Finding Local Food

31780066_lProduce from local farmers allows schools to provide students with products at the peak of their seasonality and freshness, and buying local means putting money back into the local economy while getting products that have traveled less distance to arrive in cafeterias. Now that you’re beginning to implement the plans for your Farm to School (F2S) program, consider the following resources to help you locate Georgia producers:

Certified Farmers Markets – This Georgia Farm Bureau list is an online searchable database of farmers and markets that sell locally grown, farm-fresh products, and are dedicated to customer satisfaction.

Georgia Department of Agriculture – In addition to overseeing all the State Farmers Markets in Georgia, which are scattered across the state, the Georgia Department of Agriculture also keeps an updated list of all county, city and local farmers markets that are independently operated.

Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association – This Association exists to provide nutritious produce throughout Georgia and across the nation. Click here to search for Georgia fruit and vegetable producers.

Georgia Grown – This promotional program from the Georgia Department of Agriculture includes an online searchable database that features (but is not limited to): Seasonal crops; producers, farmers markets and agritourism activities; wholesalers, distributors, packers, and other products, businesses and agriculture related services.

Georgia MarketMaker – An online database designed to link willing markets and quality sources of food from farms and fisheries in Georgia, created by the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.

Good Food Guide – An online searchable database created by Georgia Organics that includes a comprehensive guide to organic resources in the State of Georgia.

Local Harvest – A searchable database of farms across the country.

State Farmers Market List – This Georgia Department of Agriculture list includes information about each of the state’s seven farmers markets in Georgia, including the companies who are tenants at each market that features (but is not limited to): Wholesalers, distributors and individual local farmers.

University of Georgia Cooperative Extension – University of Georgia Cooperative Extension has local offices in nearly every county in Georgia; the extension agents at these county offices will have working relationships with local farmers in the area and may know of contacts you can reach out to in order to get specific commodities and products for your school menu.

Other tips:

  • Talk to your distributor(s), request a list of farmers they work with or know.
  • Talk to any farmers with which you currently work.
  • Work with a local/regional farmers’ cooperative.
  • Visit a farmers market and network with those who participate.
  • Allow farmers to be directly involved in your district’s F2S activities.

How farmers can connect with the school community:

In addition to selling to schools, directly participating in a local Farm to School (F2S) program is a great way for farmers to connect with the community and get students excited and educated about how and where their food grows. Here are a few examples of how the farmer can reach out to schools and share experiences of what it’s like to be a farmer here in Georgia:

  • Engage students directly – School faculty are increasingly interested in connecting their students to where food comes from. All it will probably take is a phone call to your local county school district, and you can set up a presentation before either a single class or large group assembly, where you can speak with students and engage them; bring samples for them to look at, touch and taste; and provide them with a colorful and delicious show-and-tell of what commodities you produce on your farm. When talking with teachers prior to the event, find out what lessons the students are learning, and try to integrate how their subject material may connect with your presentation. If you grow varieties of the same crop, have students write about the growing methods they learned of, and pair it with the different flavors, textures, colors, etc., for each one, and then chart the class favorites.
  • Participate in a school garden – On-site school gardens are becoming more common here in Georgia. If a school near you boasts a garden, consider doing a soil or composting activity with the students at the school. Or you could meet with them at the beginning of the season to develop a crop plan, and incorporate information about your own methods that they can implement on a smaller scale. Students will not only learn a lot, but will love getting tips from a real farmer in their own community.
  • Host a field trip – Having a group of students on your farm helps kids make the connection between the food they eat, how it grows and the people who grow it. It provides them with a fun and interactive “field classroom” to learn about food and the local farms in their communities. Think about your farm through the eyes of a student and consider ways to turn your farm into a classroom for a day.

“With [Farm to School programs and farmer outreach], students discover the importance of agriculture through learning about the process that brings local produce and goods from an area farm to the cafeteria table while at the same time receiving a healthy, delicious meal.” – Agriculture Commissioner Gary W. Black

 

Information Adapted From:

University of Minnesota Extension. “Minnesota Toolkit for School Foodservice: Getting Started.” Retrieved Dec. 2013, from http://www.extension.umn.edu/food/farm-to-school/procurement/foodservice/getting-started/

Washington Department of Agriculture. “Connecting with Your School Community” and “Distribution Models for Farm to School.” Retrieved Dec. 2013 from http://www.wafarmtoschool.org/Page/20/Distribution-Models-for-Farm-to-School.