Empowering Farm to Cafeteria

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to attend this past weekend’s 6th annual National Farm to Cafeteria Conference.  Burlington has been a hot spot for amazing local food and food systems thinking this summer, and I’ve loved being nearby to take advantage.  I’ve had a great summer vacation; this conference was the perfect way to consider which next professional steps to pursue.

In an effort to process and absorb all of the information I’ve heard this weekend, I’ve listed some of the resources and highlights below:

-Vermont Congressmen: WOW,  our senators and representatives are doing really good work!  All made appearances over the course of the weekend and they totally get it.  I’m pretty sure that most of the things Bernie said could get him kicked out of office in most states, but in Vermont he got standing ovations.  Those of us working to promote farm to cafeteria work are lucky to have Sanders, Welch, and Leahy in Washington.  Chellie Pingree from Maine is equally impressive.  It’s nice to feel excited about some of the work being done by our federal government!

Burlington and/or Vermont can be a model: With support for local food sourcing at all levels of the school and political bureaucracies, towns and cities in Vermont can and should become models for others working to increase farm purchasing.  Our smaller scale makes it easier to test things out, and our citizens still cherish our agricultural roots and value family farmers.  Producing, sourcing, processing, training, education, and paying for local healthy food can be perfected here, and then expanded across the country.  In Burlington, Superintendent Jeannie Collins and Food Service Director Doug Davis (my cafeteria man in Charlotte from elementary school years) are visionary role models.  Chuck Ross and Ellen Kahler’s work at the state level will support on the ground work.

Shelburne Farms is doing great farm based education work and I’m psyched I can tell out-of-state admirers that I attended summer camp there as a kid.

-The farm to cafeteria network is expanding.  This year there were over 800 attendees from across the nation.  Everyone I spoke to was doing real on-the-ground work that was making a difference in their community or region.  Everyone had experiences to share, advice to offer, or informed questions to ask.  I loved every side conversation I got to have!

-Gail Christopher from the Kellogg Foundation gets it.  I was so enthralled by her speech that I forgot to write anything down.  If I find her remarks in the post-conference media, I’ll link to it here!  She brought such a real, eloquent, and equitable perspective to the conversation.

Here are some great resources to check out for garden educators:
lifelab.org
csgn.org
healthyschoolenvironment.org
growingsafergardens.com

Thanks to everyone who inspired and motivated me at the conference.  It was a great weekend.

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