farm to school implementation differs by location but always includes one or more of the following: 

  • Procurement: Local foods are purchased, promoted and served in the cafeteria or as a snack or taste-test; 
  • Education: Students participate in education activities related to agriculture, food, health or nutrition; and 
  • School gardens: Students engage in hands-on learning through gardening."


 What do all these terms mean? - our definitions

Farm to School (FTS) – connecting schools to locally grown food & products, while educating students about gardening and healthy nutrition through school garden programs and farm field trips

Farm to Cafeteria (FTC) – emphasizing the purchasing of locally grown food & products by school cafeterias and school districts

Farm to Preschool (FTP) – same as Farm to School, but for preschools & early childhood care facilities.

Farm to Institution (FTI) – connecting hospitals, universities, jails and other public institutions with locally grown food & products.

Garden to Cafeteria (GTC) – connecting the food grown by students in their school garden or youth farm to their school’s cafeteria.

Farm to … - the possibilities are truly endless. Someone mentioned Farm to Military – what a boon that would be for US farmers and our local economies!


Why Farm to School?

Purchasing locally grown food for school cafeterias means:

  • More dollars stay in the local economy, supporting small-scale farmers and maintaining a region’s rich agricultural heritage.
  • Locally grown food is more nutrient rich and nourish healthy bodies and minds, so that students can learn and perform better at school
  • Locally grown foods are fresher and lead to less waste in the school cafeterias – because they don’t spoil as quickly and the students generally like the taste better than conventional produce

Providing school garden education programs & farm field trips means:

  • Students develop a connection to their food – and probably experience growing and harvesting their own food for the first time.
  • Students participate in taste tests – trying new fruits and veggies from the school garden that may be served in the cafeteria, and developing life-long healthy eating habits
  • Students can learn education standards & curriculum in an interactive outdoor classroom (the school garden), improving retention and engagement (All subjects can be taught in the garden)
  • Students get to meet their local farmers and learn about local agriculture


Key Players in the FTS Movement:

National Farm to School Network– Helen Dombalis, Director of Programs, CO

USDA Farm to School

Let’s Move! – Debra Eschemeyer (Michelle Obama’s healthy kids campaign)

Slow Food Denver – Andrew Nowak, Lauren Howe

Farm to Table New Mexico – Pam Roy

Livewell, CO – Wendy Peters-Moschelli

Colorado Farm to School (Denver, CO)

Chef Ann Foundation (Boulder, CO)


Inspiring Organizations in FTS Movement:

Durango School District 9-R, Farm to School (Durango, CO) - Krista Garand

Edible Schoolyard Project (Berkeley, CA) – Alice Waters

Education Outside (San Francisco, CA) – Arden Bucklin-Sporer

REA: School Gardens (Fort Worth, TX)

LifeLab (Marin, CA) – John Fisher

CitySprouts (Cambridge, MA) – Robyn Burns

Edible Schoolyard NYC – Andrew Barrett

FoodCorps (National) – Eva Montane

Captain Planet Foundation, Project Learning Garden – Kyla Van Deusen

Spark Policy Institute – staffing for CO FTS Taskforce (Denver, CO)

Rogue Valley Farm to School (Oregon) – Melina Barker 

Food Lab, The Kitchen Classroom (Marin, CA)

Minneapolis Public Schools, Farm to School Toolkit – Andrea Northrup

Gardeneers (Chicago)

Denver Public Schools, Farm & Garden to Cafeteria – Anne Wilson

Detroit School Garden Collaborative

Oregon Department of Education, Farm to School – Rick Sherman

Washington DC, School Garden Program – Sam Ullery

National School Garden Support Organization forum (online) – John Fisher


Important Collaborators/ Stakeholders in FTS: Focus on common interests & shared values

Parents / Teachers / Volunteers (PTO)

Master Gardeners & Extension Office

School Staff & District Leadership

Food Service (Cafeteria) Staff

Farmers / Distributors

Students / Groups

Nonprofit partners

Health partners (School Wellness Team, local hospital, etc)

Elected Officials – School Board, City, County, State



Unexpected Partners:

Libraries – promoting food literacy, also often serve as community food hugs

Sports Coaches – healthy nutrition is important for young athletes

Girl Scouts – community volunteer projects

Veterans – want to help in community, just need to be asked

Future Farmers of America (FFA)

Lots of others!