The Dirt - Volume 5, Issue 2: Farm to School Month!

united stated department of agriculture logo

Volume 5, Issue 2, October 16, 2018

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

Photo Credit: Emily Hart Roth

It Is Farm to School Month!  Time to Get Involved!


OCFS Director Erin Healy, and Regional Lead, Julianna Arnett, visiting Farm to School grantee, Real Good Fish, in Monterey, CA, January 2017

Greetings from the Director of the Office of Community Food Systems

by Erin Healy

October is my favorite month, as it elicits fond memories of visiting farms to pick fresh apples on crisp autumn days, harvesting and carving oddly-shaped pumpkins, and jumping on hay-filled tractors to ride through haunted corn fields. It is a time for celebration, as farmers throughout many parts of the country are harvesting the fruits of their labor, and it is also a time for reflection as the seasons change and the days shorten. As I reflect on the Farm to School movement, I feel proud and impressed by the results achieved by my national and regional FNS team, partners, leaders, and predecessors. The young Office of Community Food Systems (OCFS), formed in 2016, grew quickly in its beginning stage and is now composed of 12 full time staff who work across the country to provide training, technical assistance, and grant funding to a wide variety of stakeholders in order to launch, implement, and expand Farm to School efforts.

We are now approaching a new phase in our development - one aimed at expanding our reach and scope through the integration of Farm to School across our Agency and our partners’ work. During this upcoming fiscal year, OCFS strives to distribute more grant funding ($7.5M in FY2019), using the infusion of additional federal funds, and to increase the capacity of our State partners to support the full integration of Farm to School practices, principles, and strategies into the operations, workflows, staffing, and structures of State Departments of Agriculture, Education, and Health. As with farming, which requires patience and time for crops to mature, we may not harvest the fruits of our labor for some time. We look forward to 2020 when the 2019 Farm to School Census data will be released, new producer-focused resources will be unveiled, and improvements to the grant program will take effect.

We are excited to enter this near year with you all, and I encourage you to integrate Farm to School in your respective schools, communities, tribes, agencies, organizations, and farms, fisheries, or ranches. Each and every one of your local efforts feeds into a larger stakeholder community that is responding to an increasing demand for a stronger connection with our food, our cultures, our local producers, and our land.  Please join us in celebrating this harvest season and Farm to School month in a way that achieves OCFS’s vision of every child, in every child nutrition program, having access to local food every day. We thank you for all of your hard work and recognize your accomplishments in connecting children with the source of their food and connecting producers to new markets.


31 Days to Celebrate Farm to School Month!

by The National Farm to School Network

Every October, when gardens and farms are full of harvest bounty and students are sliding up to lunchroom tables, communities across every corner of the country come together to recognize the connections happening between students and local foods. For 31 days, we celebrate all things farm to school during National Farm to School Month! In 2010, the National Farm to School Network advocated that Congress designate October as National Farm to School Month (House Resolution 1655). This yearly celebration now brings together millions of students, educators, parents, farmers and food producers, school lunch professionals, food advocates, and community members from a wide range of sectors to raise awareness of the important role of farm to school in improving child nutrition, supporting local economies, and fostering vibrant communities.

Everyone can get involved and celebrate National Farm to School Month! At the National Farm to School Network, we encourage you to use National Farm to School Month as an opportunity to find small ways to get informed, be inspired and take action to grow farm to school in your community. Whether you’re hosting a taste test in the cafeteria, harvesting school garden produce, visiting a farmers market, reading a food-related book, or making a new farm to school connection, no action is too small! Check out our Farm to School Month Celebration Toolkit for 60+ action ideas you try this month.

Many states celebrate National Farm to School Month with special events, providing more great opportunities to get involved this October. Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico and Virginia organize statewide Farm to School Weeks. Iowa, Massachusetts, North Dakota and Washington celebrate farm to school with state Local Food Days. The Great Lakes region (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin), Montana and North Carolina celebrate farm to school by taking a big bite out of local apples with a synchronized, statewide CRUNCH. Find out how your state is celebrating and how you can get involved by exploring our National Farm to School Month Events Calendar.

The National Farm to School Network has developed resources and printable materials to help promote National Farm to School Month in schools, early care and education settings, and communities this October. Download customizable posters and bookmarks, stickers, coloring pages, postcards, and more at

Whatever actions you take these next 31 days, know that you are part of a movement that’s creating positive change by growing healthy eaters, supporting local agriculture, and building vibrant communities. That’s worth celebrating! 

Happy National Farm to School Month!


Kickin' it with Kale!

October is Farm to School Month and schools and early care centers across Georgia are celebrating all things kale!  Kickin’ it with Kale is a state-wide celebration to get kids eating, growing, and participating in kale-themed activities.  Make sure you check out the campaign materials available online at All Participants will receive free electronic resources to help plan and implement their activities.  Resources include standards-based lesson plans, quick activities, recipes, videos, school garden planting and harvesting information, and more!

Partners are also encouraged to share their Kickin’ it with Kale pictures and activities on social media with #KickinitwithKale. Each week during October, anyone who uses this hashtag will be entered to win a gift card and at the end of the month, a grand prize winner will be selected, winning a two day education pass to the Georgia Organics Conference on Feb. 8-9, 2019 in Tifton, Georgia (a $350 value)! Questions? Visit or email

OCFS will host Webinar Series on the FY2019 Farm to School Grants and Grant application Process

We hope you will join OCFS for a very special two-part webinar series this October 16th and 17th.  These webinars will review the important details of the FY2019 Farm to School Grants and walk through the Grant Application process.  The webinars will be recorded and made available on the Grantee Resources page of the FNS OCFS  website.

October 16th – “Getting Familiar with the Farm to School RFA” Part 1 of 2: This webinar will provide an overview of how to apply for the FY 19 Farm to School Grant Program RFA, and what entities and projects are eligible to apply for farm to school grant funding. Get familiar with the requirements of the RFA and how to submit your completed application on

To register, please visit:

October 17th – “Getting Your Grant Package Together” Part 2 of 2:   In part two, we explore the key characteristics of a competitive Farm to School Application. Get an overview of how to develop an integrated farm to school project that addresses the need of your target audience and aligns with the intention of the grant program. Learn tips on how to write a succinct application that clearly outlines your project's objectives and potential for success.  

To register, please visit:


Check out October’s Team Nutrition Webinar: “Celebrate National Farm to School Month in Early Child Care and Education (ECE) Settings: Farm to CACFP”

Thursday, October 25th, 2018, 2 to 3 p.m. Eastern Time/1 to 2 p.m. Central Time/12 to 1 p.m. Mountain Time/ 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. Pacific Time.

Register today at:

Learn more about Farm to the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) during this interactive webinar brought to you by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service.

Participants will learn:

·       how Farm to CACFP efforts big and small, can be successfully implemented in a variety of settings;

·       how early exposure to gardening, farming, and local foods can benefit young eaters;

·       where to find free Team Nutrition materials focused on garden-based nutrition education that can be used in early care and education sites; and

·       how California-based North Bay Children’s Center’s Garden of Eatin’, program is helping to change the way children think about food through hands-on experiences

Certificates of participation will be provided for those who attend the entire webinar. The webinar will be recorded and made available at a later date on the Team Nutrition and USDA Farm to School websites.