Developing young entrepreneurs in school gardens

This is some text inside of a div block.
Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Photo credit: DC Greens

When schools let out for summer, many garden coordinators look for creative ways to keep school gardens thriving. Tapping into the enthusiasm, creativity and efforts of high schoolers can be a great way to maintain gardens when classes are out, and summer programs are an opportunity for students to gain valuable professional and entrepreneurial experience. From leadership to marketing and accounting to customer service, programs that hire students to tend school gardens offer countless benefits – for garden plants and young adults, both!

Gather inspiration from this roundup of media stories highlighting several models of youth entrepreneurship programs in school gardens:

Fellowship of the farm: Teens tend school garden through summer
The Spartan Urban Farm Fellowship pays high school students a stipend to work in the Corvallis High School garden three days a week during the summer. Produce grown in the garden is sold at a weekly farmers market hosted at a local elementary school. (Corvallis Gazette-Times, Oregon)

Program takes school gardening to new level: entrepreneurship

A program at San Francisco’s June Jordan School For Equity is taking traditional school gardens to a new level, where the green isn’t only in the dirt or student diets, but also in their wallets. Students earn $10 an hour learning how to plant, harvest, cook and sell vegetables at a local farmer’s market. (SFGate, California)

Youth In Agriculture Growing Beyond Farms
Cleveland Botanical Gardens’ Green Corps hires high school youth to work 20 hours per week during summer months, where they learn about sustainable agriculture and community engagement by working on one of six urban farms. The youth education component of the program is an important element to agriculture in the city, as many of the students taking part have little-to-no outside growing experience. (Growing Produce, Ohio)

Healthy Eaters, Strong Minds: What School Gardens Teach Kids
City Blossoms employs high school youth in Washington, D.C., to tend to gardens at schools and community centers with low access to fresh, healthy foods. Students then sell produce grown in the gardens at farmers markets, learning valuable business and money skills. (NRP, Washington, D.C.)

Alameda Students Bring Two School Gardens Back to Life
Thanks to high school students, gardens around Alameda, Calif., are springing back to life. Project Eat’s “Get Fresh! Eat Healthy!” internship hires about a dozen high school students in the summer to revitalize school gardens and develop skills that can translate into work opportunities later. (Alameda Patch, California)

Are youth helping to keep your school garden thriving this summer? Are you a high school student working on a school garden or farm this summer? Tell us about it! Use our story form to share how farm to school activities like school gardens are benefiting your community.

Learn more about farm to school in summer by exploring resources in our Resource Library.


Conference recap: Moving forward together

This is some text inside of a div block.
Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Photo credit: EaCas Photography

On our final day together at the 8th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference, attendees flooded Dane County Farmers' Market, the country's largest producer-only farmers market, on the Capitol Square. Supporting local farmers and a local food economy is at the heart of our work, and Wisconsin offers an inspiring display of a vibrant and connected local food system.

Such a beautiful assortment at the #farmersmarket! Can't wait to harvest in all of our school gardens! #Farm2Caf16 pic.twitter.com/kzyxCLynUs

— LCPS Cafe (@LCPSCafe) June 4, 2016

The morning opened with a multi-media presentation showcasing farm to cafeteria champions from across Wisconsin. Emceed by Tony Schultz, Farmer, Stoney Acres Farm, and Frankie Soto, Food Service Director, Abbotsford School District Food Service, attendees heard stories of success from farm to cafeteria partners including farmers, school food service directors, a hospital dietician and a local co-op manager. Farmer Chris Blakeney, Amazing Grace Family Farm, shared that his successful partnerships in selling to schools allowed him to quit his full-time, off farm job.

Saturday’s program included two workshop sessions. A total of 48, 90-minute workshops organized into 12 topics were offered during the conference. Among Saturday’s workshops were conversations and hands-on learning opportunities for training classroom educators to be strong school garden users, curricula ideas for early care and education providers, and tips for navigating federal, state and local policy landscapes to maximize farm to cafeteria efforts.



Our food conference would not have been complete without delicious meals featuring locally sourced ingredients. During Saturday’s lunch, we gave a standing ovation to Monona Catering in thanks of their amazing work to serve our 1,000+ attendees fresh, locally sourced meals. Saturday’s lunch included Wisconsin Rice and Wisconsin Cranberry Salad, a local bean salad, roasted local root vegetables, and chilled asparagus soup.



Throughout the conference, we asked attendees to use paper plates to share what they love about farm to school and what child nutrition programs mean to their community. With the Child Nutrition Reauthorization process moving forward, now is an important time to take action and share with Congress why school meals are important. Soon, we’ll deliver these paper plates to legislators on Capitol Hill, sending a message that farm to school and school lunch programs are growing a healthier next generation.

Open Forum, a perennial conference favorite, was held on Saturday afternoon. Open Forum gave attendees the opportunity to create discussion groups around the topics they’re most passionate about. Ideas were submitted and voted on using the conference mobile app. More than 20 discussion topics were selected, including state farm to school policy, farm to summer, forming a farm to college network, farm incubator start ups, state agencies in farm to cafeteria and using farm to school to drive racial equity.

The Closing Plenary included keynote addresses from two food movement leaders who shared inspirational stories and lessons about creating strong and just local food systems. Matthew Raiford, Executive Chef of The Farmer & The Larder and a sixth generation farmer and owner of Gilliard Farms, discussed the importance of meeting everyone - farmers, school boards, chefs, children and more - where they are to continue building systems that bring the bounty of the earth to the cafeteria table. “It takes more than a village,” Raiford said. “It takes villages to build better systems.”



LaDonna Redmond’s address focused on ending systematic oppression in the food system. Redmond, founder of Campaign for Food Justice Now, used a lens of intersectionality (race, class and gender) to describe the impact of the food system on the lives of communities of color, and to promote just solutions. “Every community that you work in has the intellect to heal itself,” she said. “Your job is to use your skill set to uncover that intellect and help people dig deeply.”

While the conference has ended, the work to change the culture of food and agricultural literacy across America has not. We hope this conference was the beginning of new pathways and partnerships that will continue to move the farm to cafeteria movement forward and strengthen local food systems. Read more about the conference on our day 1 and day 2 blog recaps. See social media highlights on our Storify and view pictures from the conference on our Flickr page.

Conference recap: Growing the farm to cafeteria movement

This is some text inside of a div block.
Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Photo credit: EaCas Photography

The first full day of the 8th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference kicked off on Friday, with more than 1,000 food service professionals, farmers, educators, policy makers, entrepreneurs, students, representatives from nonprofits and government agencies, public health professionals, and many others in attendance. The day started with regional networking sessions, where neighboring states met to build relationships, share ideas and resources, and fuel the farm to cafeteria initiatives in their regions.

Immediately following the networking sessions, regions processed together from their rooms to the opening plenary - and with great fanfare! The festive procession was led by a local marching band, dancing produce and a very large chicken. Madison preschoolers with vegetable crowns danced on stage and welcomed attendees as they arrived.






The opening plenary was kicked off by Anupama Joshi, National Farm to School Network Executive Director and Co-founder. Debra Eschmeyer, Executive Director of Let’s Move! and Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition to the White House, was the first keynote speaker to take the stage. As one of the farm to cafeteria movement’s true innovators, Eschmeyer’s address reviewed and celebrated the impressive growth that the farm to school movement has achieved in less than two decades. “I am deeply encouraged by our collective progress. In this next phase, we need to be even more creative and innovative. This is not some trendy issue. This is something we have to stay committed to for the long haul,” she said.  



“If we keep working together, we’ll give all children access to fresh healthy food.” -Debra Eschmeyer

First Lady Michelle Obama sent video remarks, celebrating all of the great work this movement has accomplished, and challenging us to think about what’s next. To the First Lady, we say, we’re not going anywhere, and we look forward to continuing this work with you.



Carla Thompson, Vice President for Program Strategy at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and Ricardo Salvadro, Director and Senior Scientist, Food & Environment Program, Union of Concerned Scientists, also offered keynote addresses. Salvador discussed how disparities in public health, access, waste and exploitation of people and nature are designed characteristics of the global food system, and challenged us to use justice as the screen through which we do our farm to cafeteria work.


Following lunch, conference-goers viewed 45 posters highlighting exciting projects, innovations, research and trends in the farm to cafeteria movement. Shortly after, 28 presenters offered fast-paced, information-dense, five minutes lightning talks, from building school gardens into social enterprises to how school districts are leading the charge to reform poultry production in the U.S.




The afternoon included two workshop sessions. A total of 48 workshops organized into 12 topical tracks will be offered throughout the conference. These interactive sessions are providing opportunities for participants to build skills, problem solve and innovate.

The day closed with a local foods reception on the rooftop of Monona Terrace. With views of Lake Monona on one side and the Wisconsin State Capitol on the other, conference goers enjoyed a celebratory evening of delicious, Madison-inspired eats, live music and remarks from Madison Mayor Paul R. Soglin.



Find more highlights from the 8th National Farm to Cafeteria conference on our social media channels, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Storify. Follow along with the hashtag #Farm2Caf16. To see more pictures from the conference, check out our Flickr. More stories, key learnings and exciting highlight to come - stay tuned!

Conference recap: Exploring farm to cafeteria in Madison

This is some text inside of a div block.
Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Photo credit: EaCas Photography

The National Farm to School Network is hosting the 8th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference in Madison, Wis., and pre-conference activities kicked off Thursday with hundreds of leaders in the farm to cafeteria movement exploring the Madison area food system and farm to institution landscape.

From aquaponics to urban farms and hospitals to college campuses, more than 370 pre-conference attendees experienced Wisconsin’s farm to cafeteria initiatives first hand through 10 local field trips. One group of learners explored Wisconsin’s deep roots in dairy as they traveled to farms and processors who bring milk, cheese and other dairy products to institutional markets. Stops included a tour and tasting at Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese, a farm-based education experience at Sassy Cow Creamery and a visit to an Organic Valley dairy farm.

Photo credit: Maryland Farm to School

Another group explored innovative youth gardens across the Madison area that strive to cultivate healthy youth and vibrant communities. Among the stops was Goodman Youth Farm, a community nonprofit/school district partnership program that actively engages students in hands-on, farm-based education in an outdoor classroom. Youth are involved in the entire process of running a small-scale organic farm, from growing, harvesting, cooking and donating thousands of pounds of produce.

Photo credit: EaCas Photography

Back at Monona Terrace Convention Center, another 250 pre-conference attendees gathered for advanced short course trainings with movement experts from the Wallace Center, National Farmers Union, Chef Ann Foundation, Center for Social Inclusion, Spark Policy Institute, Vermont FEED, Farm to Institution New England and more. Courses included trainings on implementing farm to school practices and operations in school kitchens, starting cooperatives, and building racial equity in farm to cafeteria and wider food systems, among others.

The short course on network development welcomed farm to cafeteria practitioners from across the country to share and explore models of collaboration and coordination for creating state-level farm to cafeteria networks. With presenters from Colorado, Vermont and Wisconsin, a range of experiences were shared in describing the formation and success of various network models. At the end of the course, participants brainstormed ingredients for success in building effective farm to cafeteria collaborations.



As the 8th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference program kicks off on Friday, we’re welcoming more than 1,000 food service professionals, farmers, educators, policy makers, entrepreneurs, students and youth leaders, representatives from nonprofits, public health professionals, and others to Madison for a one-of-a-kind opportunity to learn, share, network and build momentum for the farm to cafeteria movement. Among them are the next generation of farm to cafeteria leaders, including students Christina Plyman, Trinity Sinkhorn and Kara Shelton. Accompanied by their teach Toni Myers, they traveled from Boyle County High School in Kentucky to present their farm to school successes and learnings as a National Farm to School Network Seed Change Demonstration Site, as well as to network and learn from other experienced farm to school practitioners.  

“I’ve seen kids in the cafeteria eat healthier foods because their friends grew it, and they know the garden it was grown in,” Plyman said. That’s success these student leaders are eager to see continue. Sinkhorn, a junior, commented, "I’m taking on new leadership in our farm to school program, and I’m interested in learning new approach and finding ways to grow our activities."



With two full days of workshops, lighting talks, networking sessions, poster presentations and  keynote addresses ahead, there will be countless opportunities for learning. Stay tuned to our blog for daily recaps highlighting the day’s events and experiences. We’ll also be sharing live content on our social media channels, including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Follow along with the hashtag #Farm2Caf16. To see pictures from the conference, check out our Flickr page. There’s lots more great stories, key learnings and exciting highlights to come - stay tuned!