Farm to School Success Grows in Maryland

united stated department of agriculture logo

Volume 2, Issue 3, January 26, 2016

The Dirt - New and Notes from FNS's Office of Community Food Systems
Girl with sticker: I ate Local
Photo courtesy Maryland Department of Agriculture

Creativity and Collaboration Grow Farm to School Success in Maryland

USDA’s Office of Community Food Systems caught up with Erin Kennedy Hysom from the Maryland Department of Education to learn more about the growth of farm to school in Maryland. As a joint initiative between two state agencies, Erin and her counterpart in the Maryland Department of Agriculture, Karen Fedor, collaborate to promote farm to school. From Homegrown School Lunch Week to Taste the Rainbow in Anne Arundel County to the Department of Agriculture’s Buyer-Grower Expo, there is much to dig in to in Maryland. Here are a few examples of their creativity and collaboration:

  • Over the past few years, Erin and Karen have trained extensively on buying local, built connections with farmers and the agriculture community, and strengthened relationships with new and existing partners, such as Maryland's Future Farmers of America, the Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation, Maryland Farm Bureau and University of Maryland Extension.
  • The MD Department of Agriculture received Specialty Crop Block Grant funding for the purchase of farm to school promotional materials, which created a series of posters, stickers, farm signs, and farmer trading cards used in schools throughout the state. The MD Department of Education recently transferred the MD Department of Agriculture State Administrative Expense (SAE) funds to continue developing and distributing the promotional materials.
  • Erin and Karen work closely with School Food Authorities to explore funding opportunities that may allow districts to process the local foods available during the summer months into products that appear on school breakfast and lunch menus.
  • On the producer side, the MD Department of Agriculture’s Food Quality Assurance program trains farmers who sell to schools on food safety and Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification.
  • If that isn’t enough, they are expanding outside of schools to include farm to summer and farm to childcare activities!

Hungry for more? Follow Maryland’s Farm to School Program on Twitter and Facebook!

Poster: Awesome Apples

Don’t miss these great articles celebrating farm to school success in Maryland!

Maryland Public Television’s Farm & Harvest Program visits Caroline County cafeterias December 1, 2015
“Join host Joanne Clendining as she explores local Maryland farms.  Learn how a farm is growing tomatoes year round. Visit a school cafeteria that gets its produce from a local farm. Discover how beef cattle genetics help make the perfect burger. Also, greenhouses on Then & Now, and American bread on The Buy Local.” The Farm to School segment starts at 8:00. View on Web

Bel Air High students learn about fish, plant farming in new aquaponics lab The Baltimore Sun – December 31, 2015
“Students in teacher Glen Hedelson's Environmental Science II Class at Bel Air High School are learning alternative methods of food production in their new aquaponics lab. Hedelson was able to convert the school's conventional greenhouse into a fully operational aquaponics facility that raises fish and produce. ‘This is an incredible opportunity for students to learn about modern agricultural practices,’ Hedelson said.” View on Web

Farm to school: Connecting the classroom, cafeteria, and community to the local agricultural economy has proven to be a winning proposition for all involved Hagerstown Magazine – January 5, 2016
“Within Maryland’s 24 school districts, there are close to 810,000 children in 1,334 schools. That equates to 24 million cafeteria breakfasts and 70 million lunches served each school year. Considering government dietary regulations, strict budgets, and high volume, schools have to find the best way to serve cost-effective, healthy, fresh meals to their students.” View on Web 

Webinars: Planning for Farm to School Success

Join us for these upcoming webinars, which are part of our 11-part webinar series devoted to starting or growing a farm to school program. Guest speakers will join the webinars to share their hands-on farm to school experiences. Plan ahead for the whole series by visiting our Videos and Webinars page. Can’t make it? Don’t worry, we’re recording all the webinars and will add them to our website as soon as they are available.

Setting Goals and Establishing an Evaluation Baseline: January 28, 2:00 PM EST

How do you know if your activities are helping local farmers and improving student health? Learn how to integrate program planning/evaluation tools and techniques that will document outcomes and show the impacts of farm to school programs. 

Finding and Buying Local Foods: February 4, 2:00 PM EST

USDA Farm to School local food procurement guru, Christina Conell, breaks down the how to’s of finding and buying local food. We’ll cover a few procurement basics and then focus on where the opportunities are to target local products in the purchasing process. Join to gain insights on how to start making change in your process, big or small.

Farm to Cafeteria Conference

Scholarship Opportunity Announced for Farm to Cafeteria Conference

The National Farm to School Network is preparing for their 8th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference, which will be in Madison, Wisconsin June 2-4, 2016. To keep the conference accessible and diverse, scholarships are being offered. Don’t delay! The scholarship application period is open until February 29, 2016.

Please visit the conference website for more details. Questions about scholarships or the application process should be directed to 

Georgia school garden

Georgia School Gardens Nourish Healthy Habits

Posted by Sean Monahan, Food and Nutrition Service Southeast Regional Team Lead for School Nutrition Programs

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 celebrated its fifth anniversary last month, and I can tell you it has made a difference!  I think back on the past five years and am proud of the strides we’ve made in giving students access to more local and healthy food in our schools.

Accompanied by FNS Administrator Audrey Rowe, I had a wonderful visit with two Georgia elementary schools this fall. Our trip to Alexander II Magnet School in Bibb County and Westside Elementary School in Houston County highlighted 2015 National School Lunch Week celebrations (October 12-16) and offered a great example of progress on the school meals front.

Our visit also gave us the chance to celebrate Farm to School month. Both schools are among the 40,000 schools nationwide that participate in the Farm to School program. The two also participate in the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), which allows all students to eat breakfast and lunch for free.