Connecting Nebraska Specialty Crop Farmers to Schools

Lyons, NE – The Center for Rural Affairs is partnering with University of Nebraska Extension to offer several FREE farm to school trainings to Nebraska’s school food service staff and fruit and vegetable growers.
Food service staff and managers can learn techniques to work smarter, not harder, when finding and incorporating local fruits and vegetables. Trainers Fayrene Hamouz and Georgia Jones, UNL Associate Professors in the Department of Nutrition and Health Sciences, will work to 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 contributes to the health and vitality of Nebraska’s youth.” Additionally, Jones states, “Local food is enjoyable for students. It’s fresher and it tastes better. This will build success.”
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 Wyatt Fraas, 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.”
Fraas continued, “This workshop will give farmers some marketing knowledge and access to school food buyers. It’s a good opportunity to describe their crops and meet the school food service people who could become customers. In addition, farmers can learn just what produce or other farm products these Nebraska schools are looking for.”
Lunch will be provided at no cost. This time will be spent in shared one-on-one and group discussion in order for farmers and school food service staff to make connections and share ideas.
“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,” said Sarah Smith, Nebraska Farm to School Lead with the Center for Rural Affairs. “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.
What:  FREE Nebraska Farm to School Workshops
Who: School food service staff and managers; Specialty Crop Producers (fruit, vegetable, nut, herb)
When and Where: Saturdays, 9am – 2pm, includes lunch
  • Feb 6, 2016: East Butler Public School, Brainard
  • Feb 13, 2016: Hemingford Public School
  • Mar 19: Wayne Public School
  • April 2: North Platte Public School
  • Apr 9: Litchfield Public School
For more information or to register, visit or contact Sarah Smith, Center for Rural Affairs Project Specialist and Nebraska Farm to School Lead with National Farm to School Network, 402.783.1183, Those interested should register at least a week in advance for desired workshop.
Continuing Education Credits will be available.