Farm to School and early care programs support local farmers, children and local economic growth. Selling to institutional markets can give farmers a predictable, stable source of income. Here are some useful tools to help farmers succeed in this market.
Bringing the Farm to School Video Training Modules
Farm-to-school practices connect schools with fresh and healthy food grown or raised by Minnesota farmers. Find practical, Minnesota-specific tips on how to start and grow connections for farm to school in this series of video modules created by a collaborative of organizations including University of Minnesota Extension, Minnesota Department of Agriculture and Minnesota Department of Education.
Video run time: 6:03
Hello and welcome to Minnesota's Bringing the Farm to School Training. My name is Kate Seybold and I work for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. This training is designed to give an overview of how farms can fit into Farm to School programs and discuss need-to-know topics such as food safety product standards, packaging and pricing legalities, and communicating with school food service buyers.
For well over a decade Farm to School has been happening in communities across Minnesota and, as you'll learn in this training, Farm to School is gaining even more momentum right now, which makes it a great time for producers to get involved.
There are currently more than 650 schools across Minnesota that buy and serve food to students every day. And in the 2018-2019 school year, which is the most comprehensive data we have prior to COVID-19, there was a total of almost 165 million dollars provided in federal reimbursements to support school meals. We also know from the USDA Farm to School Census that 262 schools already participate in Farm to School in some way, and about 16% of their total food costs are spent on local foods. So as you think about selling to schools, there are many schools that are already familiar with Farm to School purchasing to some level, and there are also many more that you could help start Farm to School. And both categories represent opportunity for you and your farm.
One way that the state of Minnesota supports Farm to School efforts is through the Minnesota Department of Agriculture's Farm to School grant program. The purpose of these grants is to increase the amount of Minnesota-grown and raised foods used in school nutrition programs, and through this, support market development for Minnesota farmers. These grants are available to all public and private K-12 schools in Minnesota that participate in the national school lunch program, and they reimburse schools for the purchases of unprocessed and minimally processed foods grown or raised in the state. Priority is given to projects that work with emerging and socially disadvantaged farmers.
In August of 2022, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture received nearly 3.5 million dollars from the USDA’s Local Food for Schools program to strengthen local and regional food systems, expand economic opportunities for socially disadvantaged producers and increase consumption of local food in schools. These funds will be used to expand our Farm to School grants to K-12 schools in the 2023 grant cycle. This means that the Minnesota Department of Agriculture has more than four times the funding to award Farm to School grants this year. So when we say that it's a great time for producers to get involved, this is part of the reason why.
There are two different grant options that schools can apply for. The First Bite is for schools that are perhaps new to Farm to School and want to start small, and the Full Tray grant is for districts that have some Farm to School experience, or who are ready to jump in and start Farm to School at a larger scale. This year, thanks to the additional funding available, the maximum award for the First Bit grant is $10,000, and the maximum award for the Full Tray grant is $100,000. Neither grant requires any matching funds from the school. Schools that apply for one of the two food grants can also request additional funding to support the purchase of new kitchen equipment that helps them buy and serve local food. For example, a school could use the funds to purchase a new apple slicer to make it easier to serve local apples on their salad bar. 2023 grant applications from schools are due November 17, 2022. Farms may be approached by schools to provide a letter of support, which is a requirement for the Full Tray application. But, schools can continue to build connections with farms after that November 17 deadline, and remember that this is an annual grant to schools.
The MDA Farm to School grant will reimburse schools for unprocessed and minimally processed foods that are grown or raised in Minnesota. So this includes fruits, vegetables, many dairy products, eggs, beans and grains. It does not include fluid, milk or processed products, such as hot dogs or granola, and any food produced outside of Minnesota. However, I will note that what's eligible for this grant is not exclusive to what schools can buy from local farms. So while this grant won't cover the cost of locally produced hot dogs, a school could still purchase those hot dogs and use their own funding.
While these grant funds go directly to schools, they're designed to support both Minnesota schools and producers. So if you were interested in selling to schools, these grants could be an opportunity to make connections and get some of your products into cafeterias to start building long-term relationships. Grantees of the 2023 grant cycle will be announced in January of 2023 and listed on the Minnesota Department of Agriculture's Farm to School website. Take a look at that list and reach out to schools near you to start a conversation about what you can offer them. And remember that while this grant cycle in 2023 is particularly exciting, given the additional funding we have from the USDA, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Farm to School grant is an annual grant, and regardless of a grant, a school can buy local food from a farm at any time. So there's always value in reaching out to any school, any time of year to start a conversation about how you might be able to work together. In the next modules, we’ll share more about how schools purchase food, what you need to know when growing food for schools, different ways that you can get your products into the cafeterias and strategies for building relationships with buyers.
Video run time: 6:19
Hi, everyone! Welcome to Module two. My name is Jackie Billhymer and I'm the Farm to Institution Coordinator with the University of Minnesota Extension. In this module, you're going to learn about how to connect the cafeteria, the classroom and the community through Farm to School.
We call this connecting the three C's. Farm to School activities support farmers most when they are included not only in the cafeteria, but also in the classroom and in the community. There are lots of opportunities for farmers to incorporate locally grown and raised foods in these three environments. And in this module, we're going to explain how to do this and share some examples
Before we talk about how to connect with the cafeteria, classroom and the community, it's helpful to learn who to talk to first. While the process of getting your local food into a school can seem overwhelming in the beginning. The best way to start is by collaborating with the right people. A core value of our Minnesota Farm to School program is to approach this program as a team. A strong team often includes a farmer, a classroom teacher, a school administrator, a nutrition professional and a community connector. If you don't already have a relationship with staff at your local school, the most important team member for you to reach out to first is a community connector. And you're probably wondering who is considered a community connector?
When we're talking about Farm to School, a community connector is someone who already has a relationship with staff in the local schools in your community. They can help you connect with the right people in the school like a nutrition services director, a school administrator, or a classroom teacher. You can find a community connector by reaching out to your local University of Minnesota Extension office, or your local public health department, and asking for an agent or coordinator who works with a local school. You can find your local offices on the University of Minnesota Extension website when you search for the ‘local offices’ or on the Minnesota Department of Health website when you search for a ‘local health department’.
The cafeteria is typically the first place where a school will introduce local food from your farm to students. If you aren't already connected with the nutrition services director at your local school, you will want to connect with the community connector first. As I mentioned before, the community connector can get you in touch with your nutrition services director to talk about bringing your food into the school. Once a school is purchasing from your farm. There are many ways to promote your farm and build relationships through the school cafeteria. Schools often want to know about your story, so that students have a connection with their food and their farmer. When a school purchases local food from you, it's a great opportunity to provide information about how you got started farming, what you grow and raise, why you enjoy what you do and anything else you'd like to share. The school can use the information you share to create marketing materials in the cafeteria. For example, in the image on the left, Robbinsdale Area Schools created a poster about Ferndale Market to advertise their turkey burgers that would be served in the school lunch. Another way to connect with the cafeteria is to come and serve a meal with the nutrition staff or visit during the lunch period. In the image on the right, you can see a dairy farmer visiting Dassel-Cokato School when the cafeteria replaced single-served milk cartons with bulk milk from their farm.
Farm to School can also be incorporated into virtually any topic in the classroom. As a reminder, if you don't have a connection with the teacher at your local school yet, a great first step is to reach out to a community connector to introduce you. Once you have a relationship with the teacher at the school, there are a variety of opportunities in the classroom for students to learn where their food is coming from and about your farm. One way you can connect with the classroom is by offering to come in and talk to students about your farm, and how you grow and raise the food they're eating in their cafeteria. In the photo on the left, you can see a farmer talking to a class about how the microgreens students eat in their cafeteria are grown. If you can't make it to the classroom, you could connect to the students virtually by recording a video to share what you grow and show footage of your farm. In the upper right photo, you can see a class of students watching a recording about how wild rice is harvested in Minnesota. Students and teachers also enjoy bringing their classroom to your farm. Farm tours have become a popular way to engage students in Farm to School, and it's an opportunity for you to show young people where their food comes from and inspire them to consider farming as a career. In the middle photo, students visit a farm and observe what's growing in a hoop house.
Finally, a goal of Farm to School is to connect with the community members as well as students and teachers. Throughout the school year, there are many ways you can connect with the broader school community, including families, community stakeholders and community administrators. Community events hosted by the school can be a great way for you to connect with community members. In the photo on the left, a farmer who harvests maple syrup set up a table during a community night to talk to attendees about what he does. Similarly, if your farm is hosting an event, you have an opportunity to advertise the event through the school and invite community members to join. Schools often have a bulletin or newsletter where they share information about important events. In the photo on the right, you can see a newsletter template which schools can use to share information with the community. A community connector can help you share content with the school so it can be included in their publications.
Video run time: 5:35
Hi! My name is Ryan Pesch. I'm an Extension educator. I work in community economic development and often around marketing with those who direct market. So the question here for you, as a producer, does wholesale makes sense for you? Or is wholesale right for you?
Now, sometimes when we think about our farm finances, we might look like this guy, where he's either desperate — doesn't know what to do — or he's at the end of the season, saying, I don't know...did that make sense?
And so we're taking a little bit of time in this presentation to kind of think through the business case for doing wholesale — kind of mull over if it makes sense for you to start, or if you do do it, should you do more of it? And we'll look at how to approach that.
The first question that you might have is really about your own product quality. So, kind of like the lady in this picture, your food service directors, people in school food service, pretty knowledgeable about food, right? They can be very astute customers. And so if you're at the stage where you're like, hey, I'm one year in selling at one farmer's market, You might want to ask yourself, you know, is my quality there? Can I meet the needs of a food service director, somebody that's used to buying in a case of a given quality, consistently over time. You need to make that determination if that works for you.
But, if you're like, "Hey, I’m good. I just want to explore selling wholesale more," then I'd really like you to think about your marketing cost related to all of your different outlets or market channels, in order to get a sense about how you…whether wholesale makes sense for you or not.
Oftentimes, as operators, our life looks like this on the map. Right? We have a farm. We go to one place. We go to a market. We come back. We go to another market, or we have a CSA delivery and another location. We have a wholesale account over here, and we try to double them up in the same town. It's kind of messy like this. And all of these things are marketing costs. Oftentimes people just think it's advertising. That's not the case. Really the biggest marketing cost is transportation cost and your time. So there's a time of travel. There's a time of selling, say if you're locked into a farmer's market for five hours. That's selling time. There's also some direct marketing, direct selling fees or costs, such as you know, vendor fees at a farmers market. Maybe a canopy, maybe labels and other materials you use related to marketing supplies.
So what I like you to do is think through your entire marketing mix — how you sell your products. In this example here, we have two farmers' markets for selling at. We have a farm stand we operate on farm. We sell to a nearby grocery and we sell to a school. Now, in first looking at it, you see in this first row is total revenue. Turns to revenue on average per day. You take your revenue for each of these outlets for the year and examine it. Examine it in light of your marketing costs.
Now the school at first blush doesn't look that good. It's only six hundred dollars. We sell more at the two farmers' markets. We certainly sell more at the farm stand. But I’d ask you to do is really list out your total marketing costs for each of those outlets for apples-to-apples comparison. Sometimes it's helpful to do that on a per-day basis. If you're going to a market, how far is it? How much time does it take? How much time are you there? Any other associated costs or fees added in? It could be for the season, for the day, and do that consistently across each of those market channels.
You do that, we'd look at the total revenue and sales for that year, divided by all those marketing costs in order to get a net return. And then what we do is we divide that then by the total sales in order to get a return over marketing costs. So then we get this percent. It's basically the percent of earnings or sales that you're retaining after subtracting out the marketing costs. And this percent helps you do that apples-to-apples comparison well. Even though the school isn't a big money maker in terms of sales, there aren't high marketing costs. We're left with 58 cents of every dollar after we subtract those out which is a lot better than what we're getting in our farmers market two, a bit better in farmers market one, but not as good as we're getting in our farm stand. And so with this kind of comparison, you can make some reasonable determinations about what you want to move forward with, or what you want to do more of, if you will.
So, hopefully, this is a helpful way of approaching what you're currently doing or estimating out what you could do in the future, so that you don't end up like this desperate guy, or, at the very least, you'd be doing some thinking and making some decisions, and moving forward into a bright future. Thank you.
Video run time: 7:09
Hello and welcome to Module 4. My name is Kate Seybold and I work for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture on Farm to School and local and regional market development. In this module, we're going to talk briefly about how to connect with schools and different ways that you can sell your products to them.
So there are different ways to get your products into schools and these different market channels offer diverse benefits and drawbacks depending on what you're looking for as a producer. So in this module, we'll talk about some of the key considerations for identifying which of these channels make the most sense for you and your farm. Overall it's really about identifying what market channel, or market channels, allow you to find the balance between what the buyer, in this case, the school, needs, and what you, the producer, can reasonably produce, and at what price.
So there are really two main ways to think about how to sell to schools. The first is that you can sell your products directly to a school, where you are managing that relationship and delivering your product directly to the school. Or, you can sell through an intermediate channel which could include a food hub, distributor or another retail outlet.
So let's first talk about intermediate markets starting with distributors. There are many examples of regional distributors in Minnesota, such as Upper Lakes Foods, Bix, Sysco, US Foods and Russ Davis. Regional distributor channels can be a good match for producers who feel comfortable with wholesale practices and standards and have a consistent supply of products available. Distributors sell to many customers, and they offer many items.
So for schools, working with distributors can be really convenient because they can supply many or all of their kitchen needs at one time, so maybe produce, but also protein and dairy. Many distributors rely on established suppliers though, so as a producer, it can take both time and scale to get in. Also, for producers who are more experienced selling direct to consumer, switching to working with a distributor can be an adjustment in terms of the scale that they're looking for, the grading and standards and also the pricing.
But it can come with benefits too. Distributors offer a really streamlined and efficient process for working with schools. There's one delivery point, easy billing and they handle all the coordination with the school. You may also be able to expand and start supplying to other customers that that distributor works with. If you're considering working with a distributor down the line, a few things to keep in mind would be:
- You need to have a really good understanding of wholesale standards.
- You should have a food safety plan.
- Be prepared that many distributors may require a GAP food safety certification.
- You need to have consistent product quality and volume.
Another intermediary market option is to sell through a local food hub that aggregates products from multiple producers and distributes them to various customers, including schools. These businesses are often local or regional in scale, and they have experience and systems in place generally to work with smaller-scale producers. They aim to be financially viable, while also having positive, economic, social and environmental impacts within their communities.
Some examples of food hubs in Minnesota include The Good Acre in Falcon Heights, Sprout Minnesota in Little Falls, and the Farmers Market Food Hubs which are scattered across the state. Food hubs are really local procurement advocates and champions. So when it comes to Farm to School, they can coordinate the aggregation, distribution and relationship management with the schools, so that producers can focus on growing the food. They can also provide you, as a producer, with resources to meet any certification or insurance requirements that the school market may require.
Alternatively, farms can work directly with schools. Going this route offers producers the opportunity to build relationships with this school and get to know the end consumer. Some farms really enjoy getting to visit school cafeterias in classrooms, and being engaged and connected to the school community. Selling directly to schools is also a great way to grow and build recognition of your farm’s brand. But it's important to know that selling directly to schools does require more time to market your products, build and manage those relationships and make the sales happen–from planning the orders to making the delivery to the schools. So, for all these reasons, good communication is really key when working with schools.
You might find that schools can be a potential market for specific sizes or varieties of products that you currently struggle to sell. For example, really small apples or extra large squash may not sell well at a farmers market or in a retail store but they can be really great for schools. Schools also have standards for product sizes and quality packing and delivery that can vary by school, and may be different from what you're used to working with right now. So it's important as you approach any new school to learn their standards and follow these as you work with them. Just like a distributor or food hub, schools may also have food safety requirements. In general, remember that working with farmers may be as new to a school as working with schools is to you.
So if you decide to pursue direct sales with schools, keep in mind that building connections and relationships takes time. A couple strategies that I would recommend if you're planning to reach out to schools directly is to start by contacting the school food service director or buyer through an email or a phone call and follow up as needed. They're really busy and it may take time to connect, so just be polite but persistent. Find a time to meet or talk, and be prepared for that conversation to share about your expertise as a grower, your passion and your story. What makes you, as a farmer, stand out?
Ask the school what they currently buy for local foods, and what's their process. Do they have experience working directly with farms, or do they typically buy through an intermediary market? And then let them know what you can offer. Talk about the products you grow, your capacity and availability, what you offer for delivery and other details that might be helpful for them as they think about what they may be able to buy from you. And hopefully from these conversations, you can start to build that connection.
Video run time: 16:07
Hey, everyone. I'm Sami Burington. I work for the Minnesota Department of Education on the food and nutrition services division side of things. My role mostly focuses on coordination of the fresh fruit and vegetable program and then also Farm to School working mainly with school nutrition programs. In this section, we'll take a very brief look into the school meal program and how you might get a school nutrition director motivated to buy local and show interest in your food business.
What do you think of when you think of school meals?
Did the school meals you grew up with look like the food in these photos? Here are just a few glimpses into school meals programs and what they look like today. In Minnesota public school districts are what we call independent school districts or ISDs, meaning each school has the authority to make decisions for their district while still working within federal and state requirements. This also means school nutrition directors get to decide if they will purchase local foods and how much of it they will include in their school meals. In many communities across Minnesota school meals look a lot like this.
And here's the deal — over six hundred thousand students participate in the national school lunch program every day in Minnesota. That's a lot of meals served. And think how much food we grow and produce right here in Minnesota. These foods could be nourishing our students across the state every single day.
USDA administers the overall National School Lunch School and School Breakfast programs in the United States. Regulations, requirements and best practices are set at the federal level and then States are required to ensure that districts and schools are carrying out the program according to both federal regulations and state statutes.
Districts with multiple schools usually employ a school nutrition director or a manager to oversee the program. And then each school or kitchen usually has a kitchen manager or a lead cook to ensure that the day-to-day requirements are executed according to regulations but also to ensure the health and wellbeing of students.
Because each district and community has differing needs, some schools operate more than just the National School Lunch program and School Breakfast program. Breakfast and lunch, of course, are great options for incorporating local foods. As a farmer, you might ask the school you're working with, what child nutrition programs they offer to their students to see and what other programs local products could be offered.
The fresh fruit and vegetable program, for example, is a program for elementary schools to offer an extra fresh fruit or vegetable snack during the school day. A perfect way to incorporate local produce. Local foods can be incorporated into any of the child nutrition programs a school operates.
So what influences school meal program purchasing?
A lot of it depends on the motivation of the school and the school nutrition director or the buyer and their philosophy in buying local foods and Farm to School overall.
In addition to that meal costs like food labor and supplies, the meal pattern requirements and the overall operational model or kitchen space and equipment and staff skills and abilities, all factor into the purchasing of food.
Also remember that school nutrition departments in most Minnesota schools operate as their own business, and don't necessarily receive funding or support from their school, district or community.
Many schools in Minnesota have worked within these influences to build up their Farm to School programs and purchase local food. If a school is ready and willing to incorporate more local foods into their meals and snacks, likely they'll find a way to overcome the barriers, although it may take baby steps and years to get there.
There are ways to be creative within the food budget. We know that one of the perceived barriers to selling to school meal programs is finding a price point that programs can afford, and then ensuring that price point benefits you as a producer.
According to a study that was conducted in 2019, these are the breakdowns of the average cost to produce a school lunch and breakfast. The breakdown of that cost is about 45 percent for food, 45 percent for labor, and the remaining 10 percent for all other costs, like supplies or other contracted services. That equals about $1.69 spent for food for a lunch and $1.22 for food for a school breakfast. That is not a lot.
School nutrition professionals have flexibility in how they spend their food dollars, so they may go over this budget for some items or a special meal, and then balance that out by using more USDA foods or less expensive foods in other meals. We know these are small numbers so school meal programs have to be creative with how they purchase foods. Yet, many school meal programs are serving delicious meals full of local foods on this budget. It does take time to build relationships and to find the price point that benefits both you and the buyer. Communication and relationships, of course, are critical and are key.
Remember, schools can apply for annual Minnesota Department of Agriculture AGRI Farm to School reimbursement grants to help support some of these food costs and also include Minnesota-grown and raised foods.
Here are example foods from the five different meal components for the child nutrition programs. There are slight differences across the programs and the food components, amounts that must be offered. But we are still working within the same basic five food components which include milk, grain, meat (or meat alternates), fruit and vegetables. All of which are grown and produced right here in Minnesota.
Milk is fluid milk, so most schools are already serving local milk, and maybe don't even know it yet. Grains, think in terms of whole wheat flour, whole wheat pasta, wild rice and brown rice. Meat/meat alternates include beef, poultry, eggs, cheese, yogurt, beans or peanut butter. And then fruits and vegetables.
You might hear school nutrition directors talk about different colors of vegetables and that's because schools are required to serve a variety of colors, or what they call vegetable subgroups, to students in a week. So you might hear dark green, red-orange, beans, peas, legumes, starchy and other vegetables. These all must be served within a week to all students.
Again, as you can see, local foods can span the whole entire tray. Any or all of these meal components could be local.
Again, each school and community is unique based on the school size, scale, equipment and infrastructure. School meal programs have different production models. And these models will influence who you need to connect with in order to get your product into the school meal program.
Some school districts hire their own staff and have the kitchen space and ability to make and prepare their own school meals on-site. This is what we call on-site food preparation. You might also hear this referred to as self-prep. If the school self-prep, you will want to be in contact with their school nutrition, or food service director.
Some schools and mid-size districts operate a central kitchen model. Usually, there's one large central kitchen or a satellite production kitchen, which prepares food and delivers those prepared meals to satellite locations or different schools in the district.
About a third of the schools in Minnesota contract, with what we call a food service management company, or a vended meal company. A food service management company, or vended meal company, are third-party meal suppliers that prepare and deliver meals to the school usually when the school does not want to do the hiring themselves or don't have the facilities to prepare meals safely or efficiently. Usually when a school contracts with the food service management company and the staff is on-site preparing those meals. When a school contracts with a vended meal company, it's usually because the school does not have sufficient facilities to prepare the meal. Many charter schools in Minnesota work with vended meal companies.
If a school is contracting with a food service management company or a vended meal company, you likely will want to start a conversation with the school business manager or executive director of a charter school because the school is who holds and manages the contract with the companies, and will likely be able to put you in contact with who does the food purchasing.
It's also important to understand the unique timing of school planning and procurement in order to best work with schools. As you are learning, all child nutrition programs are different. But here are some of the general school food service trends.
The start, so August/September, and the end, May/ June, of the school year are busy times for schools. In the summer is typically a busy time for all of you as producers. It's a best practice to use those winter months to connect with schools or find out the best time for the school district and begin relationship development. Most schools do menu planning In January or February. However, there's still flexibility built into those menus that they create. Don't be discouraged if a school doesn't have what you grow or produce on their menu. School purchasing cycles do vary, and solicitations are issued throughout the entire school year.
Formal solicitations or requests for proposals or RFPs are often issued in early spring, so like February and March, and a few school districts in Minnesota have Farm to School RFPs. These usually have a set timeframe for a response and a common duration of about the school year, though those may differ from school to school.
Informal procurement purchases, or smaller amount procurements, which happen to be most Farm to School purchases in Minnesota are made throughout the year, and can vary in duration. It could be a one-time thing or multiple times throughout the school year.
Procurement standards are regulatory requirements and are guidelines that schools must follow to remain in compliance with federal procurement regulations. Because schools are using taxpayer dollars, there are controls put in place to make sure those dollars are used efficiently and effectively. These procurement standards shape the processes and procedures that schools have to follow, to purchase foods, which includes local food. The Buy American provision requires schools to buy American-grown and processed food whenever possible and purchasing locally-produced food helps meet this requirement, of course.
All procurements must support full and open competition, ensuring all competitors are on a level playing field. Schools cannot limit the competition by specifying or writing local, but they are able to target local growers and food other ways still within procurement standards. Local growers and producers will be competing with each other for the school's business, and the school will be getting quotes from multiple farmers.
Schools will only award their procurements to responsive and responsible vendors. Responsive means a vendor or producer responds to requests in a way that meets all elements of that request. So, for example, if the school is asking for a farm food safety plan or information, and you, as a farmer, provide a copy by the deadline, your farm would be considered responsive. Responsible means the vendor or producer met all of the elements of that request. So again, an example of that would be if the school is asking that all eggs be candled and graded and you're able to meet that request, your farm would be considered responsible.
In addition to procurement standards, schools also have different procurement methods which again shape the process and procedures to purchase foods and local foods. The type of method applied by schools is generally dependent on the dollar value of that purchase.
So a micro-purchase is one in which is under $10,000. It's non-competitive, so a solicitation is not required by the school. But it must not limit competition, so the buyer must equitably distribute purchases across all qualified suppliers. This might be a one-time order or a purchase agreement for four orders under$10,000. For example, if a school is looking for carrots, and they know there are five different farmers that could fulfill their request, each time the school needs carrots they must purchase from all farmers before buying from the same farmer again.
Another procurement method is informal procurement. In Minnesota, the small purchase threshold for public schools is $175,000 and for non-publics, it's the federal threshold of $250,000. This means that any procurement below this dollar amount can be purchased informally, or by using the informal procurement method, even if below $10,000, the micro-purchase threshold that we just talked about.
This means schools must have a written specification of the products they're requesting and must shop around. So you might hear three bids and a buy, because schools need to try to obtain at least three bids for their specification in order to choose the most responsive and responsible vendor at the best price. Remember those from the procurement standards I just talked about? Informal procurement usually happens over the phone or an email. So this means that for schools trying to target local foods without using local as a written product specification, they will just call three growers they know that meet their definition of local. So if the school doesn't know you, they won't call you or reach out to you. Thus all the more important to develop those relationships. Reach out to your schools in your area and let them know you're willing to work with them and that you want their business.
If a procurement is over the small purchase threshold, then schools are required to use the formal procurement method, which includes a request for proposal or RFP. Or it could be an invitation for bid to or IFB, but those are sole source, like one product at a time.
Schools can also use this method, even if the procurement amount is below the small purchase threshold to increase competition. As a farmer, you may have to respond to an RFP. Remember that schools will be evaluating your response, based on how responsive and responsible you are at the best price for those services.
An RFP also allows schools to evaluate on other factors too, so be sure to respond to all the factors, if possible, and ask questions if you have them. Schools allow a question period, and then allow everyone to see the same responses and answers, so competition remains fair.
While these procurement standards and methods are in place for a reason, there's still some flexibility in terms of product schools can procure, so it's important to invest time in helping the schools you're working with understand what you might have available for them, or would be willing to grow or produce.
And remember, this takes time both on the farmer side and the school side but local foods can span the whole entire school tray.
Video run time: 11:33
Hi, my name is Annalisa Hultberg and I'm a statewide Extension educator for the University of Minnesota on farm, food safety and good agricultural practices. Today we'll be talking about food safety for produce, especially when selling to Farm to School markets.
So good agricultural practices, very briefly, are those things that farms do to protect food safety when growing fresh fruits and vegetables. GAPs are those things that we do on farm to reduce the potential for those microbiological, chemical and physical hazards to get onto our fresh produce and to keep our customers safe.
This is especially important when we are serving more vulnerable eaters, such as children, the elderly or others that are immune-compromised, such as those that might be sick. Small amounts of pathogenic organisms, such as certain types of E. Coli, Salmonella, Listeria — if that gets onto the fresh produce, and it is consumed, even very small amounts of these organisms can cause illness in our customers.
Keeping the poop from humans and the animals, which is the origin of those pathogenic organisms off of our food, is really our goal and what we do with good agricultural practices. It's really creating the conditions on the farm to reduce the potential for that contamination to occur.
To be clear when we're selling our produce to buyers, such as schools, restaurants, others — we don't have to have any sort of a license to do that as long as that product was grown by us a hundred percent. So we don't have any off-farm ingredients in that product. That is called the product of our farm. You also are not required to have a GAP audit. A GAP audit we'll talk about a little more.
A GAP audit is something that a buyer can ask for like a school, but they don't have to. It is not a law that they ask for that. What it is, is you use good agricultural practices in your farm. You contact someone such as the State Department of Agriculture. They come out. They perform an annual audit on your produce. They watch you harvest it. They review your records, you pay for that audit and it's going to be anywhere from maybe four hundred up to a thousand dollars, somewhere in that range, and a 75 percent cost share is available to farms within Minnesota for three years for the cost of that audit.
Only a handful of diversified farms in Minnesota do have an audit. More are getting it because market demand is increasing for this. But just to be clear, you don't have to have it. But if a buyer that you want to sell to does require a GAP audit, that is okay, and we can help you get that. You develop your food safety plan. You learn about good agricultural practices, and then you can go ahead and get that annual audit.
But if you don't have the audit and the buyer doesn't require it, you still should use good food safety practices, and then there are other ways to document it, so you can show that to your buyer. You can provide a written food safety plan. We have a template, so you do not have to start from scratch. You should get your well water tested, if you're using well water, you should test it annually, and you can provide that report to your customer. Just have a conversation with the school food service. They really care about food safety because they are serving children.
A lot of our food buyers in food service have undergone serve safe training. They understand food safety in a food service environment. And so it's your job to tell them a little bit about what you do, and an on farm environment for food, safety as well. You can have them come out and visit the farm if both of you wanted to do that, and importantly, get some training yourself. That could be online. That could be in person. That can be from other farmers. But there are a lot of resources out there that our state and many other states have created for professional farmers so really educating yourself about some of those practices, and where you could potentially make some improvements is important.
We will do a very short, brief overview about some of those good agricultural practices in this session. But know that this is not a GAPs training, and we will go into much more depth.
But this is just a little teaser. So always having adequate hand washing available for all your workers or all of your volunteers. Anybody who's working with your fresh fruits and vegetables should wash their hands before they start to handle that. So making sure that those are available and stocked. Making sure that there's bathrooms to use and not working when you're ill is another great way to really reduce the potential for those pathogenic organisms that can come from sick workers to get onto that produce.
You can have a portable hand washing stand like this, and it's on the back of a truck, and so it can get out to the field. If the field is a distance from the house, you might not want to go back to the house. Having one next to any port of potty is really important. This is just a simple one on a table, and we have instructions on how to build that.
Soap and water is the best way to wash your hands. Sanitizer is not a replacement for adequate hand washing. So when we're on the farm our hands are dirty, theirs soil on them, and that sanitizer just doesn't work. So making sure you are using soap and water.
Water is used for irrigation. It's also used for washing our vegetables and washing our food contact surfaces, and other surfaces on the farm. So making sure that that water is tested annually, if you've got well water you can get that tested. It's maybe $30 to $40 for a test, and we have less resources that can send you to those labs to get those conducted. And making sure that when you're washing the vegetables that that is potable water
Compost, manure-based compost is really great for our soil and our plants, but it can contain pathogenic organisms. So if we have it on farm, making sure to store it in a way where it doesn't contaminate the vegetables, and if it is a raw, untreated product, meaning someone cleared out their barn or you got it from a friend who's just stored it for a few years, and it hasn't gone through a scientifically validated treatment process where it has been turned and temped and records have been kept on it, you have to consider that product raw, because it hasn't heated up fully and completely in all parts, so you should apply it in the fall, or at least 90 or 120 days before you will harvest the crops, which in Minnesota almost always means applying it in the fall.
If it's a fully treated product that you purchase from a supplier that comes with a certificate of conformance, or you make it on farm, and you follow those temperature processes that are laid out then you can go ahead and apply that at any time
Safe harvest. So as we're harvesting, really looking at the product, making sure that there isn't signs of chewing or feces like that piece of bird poop on that tomato there. We would not want to harvest that tomato. It's important to remember that you can't fully wash off contamination once it occurs. You might be able to wash it off and it looks visibly clean but that contamination is really good at sticking onto the produce, and it can actually be internalized into the cells of the produce as well.
So making sure that you're training your workers to do that, keeping animals away from the growing area as best that you can. If that's wildlife, putting up fencing and deterrents, training your domestic animals to stay out of the growing areas is a great idea.
Our pack sheds can be open. They can be fully enclosed with a poured floor, but doing our best to clean and sanitize those food contact surface. For example, those totes on the left have been cleaned and sanitized, and then stored upside down so that they can dry. On the right, you can see everything is up off the ground, which is great to see, and having some sort of a plan for how often and how you will clean and sanitize those.
When we're washing our actual vegetables, it's important to actually have a conversation with the customer. Do you want these things to be washed? How do you want it bunched? How do you want it washed? And how do you want it delivered? That's all part of that conversation. So for something like that beet, you can see they're spraying it off there on a spray table. So that's a really nice way. It's that single pass-water. It's a really good, safe way, because the water is just going straight down. The recirculated water is a little bit higher risk. Something like these greens are being washed in. That's okay, because we can't spray greens. We do have to use a tank like that.
But we're making sure to clean that tote first, and really change that water as often as possible, and use a food grade sanitizer, which is meant for sanitizing fruit and vegetable water, if possible. It's not a requirement, but we would talk a lot more about that in a GAPs class.
So things that we would never wash are herbs, tomatoes, berries, many storage crops. These things should not be washed, or they will break down in storage. Sometimes washed, you can see those items. Think about that. Are they dirty enough to wash? It really depends on the conditions on the farm. So that's a judgment that you would make, and your buyer would make. But when possible, defer to not washing, because if when things are washed remember in that tank there can be that cross-contamination. So, if possible, don't wash it. If it is dirty, it obviously does need to be washed. And some things do need to be cooled down, hydro cooled, to get that field heat out. But again, changing that water frequently is a great way to reduce that risk, and using a sanitizer, if possible.
So that was a very brief overview. Know that most questions were not answered in that, and it wasn't intended to be. It was just kind of a teaser about the more information that we would be able to provide in the training. But know that local foods are very safe. Our farmers use great practices. It's legal for you to sell to a school. You don't need a special license to do that as long as it is 100 percent of your own product and grown on farm.
They don't have to require a GAP audit, but they might, if you need that, ask for some help, and we can help you get that. Having a conversation about food safety is a great way to sell your product and show that you care. It's a part of professionalism and having a high-quality product. Starting a food safety plan is an excellent thing to do. We have templates on our website that you can download and start so you're not starting from scratch there. Training your workers on your policies and getting your water tested, or other things that you can do. And make sure to reach out for help.
If you encounter questions, we do trainings throughout the winter primarily. We also do some summer trainings on farm and we do them in many languages. If you or your workers, English isn't their primary language, we have lots of on farm information on our website. We have many resources as well.
So thank you so much for your time, and we look forward to chatting more.
Video run time: 5:33
Food safety for animal products.
Food safety of meat and poultry is protected by inspection at the processing plant of the live animals, the organs and carcasses after slaughter, the processing facilities, and the facilities’ written food safety plans.
USDA and Minnesota Equal-To plants have an inspector there every day to conduct these food safety inspections, and that's called continuous inspection. You can find a plant with continuous inspection at misa.umn.edu/meat-poultry-and-rabbits
Some plants get their facility inspected a few times per year, but don't have that inspector present every day, so they're not under continuous inspection, and the packages of meat will not have a mark of inspection.
If you're selling meat to a school or other food business, it must have a mark of inspection, which is proof that an inspector was present to verify the health of the animal and the operation and general sanitation of the plant.
Here are examples of marks of inspection that may show up on meat or poultry packages. The triangle is for historic wild game species processed at a USDA plant. All Minnesota Equal-To plants will use the same state of Minnesota outline on all meat and poultry products.
When you contact a plant to schedule butchering, plan really far in advance, because butcher schedules are tight. Ask for inspection of your animals when you schedule, because some plants offer both inspected and non-inspected processing on different days. You need a day when the inspector is there.
Do you need a license to sell meat and poultry? Not if it's 100 percent product of your farm. If no off-farm ingredients are added, you don't need a license, but if off-farm ingredients are added, then you do need a food handler license from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Get started on the process at www.mda.state.mn.us/food-feed/food-licenses
Typically, you're going to get frozen meat or poultry back from your plant. Keep those products frozen. Store them in a freezer that maintains zero degrees fahrenheit or below.
If you have a temperature-controlled vehicle or freezer to transport, that's ideal. But transporting in a cooler is acceptable. You need to make sure you can keep the product at 10 degrees fahrenheit or below the whole time it’s out of the freezer and limit that time out of mechanical refrigeration to as short a time as you can, but definitely less than four hours.
Generally, your storage and transport areas should be clean, free of debris, toxic chemicals, soil and animals of all kinds.
There is much more information about selling meat and poultry in the local food fact sheet series.
Moving on to shell eggs. First thing is to check with the school, whether they purchase eggs at all, because they have to use pasteurized eggs for some purposes, and they may choose not to buy any shell eggs.
But if they do buy eggs, then your eggs for sale must be:
Safe cleaning is important.
- No immersion in water, because egg shells are porous and they'll suck up water.
- Dry cleaning of small batches can be done with sandpaper.
- There are commercial egg washers available, but wet cleaning of small batches can be done according to the protocol in the “Selling Minnesota Shell Eggs” fact sheet.
Candling detects cracks and unidentified floating objects within eggs and grading is a way to measure egg freshness. You can find lots of resources about these things online.
Storage and transport is generally the same as for meat in terms of cleanliness of your storage and transport vehicle. Keep animals out of there and keep it generally clean. The temperature that's safe for eggs is 45 degrees fahrenheit or below. That inhibits the growth of Salmonella bacteria.
You can transport eggs in closed, clean coolers. Use leak-proof ice packs to maintain the temp, and again keep that time short that they're out of mechanical refrigeration. As short as possible.
Do you need a license to sell eggs? Not if they're from your own flock. That would make them product of your farm. If you have more than three thousand hens, you must register with USDA, and if you have less than that, there's a voluntary registration with Minnesota Department of Agriculture. You can find the form at www.mda.state.mn.us/food-feed/sale-eggs-minnesota
And much more information about selling all of these things is in the Local Food Fact Sheet series. Thank you.
Video run time: 5:50
In this next module, we will discuss basic packing and pricing standards for produce.
Quality standards start with clean, washed products, free from damage and debris.
To maintain freshness, some products may require refrigeration. If you cannot store in refrigeration, always store your product in a cool, clean and shady space and to harvest your product as close to the delivery date as possible.
While sorting, it’s important to maintain a similar size, shape and weight to each item. This will provide continuity for the kitchen, and will also provide the ability for you to market your product or products to other customers. Some schools may be interested in the odd-shaped seconds if they plan to process it right away, or if they come at a lower cost.
Here are a few examples of what produce standards you may receive from your customer. The photos on the left show quality standards, as well as an example of pack size and weight. The other two have a simple line for each product including pack size, washing requirements and weight for each container. While standards may be provided, it’s important to be able to provide your own standards, if needed.
These two photos show bunched radishes coming from one farm. The product on the left shows high-quality, vividly colored product, free from debris and uniformly bunched. The photo on the right shows the same product, but discolored, inconsistent bunch size and dirty leaves.
Although both products may be edible and sellable, it is important to stick with one standard. Poor quality could result in rejected product.
In this next example, we see two different cases of zucchini from two different farms. The photo on the left was harvested a day before delivery and was stored in a cool shaded space. The photo on the right was delivered the same day as the photo on the left, but was harvested four days earlier and was left in an unshaded space. This allowed for the product to decline and this was rejected.
Packaging comes in a variety of shapes, but the most common packaging materials are boxes. Regular cardboard boxes can be okay to use, but may suffer damage when exposed to moisture. A common alternative is using wax-lined cardboard boxes. These boxes are easy to handle, will hold up when wet and can stack easily with product in them. These boxes can be reused as long as they remain clean and can be easily broken down for storage. Using a liner bag or wax paper can help withhold moisture, keeping product fresher longer and help reduce exposure to other products.
Some other packaging materials include clam shells which are used for things like grape tomatoes or ground cherries and rubber bands for bunching. Plastic bags are another way product can be transported at a relatively lower cost than wax boxes. These plastic bags are ventilated and can come in a variety of sizes and can hold almost all products.
While coming at a lower price, it may require additional tools in the packaging process. Last item on here is the four-walled bin. These are a great option to help reduce labor and packaging needs and also used for products like watermelon and winter squash. Always check with the kitchen to see what sort of capability they have in receiving something like this.
No matter the packaging material, all items must contain a label that can be traced back to you. This label must include your name or farm name along with your farm address or billing address. Always include the item you were selling along with the weight with a count of a certain item. Finally, use the harvest date or another code that is unique to the item in case the product needs to be traced back to you
When coming up with pricing, make sure you cover all costs. Include labor in the production to grow and include any processing costs that may be required. Providing pricing alternatives for schools may allow you to move more products, like seconds or a reduced price for contracted items or bulk purchasing.
Here is an example of two items. Each item shows the price per pound. While the cherry tomatoes have one price at $1.75, the carrots offer three different varieties. The prices come for number ones, number twos and for processed items. Processed carrots could be anything like coins or carrot sticks.
The additional cost for the processed item reflects the needed handling requirements to offer this option. This may be preferred by some kitchens, as it reduces the cost of labor for the school. Again, always includes your packaging and handling costs to come up with your final price.
Video run time: 5:23
Packing standards and pricing for animal products.
Here are some examples of typical packing options for eggs and typical pricing.
Packaging is expensive. Reuse of cartons and cases is allowed as long as they're clean. The required information on cartons can be pre-printed or handwritten, or use stick-on labels. Custom pre-printing of cartons requires really large bulk orders. So be aware, if you go that route, you need a lot of storage space.
Here's a packaging cost comparison based on 15 dozen eggs. You might think that the one dozen cartons would be cheaper because they're cheaper per item. However, you save money by using the 15 dozen egg case, and that only takes one label per case. So you save over three dollars per 15 dozen. You make money on eggs on the margins, so that kind of savings is important.
Labeling. There are a bunch of requirements.
- You must have the statement of contents, e.g. "15 dozen eggs."
- You must have the size, one size per container, according to weight standards. So you can't mix jumbos and mediums in the same box, for instance.
- Your grades AA, A or B, according to grading standards.
- Your name and address. (Your business name and address are fine, if you have those.)
- The statement “perishable, keep refrigerated.”
- And two dates: the pack date and the sell-by or use-by date.
The pack date has to be in Julian format, which means days of the year numbered 1-365, or 366, if a leap-year. And then the sell-by or use-by date is 30 days out from that in the more typical day and month format.
So here's the table to help you toggle between the Julian date format and the day and month. It's rather difficult because not all months have the same number of days. So, having a table like this is really helpful, and you can access that in the “Selling Minnesota Shell Eggs” fact sheet.
Moving on to meat and poultry. The packaging and labeling of these items is done under inspection at the processing plant. The most important packaging consideration for you, the farmer, is that all packages must bear a mark of inspection, either USDA or Minnesota Equal-To.
And here are examples of what those marks look like at the different types of plants. Check your packages to make sure they are marked before you leave the processing plant, because mistakes can happen, and if the meat is still at the plant it can be corrected. If you take it away, then you're out of luck.
What about other kinds of labeling? Fat content labeling is not required for local meat and poultry sold to schools. The school might need to do a cooking test to determine fat percentage. Nutrition labeling is not required for products that are listed in the USDA Food and Nutrition Service Food Buying Guide, which would be most cuts that farmers would be selling.
Ask the school about their preferences for packaging ahead of time, and then work with your butcher.
For example, schools may prefer ground meat in larger packages: five or ten pounds
Uniformity of cuts is really helpful for schools, because they need to cook all the pieces at the same time, and same temperature.
Schools may want to buy specialty items like patties or hot dogs or deboned poultry products. But butchers do charge extra money for these processes, so make sure you set your price accordingly.
Also important to know that a school protein serving is two ounces of cooked meat, so that means more items from the same amount of meat than if you got the typical restaurant sizes of one quarter or one third pound and that could mean an even higher butcher charge.
So here's a comparison between ground meat packaged as five-pound packages, or as two-and-a-half-ounce patties, and you'll see that the grinding charge is the same. But for the patties there's an extra pattying charge and an extra vacuum packaging charge, and so your total processing cost for the patties is a $152 higher, in this example, per 100 pounds of ground beef. So just make sure that you are covering those costs when you set your price for the schools,
And that is the end of this module. Thank you.
Video run time: 6:20
Hi, I'm Sarah George and I'm with Renewing the Countryside and today I'm going to talk about communication and discovery between farmers and schools.
Let's start by talking about what is Farm to School.
Most people think about the procurement aspect, where they're buying locally from the local farmers.
Slides #4 & #5
But it also includes school gardens and an educational component as well.
Farm to School benefits everyone in the community. Kids win, farmers win, our communities win.
Sounds fantastic, right? So why isn’t this happening everywhere?
At Renewing the Countryside we were curious and we wanted to talk to the buyers to find out why.
We started asking questions like:
- Who does your ordering?
- How often do you order?
- What days of the week do you like to place your orders?
- And finally, what is your biggest obstacle with sourcing local?
Now imagine you're the buyer.
You are working in a local school kitchen and it's your job to place the orders for the week. You have to reach out to 10 different farmers to find enough tomatoes. No one has spinach for the week and you have six different farmers delivering your potatoes.
John likes text. Jane likes emailed orders and Joe likes it if you call him. You have to stop what you are doing each time a farmer arrives on the dock for a delivery because the schools are locked during school hours and each farmer that comes in is handing you a unique invoice.
How much time do you have to dedicate to supporting local?
Plus, there is the confusion about what is legal and what is not. Please know: LOCAL FOOD IS LEGAL
Next is the reality of the farmer obstacle.
Farmers are incredible in the field. They have the ability to grow, tend and harvest a diverse set of crops, in our short Minnesota summers.
They know farmers' markets, but they are unsure about wholesale accounts, unsure of pricing. They have concerns about quantities. Simply establishing relationships makes them nervous. Pack standards are something they have never thought about and with so many questions, they simply back away.
At Renewing the Countryside, we got a group to come to the table to discuss working together. Here you see two farmers, a food service director, a principal and a superintendent from three separate schools working together to muddle through these obstacles.
We engaged with more than just the food service directors because then there was a support system if someone in the chain changed jobs up the chain.
Each of the schools were asked to fill out this product checklist with what they wanted to order. Each of our farmers filled this out with what they grew. This gave us a starting point.
The schools learned what was available locally. The farmers learned what they could grow more of. But more importantly, everyone at the table had a better understanding of each other's challenges.
We all heard that schools need time to prepare the foods that they serve. Timing is everything when it comes to having those meals ready for the children, so if coring, washing and chopping the lettuce took too much time, they would not have a meal ready to serve. They couldn't
just tell the kids "hang on, it's almost ready."
And then we went where no one wants to go. Pricing. It seems to be the big elephant in the room. And guess what, we decided to be fully transparent to make things work. Pricing was compared and we crossed off items that simply didn't make sense. But look what else we noticed. Here, you can see that cucumbers, for example, were more cost-effective from our local farmers even at farmers' market pricing!
After the group looked at things like pricing and preparation time, together we identified what comes the same from BIX and Sysco as it does from a local farm? That gave us a list of items to start with.
For Farm to School to work, you need to start where you can and make baby steps in the right direction.
Maybe Harvest of the Month is right. Or MN Thursdays. Perhaps you can encourage your school to try the Apple Crunch this year. These are all great opportunities to start with Farm to School sales.
One thing that inspires schools is by doing farm tours.
Seeing the farm firsthand helps food service directors understand when they're placing that order.
Plus, who doesn't like seeing animals on the farm?
Be sure to include a pasture walk on the farm if you can.
And provide some time and space for them to ask questions.
Let them see your passion and your pride in the farm and the products you raise, grow or prepare.
Consider becoming a school lunchroom substitute. School food services are constantly looking for substitute workers to help in that lunch room. If you can get on their sub list then you can create a relationship with the food service director where they can learn about you, and you learn about what it is like in the lunchroom. This is a win-win.
If meeting with a food service director with your farm alone feels challenging, one potential solution could be working together with an aggregating or collaboration model, if you will.
Food hubs are able to get produce from multiple farmers and aggregate it or combine it to sell to schools, hospitals and restaurants throughout the community.
Here are the food hubs and licensed aggregators in Minnesota. Please note this is not a full list. We are working on compiling a full list; this one is incomplete. Aggregators don't have to be brick and mortar, they can be virtual food hubs at farmers' markets. Or simply a farmer working together with their neighbors. There are fact sheets available on how to legally aggregate in MN.
Be sure to celebrate your wins. If you make it in your school, celebrate it. It's so worth it!
And here are some Farm to School resources for you to use as you are navigating this space. Thank you.
More from Extension
On-farm GAPs Education Program — Get help writing your on-farm food safety plan and putting it into practice, as well as preparing for Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) audits.
Agricultural Business — Producers face uncertain markets and narrow margins. Our programs, software, and tools teach producers and professionals about: risk management, marketing plans, transferring your business to the next generation, and agricultural policy questions.
Commercial Fruit and Vegetable Production — Find research on how to refine your production and marketing practices to produce healthy safe foods and enhance profitability.
Small Farms — Minnesota has seen a sharp rise in small farms. To serve these farmers, the Small Farms team provides education in crop and livestock production, natural resources conservation, and business management to enhance the sustainability of Minnesota's small farms.
New Farmers — United States Department of Agriculture — An online portal that provides assistance to beginning farmers and ranchers. The portal includes links to training, financing, technical assistance, and other support services.
Wholesale Success: A Farmer’s Guide to Selling, Post Harvest Handling, and Packing Produce — FamilyFarmed.org — This 316-page book is the definitive training source on selling into wholesale markets. It includes topics such as calculating return on investment; cleaning, drying, and curing produce; traceability; packing shed design; and maintaining the cold chain.
Tips, Tools and Guidelines for Food Distribution and Food Safety — Oklahoma Farm to School — The main goal of this publication is to help ease the distribution barriers existing within farm to school initiatives. Includes a produce calculator to convert pounds into school meal servings, a distribution cost template, food safety checklist, and sample Memorandum of Understanding between farmers and schools.