Today is National Ag Day!

united stated department of agriculture logo

Volume 4, Issue 6, March 20, 2018

The Dirt - New and Notes from FNS's Office of Community Food Systems
National Ag Day Logo

Celebrate National Ag Day!

Agriculture is everywhere! From the food we eat to the clothes we wear, the purpose of National Ag Day is to appreciate and celebrate the abundance of American agriculture. Agriculture impacts our daily lives and it is important to understand the value it brings to our local and national economies. Celebrate National Ag Day by increasing your knowledge about agriculture and nutrition or by recognizing the endless career opportunities available in this industry. Farm production, food science, education, and urban planning, are all excellent career opportunities waiting for you! Join in the celebration today and cheer for American agriculture!

Children at FFA Chapter

Waipahu Intermediate FFA Chapter Promotes School Gardens

Future Farmers of America (FFA) is a national organization that provides a path for students to achieve leadership, personal growth, and career success through agricultural education. Made up of State associations, which are divided into local chapters, FFA members plan and participate in activities to help them grow as leaders, build their community, and strengthen the agricultural industry.

Girls in school garden

A local chapter in Hawaii, the Waipahu Intermediate FFA Chapter, is developing a plan to build school gardens on campus. To achieve this task, the Waipahu FFA Chapter members are leading mini projects with their peers. They are teaching them every aspect of a school garden from building planter boxes to creating drip irrigation systems, seed germination, fertilizing ratios, and more.

Check out this news feature of Waipahu Intermediate FFA Chapter!

Waipahu Intermediate FFA Chapter is hosting a Jr. FFA Conference for elementary school students on April 28, 2018. The event will have workshops and competitions for students, teachers, and parents.

Kentucky grown Fruit and Vegetable Incentive program

Kentucky-Grown Vegetable Incentive Program (K-VIP)

Funded by a grant from the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board, and administered by the Kentucky Association of Food Banks, the Kentucky-Grown Vegetable Incentive Program (K-VIP) will reimburse sponsors for up to one-third of total dollars spent on Kentucky-grown produce purchased for use in the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).

The Agricultural Development Board believes the K-VIP is an opportunity to expand market access for farmers and feed hungry children fresh, Kentucky-grown produce. The Kentucky Departments of Agriculture and Education also believe the K-VIP will expand Farm to Summer, enhance the local economy, and increase participation in the SFSP.

Enrolled SFSP sponsors will be eligible for reimbursement for up to one-third of the total dollars spent on Kentucky-grown produce. However, due to limited funds, there is no guarantee of reimbursement. K-VIP payments will be capped at 10 cents times the total number of meals reimbursed by USDA.

Approved summer meals sponsors are encouraged to apply! Enrollment applications for SFSP 2018 are due April 15, 2018 and will be approved by May 1, 2018.

Supporters of K-VIP anticipate this program will establish new relationships between sponsors and farmers that may carry over into other Federal child nutrition programs. Expanding the farm to school footprint into the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) is a win-win for farmers, sponsors, and kids!

Watch Agriculture Commissioner, Ryan Quarles, announce the Kentucky-Grown Vegetable Incentive Program!

Resources, Webinars, and Funding

Planter boxes

School Garden Professional Development Opportunities

It's National Ag Day! Celebrate and get in the spirit of school gardening. Do you already have a school garden and want to take it up a notch? Check out these upcoming professional development opportunities and watch the video below! 

USDA Announces Support Available for Specialty Crops, the Local Food Sector, and Agricultural Marketing

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) announced nearly $89 million in available funding to support specialty crop growers, strengthen local and regional food systems, and explore new market opportunities for farmers and ranchers. USDA helps fund projects that bolster rural economies across the country.

Growing greens

Northern NY Planning Grantee Takes Gardening Indoors 

Last fall, Indian River Central School District (IRCSD) purchased grow trays for their classrooms. Students used the trays to grow fresh produce to enhance new and existing recipes for their school meals. Students were involved in every step of the process including planting, watering, harvesting, and even composting. Along the way, students learned valuable hands-on lessons about life science and nutrition, and have already grown a variety of lettuces, basil, cilantro, and spinach.


Spinach has been the most popular harvest. As a result, Food Service Director, Ann Easter, has incorporated fresh spinach into the sandwich wrap station at the high school. She has also used the fresh herbs for a pesto served over whole grain pasta and cilantro served with tacos. In addition to the grow trays, Ms. Easter has sourced other locally grown foods such as apples, yogurt, tomatoes, organic potatoes, and watermelon. 

The grow trays were purchased through state funding from Assemblywoman Addie Jenne’s Drive for 25 Initiative. This initiative has provided area schools additional funding to purchase food from local farmers, equipment, and supplies to grow their own food.

Growing trays

This is not the district’s first endeavor with growing food. Antwerp Primary planted raised beds that yielded a large enough harvest of butternut squash that they were able to supplement their backpack program, which supplies students and their families with food over the weekends and holidays. There are plans to expand the garden and continue to provide food for the backpack program, a local food pantry, and the school cafeteria. The Future Farmers of America (FFA) program also has a strong gardening component and is a vital partner in this work.

An active District Wellness Committee, led by Assistant Superintendent Mary Anne Dobmeier, is streamlining these efforts into a robust district-wide farm to school initiative.  "The District is excited”, exclaims Dobmeier. Funding from the USDA Farm to School Grant program, a partnership with Cornell Cooperative Extension, and April Bennett, a part-time coordinator, is working to bring their farm to school efforts under one umbrella to better meet the needs of students and the community. 


Over the next year of the planning grant, IRCSD plans to keep the momentum going. Nutrition educators through Eat Smart New York (ESNY) and the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) have hosted a variety of nutrition lessons and tastings for students. A subcommittee of interdisciplinary educators is researching best practices to integrate more experiential food education into common core aligned lessons. With a strong FFA program, health education across the district, Family and Consumer Science classes at the middle school and high school, and newly renovated cafeteria spaces, IRCSD is creating a model program that shows no sign of slowing down.