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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Good morning!

We want to welcome you—all 117 of you—to the second quarterly Farm to School in Minnesota newsletter. Thank you for working so hard to make farm to school a reality across Minnesota.

We hope you enjoy this newsletter and are able to savor some food grown by Minnesota farmers this season. If you have ideas, feedback, or questions, contact us anytime at In the holiday spirit, please share this newsletter with others.

Happy Holidays!
Minnesota’s Farm to School Leadership Team

School gardens as outdoor classrooms

While there are more winter days ahead, now is a perfect time to begin planning a school garden. In this issue, three dynamite members of the Minnesota School Garden Coalition—Kirsten Saylor, Carrie Stowers, and Lori Murphy—write about the benefits of school gardens and invite you to the annual Minnesota Schoolyard Garden Conference to hear from programs like the Green Thumb Initiative and Crossroads School and Vocational Center.

Local food procurement training recap

Contributed by: Sami Burington and Megan LeClair, Minnesota Department of EducationCover of USDA's "Procuring Local Foods for Child Nutrition Programs" guide.

Local foods truly can span the school meal tray. Forty-five school nutrition staff participating in the Minnesota Department of Education’s (MDE) Local Procurement workshop in October learned this and created action plans to serve even more local products in their school nutrition programs by using USDA’s Farm to Child Nutrition Programs Planning Guide and Farm to School Planning Toolkit. Participants also learned about procurement basics, where to find local products, and heard from an Extension educator and food safety specialist on what on-farm food safety practices to look for.

Students across Minnesota are demanding more local products too! Students in the Fridley School District prefer biting into local apples and specifically ask when the “good” apples are coming. Thanks to a Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) grant, the district was able to conduct apple taste tests in which seventh and eighth grade students sampled different varieties of apples. At lunch now, students have requested to know what variety of apples they are being served and where the apples come from.

Learn more about local food procurement by exploring USDA’s Procuring Local Foods for Child Nutrition Programs guide and Minnesota’s own Toolkit for Direct Purchasing of Local Foods.

Funding opportunity for value added producers

Contributed by: David Wittwer, Rural Development, United States Department of Agriculture

Shot of a commercial kitchen with a shelf, range, and sink.

USDA Rural Development is currently accepting applications for the Value Added Producer Grant program (VAPG). This program can be used to conduct feasibility studies or as working capital for value added projects. Applicants must be independent producers, agricultural producer groups, farmer- or rancher-cooperatives, or majority-controlled producer-based business ventures. Value added methodologies range from a change in physical state of the agricultural product to an agricultural product that was produced in a manner that enhances its value.

Farm to school grows local economies

Farm to school offers cross-sectoral benefits for children, farmers, and communities. However, limited data are available to truly understand the economic impacts of farm to school procurement. Using a survey and case study approach, this report—a collaborative project of the National Farm to School Network and Colorado State University—examines the economic impact of local purchasing and provides new insight into the potential for farm to school procurement to positively impact local economies. 

Diagram showing that for every additional dollar of final demand for farm to school farm products, an additional $0.93 for related sectors is generated in Minneapolis and $1.11 in Georgia.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Minnesota Farm to School and Early Care and Education Grants (due: Nov. 16)

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) will make Agricultural Growth, Research and Innovation (AGRI) Farm to School and Farm to Early Care and Education Grants available for K-12 institutions and early care and education organizations. The MDA has sample grants available to support you in applying.

Jackie Kanthak from Alice Smith Elementary in Hopkins makes sauce from local tomatoes using a commercial immersion blender funded by the AGRI Farm to School Grant program.
Jackie Kanthak from Alice Smith Elementary in Hopkins makes sauce from local tomatoes using a commercial immersion blender funded by the AGRI Farm to School Grant program.

The MDA will award up to $400,000 to eligible institutions to increase the use of Minnesota grown and raised foods through planning grants or equipment purchases and physical improvements. AGRI Farm to School Grants have assisted schools and early care and education organizations purchase food processors, cooling and storage equipment, and specialized ovens to make it easier to serve Minnesota grown produce, meat and dairy. Past grantees have utilized planning grant funds to develop their Farm to School programs by connecting with farmers in their area, determining how seasonal produce fits into menu cycles and creating processes to use local foods in infant foods at early care settings.

Apply for a grant. Applications for AGRI Farm to School and Farm to Early Care and Education Grants must be submitted by 4:00 p.m. CST on November 16, 2017. The request for proposals and instructions can be found online at:

USDA Farm to School Grant (Due Dec. 8)

The USDA Office of Community Food Systems has released the FY 2018 Farm to School Request for Applications (RFA). The National Farm to School Network is available on a consultation basis to provide assistance to potential applicants in the areas of: planning and preparing the application, customized support for Native communities, evaluation, and focus on early care and education/pre-K. [link no longer available]

The purpose of the USDA Farm to School Grant Program is to assist eligible entities in implementing farm to school programs that improve access to local foods in eligible schools. On an annual basis, USDA awards up to $5 million in competitive grants for training, supporting operations, planning, purchasing equipment, developing school gardens, developing partnerships, and implementing farm to school programs. Applications are due Dec. 8, 2017. Check out the resources for applicants and see a list of awardees since the release of the first RFA in 2013. More information about the grants is available here.
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