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News

Too small for grocery stores, but just right for schools

NFSN Staff Friday, October 06, 2017
Clearview Farm’s farm to school story

By Molly Schintler, Communications Intern
Clearview Farm has been in Rick and Diane Melone’s family for 265 years. In fact, this century farm - two times over - was the inspiration for the classic children’s poem “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” Situated just outside of Boston in Sterling, Mass., Clearview Farm’s 85 acres grows a diverse array of produce for diverse markets, including local schools.

The farm includes apple and peach orchards for a u-pick operation, as well as hosts school tours that bring hundreds of students at a time to the farm. Additionally, the farm grows twenty acres of pumpkins, along with diversified vegetable production for an on–site farm stand. Rick has always seen diversity as essential to the farm’s operation. When Rick and Diane moved to the farm in 1989, it was all apples, so they diversified by planting peaches. Today, they sell those apples and peaches to the Worcester Public Schools, the third largest school district in the state, by the truckload.

Clearview Farm has been engaged with farm to school for eight years, and Rick explains that selling to schools has provided his farm a valuable and necessary market. “I’m too small to work with huge markets like Whole Foods and other grocery store whole-salers," he says. "But I can bring a truck load of apples in (to schools) and they will use them that day. We also sell veggies to the school’s summer feeding program.” Prior to selling to Worcester Public Schools, Clearview Farm’s relied more heavily on selling to medium sized grocery stores, but with so many other farms selling in that same market, competition was heavy. In addition, Rick added that a few years ago his farm stopped selling at the Boston farmers markets after seeing several years of declining sales. It's schools that have become one of his most reliable and valuable customers.

Before working with schools, Clearview Farm did not have a market for selling small peaches and apples. But as it turns out, smaller sized fruit is perfect for students. “There are so many schools and kids who need lunches and also farmers who need to move product. Children deserve better (lunches)!” Rick and Diane are proud of the fresh, healthy, and local produce they are able to provide the students of Worcester. In the end farm to school is not only a win for Clearview Farms. It’s a win for students too! 

Learn more about the economic impacts of farm to school and benefits to farmers in our new “Economic Impacts of Farm to School: Case Studies and Assessment Tools” report. This new report, a collaborative project between National Farm to School Network and Colorado State University, with generous support from CoBank and AgriBank, examines the economic impact of local purchasing and provides new insight into the potential for farm to school procurement to positively impact local economies. Explore the report and register for an upcoming webinar here

The National Farm to School Network thanks CoBank for their generous support of this blog and our 2017 National Farm to School Month celebrations!

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