Find a local producer.
Find a producer in your area by visiting farmer’s markets, talking with your local extension agents, or searching on Nebraska Market Maker.Additionally, try spreading the word (via mouth, print and internet) that you are looking for local producers to feature for a Farm2School.
Have detailed information available about your food service operation.
Be able to list the products you use or might be willing to use, product volume, price points, and how much you might spend on those products during the school year. Things move along more efficiently if, right from the start, you share with the farmer your parameters, priorities and concerns about purchasing directly from the farm.
Get familiar with Nebraska’s seasonal produce availability.
The challenge of seasonality, or the mismatch between the majority of Nebraska’s agricultural production and the typical school year, is interrelated with other variables that can make local food purchasing difficult for schools. However, if you review the Nebraska Produce Seasonal Availability Calendar (pdf) , you will find that there are still many options available. Remember that availability months are approximate since weather and use of greenhouses can affect harvest time.
Provide clear information to make deliveries work.
Will the farmer make deliveries? What day and time do you need deliveries? In what condition (bundled, leaves removed, washed, etc) does the food product need to be? Is the farmer flexible on this? Is there a delivery charge?
Meet with the farmer when you are getting started.
One of the great perks of working with a local farmer is being able to develop a relationship with the person who is growing the food! You can ask for new products to be grown for the next school year and schedule the farmer to come to school to talk with students. Sometimes you can even coordinate opportunities to promote your partnership and organizations through the local media.
Contact right away!
If possible, set up your new farm-direct purchasing arrangements in the winter or early spring for the upcoming summer or fall. Farmers are usually busy in the fields during the late spring, summer and early fall, which can make it harder to set up a new purchasing relationship or talk over details.
The more you are willing to work with the farmer on issues related to delivery and purchasing volume, the more likely it is that you will develop a long-term, successful purchasing relationship with a producer.
Oklahoma School Food Produce Calculator, Use the produce calculator to help you compute quantities needed from a farmer based on desired number of servings and serving size. Additionally, it calculates cost per serving based on the price of the produce.
Institutional Food Purchasing, the first of five work group reports released by Michigan Good Food. While focused on Michigan institutions, the report addresses many of the same challenges and opportunities that other institutions may face.