Plan for success in 2017

united stated department of agriculture logo

Volume 3, Issue 1, January 3, 2017

The Dirt - New and Notes from FNS's Office of Community Food Systems
2017 resolutions

Plan for success in 2017

Is farm to school on your resolution radar?  If not, it should be!  It’s a new year and there are countless ways to take small steps toward farm to school success in 2017. You might resolve to expand your classroom library with agriculture-focused books, harvest spring greens from your school garden and feature them in your salad bar, or make a local farmer a celebrity by engaging them as a speaker in your cafeteria. No matter where you are on your farm to school journey, the new year is a great time to reflect on accomplishments and set goals for the future. 

But don’t most resolutions fail?

Here are three tips to make those resolutions stick.

  1. Start small. You may dream of a district farm, but starting with classroom container gardens is a great first step.
  2. Focus on one goal at a time. By focusing on one change at a time, you are better able to dedicate the time and resources needed to achieve the goal.
  3. Ask for support. Identify your skills and engage partners who can fill the gaps. Working in a team fosters creativity and learning, builds trust, and promotes a sense of ownership, which may contribute to a more sustainable farm to school program.

Farm to School Planning Toolkit

Take small steps

Whether you’re just getting started or you're a seasoned farm to school practitioner, the USDA Planning Toolkit can help you reach your goals. The toolkit includes tips and examples, insights from others, and lists of resources that can assist schools, districts, and community partners in:

  • Building a Farm to School Team;
  • Establishing a Vision & Setting Goals;
  • Finding & Buying Local Foods;
  • Menu Planning; and,
  • much more!

Share your goals & celebrate success

Experts believe that talking about your goals and celebrating milestones along your journey will increase the likelihood of long-term success. So share your #Resolutions2017 with @USDANutrition or email us your 2017 goals at We will share resolutions and successes through our e-letter and blog throughout the year!

Boulder girls showing off farmer cards

Local Food Promotion Program supports farm to school

Farm to School Grants aren’t the only USDA grants available for farm to school efforts. Boulder Valley School District is one of the first schools in the country to be awarded a Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP) Grant. LFPP grants support local food business enterprises in order to increase access to local food and to develop new market opportunities for farmers and ranchers serving local markets. Boulder Valley School District received a 2016 LFPP implementation grant for $223,948 over three years to expand local food promotion and education so increase the school community’s awareness about local food.

Way to go, Boulder!

USDA releases results of first-ever Local Food Marketing Practices Survey

In late December, USDA published results from the first ever Local Food Marketing Practicing Survey. Results show that in 2015, farmers produced and sold $8.7 billion of local foods directly to consumers, retailers, institutions, and a variety of local food intermediaries such as food hubs, distributors and wholesalers that market and sell locally branded products. Of this total, $3.4 billion, or 39 percent, of all local foods were sold to institutions such as schools, colleges, universities, and hospitals, and other local food intermediaries. The survey found that nearly 60,000 farmers and ranchers sold local foods to institutions and intermediaries. The western region accounted for the great sales to institutions and intermediaries ($1.2 billion) while the southwest region accounted for the least ($112 million).

Texas Agrilife

Getting a School Garden Blooming

By Jeff Raska, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Dallas County Texas

A school vegetable garden can be a wonderful outdoor classroom for studying natural science. Having worked with school gardens on and off for more than 25 years, I have seen many great school garden programs bloom, and then fade as time passes and school priorities change. For the last seven years, I’ve had the privilege of working with school gardens as a 4-H Club program assistant for Dallas County and have had the benefit of seeing a wide range of needs and challenges that schools face when trying to start a garden. However, the most successful programs have a few important things in place.

One of the first common elements is a dedicated garden committee. The committee can include teachers, parents, community members or school support staff. It’s important to have certain duties assigned to each member. For example, there needs to be a point person who reaches out for help when needed and maintains accountability. This is important because if the garden is funded by outside resources, such as grants or corporate sponsors, certain benchmarks must be met. I have honestly tried to talk some schools out of pursuing a school garden because they didn’t have a committee structure in place. The committee is important for success.