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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture
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farm to school

USDA Announces Grants Designed to Increase Amount of Local Food Served in Schools

June 13, 2017 |

News Release: WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Agriculture today announced the projects selected to receive the USDA’s annual farm to school grants designed to increase the amount of local foods served in schools. Sixty-five projects were chosen nationwide.

“Increasing the amount of local foods in America’s schools is a win-win for everyone,” said Cindy Long, Deputy Administrator for Child Nutrition Programs at USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, which administers the Department’s school meals programs. “Farm to school projects foster healthy eating habits among America’s school-age children, and local economies are nourished, as well, when schools buy the food they provide from local producers.” Read More

California Gleaning Org Diverts Food Waste from Field to School Lunches

May 22, 2017 |

When Holly and Terry Delaney poked their heads into the kitchen at the Salvation Army where a friend was undergoing a one-year program toward self-sufficiency they were disappointed to see mostly frozen and canned goods being served. When you’re in recovery and trying to get healthy, you should be eating healthy food, they thought.

With the budget constraints of a nonprofit organization in mind, the pair approached local farmers in their community, the Santa Ynez Valley in California’s Central Coast, who agreed to let them glean produce from their fields or pick up food that didn’t sell during farmer’s markets and distribute it to local charities. One by one, new farmers agreed to contribute, and within a year, the Delaneys realized they had a viable nonprofit organization themselves. They registered Veggie Rescue as a 501(c)(3) in 2011.   Read More

In Wyoming, School Protein Enhancement Project Brings Local Meat to School Lunches

March 27, 2017 |

Eastern Wyoming is cattle country, a place where both traditional and grass fed beef ranches punctuate a landscape of rolling hills and sweeping plains all just a truck or horse ride away from the legendary Platte River. If you’ve never had a steak from a cow that’s spent its life absentmindedly meandering the wide open ranges and drinking the fresh clean water of Wyoming, then you’ve never had a good steak.

Thousands of Wyoming cattle make their way to South Dakota, Nebraska and across the country every year mostly due to a lack of slaughtering plants in The Equality State. This means ranchers are taking local meat and revenue out of state and local beef away from local consumers. Unfortunately, it is not economically viable for many small producers to pay for processing locally. The recently passed School Protein Enhancement Project Act 52 SF0123 hopes to ensure local Wyoming children have that local Wyoming meat in their school lunches while saving local school districts some much needed moolah. Read More

Hydroponics Ideal Teaching Tool for STEM Learning, says Georgia Middle School

July 11, 2016 |
Pine Grove Middle School in Georgia has a robust agriculture program—now, hydroponics will be part of the mix. (photo courtesy Zach Hurley/Pine Grove Middle School)

Pine Grove Middle School in Georgia has a robust agriculture program—now, hydroponics will be part of the mix. (photo courtesy Zach Hurley/Pine Grove Middle School)

Indoor growing and hydroponic agriculture is not just for adults. So says Pine Grove Middle School in Valdosta, Georgia, which began construction on a new hydroponics learning laboratory for its students this past march.

One of the primary reasons for the new facility is the school’s desire to become STEM-certified.

STEM-certified schools are recognized by the Georgia Department of Education as offering top-level education in science, technology, engineering and math. Because hands-on learning is seen as vital for this type of education, Pine Grove Middle School decided that hydroponics is an ideal teaching tool.

The school is funding the hydroponics learning laboratory with a $700,000 ‘Boosting Learning Through Authentic STEM Learning’ grant that was awarded by the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement Georgia Innovation Fund. Read More

Growing on Campus: 9 College and University Farms Emphasizing Hands-On-Agriculture

July 5, 2016 |
Students working with Warren Wilson College Farm take one of the school's pigs out for a stroll. Photo courtesy of Warren Wilson College.

Students working with Warren Wilson College Farm take one of the school’s pigs out for a stroll. Photo courtesy of Warren Wilson College.

According to a May 2015 report released by Purdue University and the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, demand for recent college graduates holding agriculture-related degrees will increase rapidly through at least 2020. The demand will grow so rapidly, in fact, that the number of projected annual job opportunities in agriculture is expected to outpace the number of graduates by almost 40 percent.

The nation’s colleges and universities must have seen this coming, as many institutions have created or expanded opportunities for students to gain first-hand experience with farming and ranching on campus or nearby. These pastures, fields, and laboratories provide students with training in the full spectrum of tasks involved in farm operation, from basic planting and harvesting, to management and long-term planning.  Some raise food for campus dining operations. Others sell their products to the public. Some are extensive enterprises that can be measured in acres, while others are small, concentrated projects working in square feet with all-volunteer crews.

Nine of these farms are described below.  What they have in common is their purpose: to educate the next generation of farmers about sustainable and humane growing practices that can form the foundation of our agricultural future. Read More