Connecting Nebraska Speciality Crop Farmers to Schools - Center for Rural Affairs Offers FREE farm to school training and networking event

Release Date: 



Sarah Smith, Center for Rural Affairs Project Specialist,, Phone: (402) 783-1183
or Elisha Smith, Center for Rural Affairs,, Phone: (402) 687-2103 ext. 1007


Lyons, NE - A FREE farm to school workshop for Nebraska’s school food service staff and fruit and vegetable farmers will be held on Monday, June 27, 2016 in Kearney, NE.

Farmers will learn techniques for connecting and working with schools including food safety regulations, navigating school order cycles, product demand, and packaging needs.
“An increasing number of farmers are growing food for local markets in Nebraska,” said Kirstin Bailey, Center for Rural Affairs, who is facilitating the farmer portion of the workshop. “Many of them are looking for additional opportunities to provide fresh, healthy food to their community, such as in school meals.”
Food service staff and managers will learn techniques to work smarter, not harder, when finding and incorporating local fruits and vegetables into school meals. Dr. Fayrene Hamouz and Dr. Georgia Jones, UNL Associate Professors in the Department of Nutrition and Health Sciences, as well as Beth Haas from the Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) Nutrition Services, will address establishing predictable demand and supply of locally grown food for Nebraska Child Nutrition Programs. Hamouz recognizes that “adding local fruits and vegetables to the school lunch menu invests in the local economy, as well as increases school meal participation and contributes to the health and vitality of Nebraska’s youth.”
Who: School Food Service Staff AND Nebraska Fruit and Vegetable Growers
When: Monday, June 27, from 8:30am - 11:30am, optional free lunch provided from 11:45am-12:45pm (advance registration required)
Where: Holiday Inn, 110 S. Second Ave., Kearney, NE
Registration: Free.  RSVP in advance to Sarah Smith, or 402.783.1183.
As part of this workshop, farmers will have an opportunity to share information pertaining to their business. “Time and again, schools and farmers report that the most valuable portion of these trainings is the opportunity for schools and food producers to network,” states Sarah Smith, Nebraska Farm to School Lead with the Center for Rural Affairs. “This training will provide both structured and unstructured networking space for these connections to develop.”
Smith continued, “This workshop will give farmers some marketing knowledge and access to school food buyers. It’s a good opportunity for food producers to describe their crops and meet the school food service people who could become customers. Also, farmers can learn just what produce or other farm products these Nebraska schools are looking for.”
Additional networking time is optional during a no cost lunch in cooperation with the Nebraska Student Nutrition Association Conference.
“This project enhances the profitability of Nebraska’s specialty crop growers by expanding an underutilized market, or in many cases, opening a currently untapped new market,” added Smith. “Schools are reliable large purchasers of specialty crops, and by tapping into this market, specialty crop farmers can benefit greatly.”
According to Smith, students who try fresh local fruits and vegetables at school often go home asking for the same products at their dinner tables. Now is the time for schools to consider how local foods can expand menu planning opportunities in the National School Lunch Program, and at the same time increase student enjoyment.
For more information visit: Continuing education credits are available.

This Center for Rural Affairs event is held in cooperation with the National Farm to School Network and the Nebraska Extension.