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National Farm to School Network

All about the National Farm to School Network, USDA's farm to school tactical teams, and an inspirational farm to school case study.

December 17, 2009: An Introduction to the  National Farm to School Network


The National Farm to School Network aims to bring local and regional food directly from farms to school cafeterias across the country. Learn the latest about the important and synergistic efforts of one of the NGFN’s new partner organizations.

The webinar covers key aspects of farm to school initiatives that are getting more good food to more students, all over the country. Leaders of the National Farm to School organization describe their strategies, the network and the services they provide and update us on Congressional activity. A representative from USDA’s farm to school “tactical team” talks about how they are supporting farm to school efforts and how USDA has prioritized the farm to school concept.

You’ll also hear a practical case study of the creation and expansion of a farm to school program presented by the lead of that program—once a skeptic! If you want to know more about how you can be involved in this burgeoning avenue for scaling up good food, join us.

Recorded Webinar






In-Webinar Written Q&A Transcript


Q: Who comprise the Farm to School Tactical teams in California?

A: There isn't a USDA farm to school tactical team in CA, it is a national team based in DC; however there is a great group in CA:

Q: What role do school gardens play? Any significant contribution?

A: Yes to be blunt. We have research.

A. In terms of getting gardens going in your schools, here are some resources that will be helpful:

1.       The California School Garden Network: and

(excellent resources for garden-based curriculum and for getting started with school gardens)

2.       There is a Youth Garden Grants Program through the National Gardening Association, where you can apply for mini garden grants for individual schools:

3.       America the Beautiful Fund: A non-profit group receives seed donations from major seed companies. Sets of 50 packets of vegetables, flowers and herbs are available for the cost of postage and handling.

Q: What is the name of the Chicago food service provider just mentioned?  Thanks!

A: Chartwells Thompson

Q: It would appear repetitive to have the National F2S Network AND a USDA generated F2S website. Will they be coordinated efforts?

A: There may be some overlap, but as Anupama [Joshi] mentioned, USDA will work closely with the National Farm to School Network to ensure that the websites are complementary to each other.

A:  The Network and the USDA are coordinating efforts, but this question still needs to be answered.

Q: Is Virginia one of those 24 states to have passed legislation supporting farm to school programs?

A: Yes it is - check out a listing of all states on

To search for Virginia state legislation:

SB 797 (Chapter #352 of 2007 Virginia Laws)

SB 797 authorizes the Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services to create a website that promotes Virginia agricultural products to educational institutions.  The website should include information such as farmers’ contact information, amount and types of produce available. 

The website is available at:

SJ 347 (2007)

SJ 347 authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry and the Secretary of Education to establish a Farm to School Task Force that will develop a plan for implementing a farm to school program in Virginia. 

The task force will study methods for providing information to the Virginia Department of Education, interested schools divisions and institutions of higher ed.

Q: Are there any instances of institutions of higher ed supporting or helping to start up a farm to school program at a local elementary school? 

A: There are several out there - higher ed institutions and universities involved in a partnership with other local orgs to start up a farm to school program.

Q: Is there a posted list of current GAP certified small farmers by region?

A: I think that the best source of this information may be your particular state department of agriculture...there is no broad list since there is no unified GAP program.

Q: are there many schools in Georgia participating in farm to school?

A: Yes, in Decatur and Atlanta

A: You can check out GA here:

Q: Is this funding available for private schools?

A: All schools participating in the Nation School Lunch Program are eligible to apply.

Q: I would be interested in more detail on the synergy Doug Davis mentioned between the fresh produce and the federal commodities program.

A: We use the commodities offered and combine them with local items to reduce the per portion cost of the item. An example would be using the frozen commodity cherries combined with local apples to make breads or crisps.

Q: Will you be discussing liability insurance requirements of schools or food service contractors that are too high for small local producers or processors?

A: Yes, and most farmers have the minimum insurance necessary to sell to schools. For example, I have 5 acres in production and I have $1 million coverage.

Q: I just tried to find USDA's program referred by Loren LaCorte at

and it is not intuitive where to find Farm to School... please advise with further direction

A: That's correct - the website is not available today.  The website will be released tomorrow afternoon.  Try again then.

Q: How will the USDA farm to school site differ from the national farm to school site that already exists?

A: We are working closely with USDA to ensure there is no overlap with the websites, but that they are complementary

Q: What is Burlington's total annual food budget?

A: We spend about 1 million per year on food

Q: How can I find the economic study done in Oregon that showed a 1.87 multiplier effect from local food purchase?

A: You can visit the Ecotrust website:

A: Here is the press:

Q: What is the CSA in the classroom model?

A: CSA is Community Supported Agriculture. [In the classroom, educators can u]se CSA baskets as in-class nutrition and agricultural education tools. This tool can help reinforce your local salad bar’s nutrition and agricultural lessons. The farmer can bring in the CSA box and have a nutrition/ag lesson.

Q: For Presenter Doug Davis: is there statistics on how well your program is working at the school in the DR?  Also, is there a web-site with your program information on it?

A: We were able to deliver fruit to 3000+ children several times last school year. Our goal was to get long term local funding and we are still working on that. I am hopeful it will be sustained. Feel free to contact me

Q: For Doug:  Have you had any concerns or issues about using volunteers for food prep or processing and storage--from unions or others?

A: We are upfront with our union and do offer the work to them if they want it. Most of the work takes place in the summer and they don't want it.  We train our volunteers in food safety and always have a certified serve safe employee present. We have had no issues.

Q: Foodservice companies tend to require $5 million insurance.

A: You are right. I have $1 million insurance on my farm and that is standard.

Q: Did you guys do a study of how the $30k in local purchasing in Burlington may have had a multiplier effect as discussed earlier?

A: I don't think so, the Ecotrust study is the first one done on f2s and economic multipliers

Q: Does Steve [Warshawer] and NGFN do regional visits/presentations to farmers interested in global GAP certification?

A: We have not done this yet...  we will need to assess demand in order to develop this capacity

Q: Do schools recommend themselves for a USDA visit, or can others make reccs to USDA?

A: either way, farm to school at the local level is a partnership with schools, community members, non profits, farmers, and parents

A: USDA will work through the school food service director to set up visits; however, if you have a school that you would like to recommend, I'd like to hear from you.  You can email me at

Q: Is $100k per state the accurate figure for schools to buy local?

A: I think you are referring to the Small Purchase Threshold, which makes it easier to purchase local product by having fewer restrictions (read: paperwork), but it is not a max for any state to buy local.

Q: can the resources found on be used publicly by anyone?

A: Yes, the resources on are free and meant to be used.

Q: Are there national requirements as to what schools must require from farmers in order to buy from them OTHER than liability insurance?  I.e. GAP, etc?

A: It varies by state, here are some examples: The OR Dept of Education has a purchasing guideline they provided to food service directors, and near the bottom you will find mention of GAP

The OR Dept of Agriculture has GAP Certification page

Iowa State’s checklist for purchasing local

Recent USDA memo Q&A about school gardens

Q: Can you give us some good examples of F2S programs that incorporate meat, dairy and eggs?

A: I believe Doug's program has used local meats as well

A: Colorado is leading the way.

Q: Specific examples of those higher ed + elementary school partnerships? Students here at the Univ of Virginia have a fairly strong presence in the local elem. schools via tutoring/Big Sib programs/etc, and not yet in a food capacity -- but the interest is there.

A: Occidental College has helped set up and facilitate several farm to school programs in the Southern CA region including at Santa Monica Malibu USD, Riverside, Compton and in Los Angeles USD. Other examples that come to mind are Univ. of Missouri Nutrition Demission in St Louis, MO; Johns Hopkins Center for Livable Futures involvement in Baltimore schools, UC Davis's SAREP involvement in the Davis USD Farm to School program, UNC at Chapel Hill with Durham County schools, Cornell Coop Extension and Nutrition Dept., UNH Office of Sustainability in setting up a statewide program. I am sure there are many others out there.

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