Two women presenting to several tables of attendees

NDSU Extension Helps Foster Farm-to-School Partnerships

Authored on

In a collaborative effort, North Dakota State University Extension, in partnership with the North Dakota Department of Agriculture and the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction, hosted five Farm to School events across the state toward the end of 2023. The events aimed to share information on the North Dakota Farm to School Program and foster connections between farmers, ranchers and school districts. 

Leveraging NDSU Extension’s network, the initiative allowed the Department of Agriculture and Department of Public Instruction to reach producers who might not be aware of the opportunities available for collaboration with schools. NDSU Extension professionals helped to find locations, facilitate the meetings, and provide technical support so the events could reach both in-person and virtual audiences. 

Participants gained insight into the types of foods local schools are interested in procuring from farmers and ranchers, the process of selling to schools and ways to overcome potential barriers. Additionally, farmers and ranchers had the opportunity to register for inclusion on the Department of Agriculture’s local foods map. 

A highlight of the program was a growers panel, providing a platform for farmers who are already selling to schools to share their experiences. 

“I saw the most value in those discussions among growers,” says Andrea Bowman, NDSU Extension leadership and civic engagement program coordinator who facilitated two of the Farm to School events. “It was a great networking opportunity, allowing growers and schools to connect, learn the regulations and identify challenges so they can work through solutions.” 

Post-event, farmers and ranchers were already making connections with school districts, laying the groundwork for partnerships in the coming year. 

“Much like growers utilize farmers markets, these Farm to School partnerships serve as another way for farmers and ranchers to showcase their products, opening doors to a market they may not have explored previously,” says Bowman. 

For more information