Nebraska to Host Inaugural Midwest Farm to School Conference March 2 - Early Bird Registration extended to February 14 - Scholarships Available

Release Date: 



Sarah Smith,, Phone: (402) 783-1183
or Elisha Smith,, Phone: (402) 687-2103 ext. 1007

Lyons, NE – More than 200 farmers, ranchers, school food service personnel, and community members working to improve students health and economic opportunities for farmers and ranchers will gather in Nebraska City, NE for the first ever Midwest Farm to School Conference. This full day event will bring together those interested in building farm to school initiatives in Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas and surrounding states. Hosted by the Center for Rural Affairs, Iowa Department of Agriculture and University of Missouri Extension, the 2016 conference will highlight methods of increasing students’ knowledge about local and healthy foods, increase the amount of local foods served to students in schools, and build knowledge for hands-on farm to school practices, like school gardens.

The opening keynote speaker will be Chef Robert Rusan, a 2015 School Nutrition Foundation Hero.  Rusan, is one of five school nutrition professionals from across the country to be awarded this prestigious honor.
School Nutrition Heroes are honored for making a difference in the lives of students and families; applying their skills in the their local community to help feed others; positively impacting the lives of coworkers, employees, and peers in school nutrition; and using knowledge, skills, and abilities to benefit others in their school, district, community and beyond.
“As an expert in connecting real and local foods to students, we are honored that Chef Robert Rusan is joining us and other inspiring leaders at this year’s conference,” says Sarah Smith, event organizer and Nebraska Farm to School Lead with the Center for Rural Affairs. “Chef Rusan knows that food is one of the most central entities of our lives, and believes that spreading the word is important now, and will impact future generations. The timing couldn’t be better to have him as our keynote speaker.”
Rusan is no stranger to food service. He comes from a three-generation catering service that started with his grandmother and was passed down to his mother and aunt, before eventually being passed on to him. “My grandmother was actually a lunch lady,” remarked Rusan.
Chef Rusan is based at the Maplewood Richmond Heights School District, MO, “I don’t just prepare food for my students—I actually serve them. We talk daily. They talk to me about the food, and give me feedback,” commented Rusan.
Robert started a program, “Teen Kitchen,” where he teaches a group of apprenticeship students all the facets of cooking, cleaning, gardening, and harvesting. He educates the students not only to prepare food, but to prepare a healthy meal for themselves and the people around them. He wants to teach students where their food comes from and does that daily. Each school in the district has a school garden and Robert has a chicken coop where students participate in active learning. At the middle school is a beehive from which the students collect honey, which Robert uses as a sugar substitute for foods served to the students. 
Robert’s efforts do not go unnoticed. “He is an integral part in the innovative and healthy food program we have in our District,” said MRH Superintendent Karen I. Hall.
Chef Robert Rusan complements a day packed full of speakers and workshops aimed at growing farm to school at the district, state and regional level. Throughout the day conference goers will have the opportunity to attend a variety of discussions and sessions for food service professionals, farmers, school staff and others interested in building farm to school in their communities. Sessions will address procurement tips, scaling up farm products, school gardens, and bridging the farmer and school communication gap.  
Registration is now open for the Conference, which will be hosted at the beautiful Lied Lodge and Conference Center in Nebraska City, NE on Wednesday, March 2, 2016.
Early bird registration has been extended through February 15, 2016. For more information, a full agenda and to register, visit: or contact Sarah Smith at or 402-783-1183.

Invited and encouraged to attend include farmers, ranchers, growers and food producers; school food service professionals, students, school administrators and faculty members; community members and parents; and educational and food-related organizations.
Continuing Education Units (CEU’s) will be available for those interested.
Registration includes all meals, snacks, and beverage service throughout the conference. Limited numbers of scholarships are available to cover registration costs of the conference, as well as one night hotel stay.  Farmers and food service directors, or others with high need, please contact Pamela Mueri ( or 402-580-9835) for scholarship information and questions.
Plenty of space is available for exhibitors. Those interested in hosting a booth should register online and contact Mueri with questions.
For media passes to the conference, contact


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