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Extension > Food > Farm to School > Minnesota Toolkit for School Foodservice > Sourcing Food > Minnesota Foods in Season

tomatoesMinnesota Foods in Season

Using local food in Minnesota schools is complicated by the fact that the school year runs almost exactly opposite of the normal growing season. But, you can find local foods all year long – it just takes some creativity, help from farmers and distributors, and knowledge of the types of products available in each season.

For more information on seasonal availability of locally grown foods, check out this seasonal guide from Minnesota Grown.



The following table summarizes some strategies Farm to School initiatives have used to get local foods and food suggestions.

Local Food Strategy Food Suggestions

Buy fresh fruits and vegetables in season, close to the start of the school year.

In the late summer: cucumbers, green beans, sweet corn, tomatoes, and summer squash; plus a wide variety of other garden produce. In the fall: potatoes, cabbage, apples, squash, broccoli, and spinach. Purchase these fresh foods directly from farmers, or through a distributor.

Buy fruits and vegetables later in the year from farmers who have storage facilities.

Some Minnesota farmers have climate-controlled storage buildings that allow them to offer high-quality vegetables well into the winter months. Available through December: potatoes, cabbage, apples, squash, carrots, onions, garlic Available through January: potatoes, squash, carrots, garlic, and onions. Available through March: potatoes, carrots, garlic, and onions

Buy from farmers who use season extension methods such as high tunnels or greenhouses.

Late winter or early spring salad greens are the most likely crop available from high tunnels or greenhouses. Earth science students at Willmar converted an old greenhouse to solar power and grew lettuce for the school lunch program. Read article. Farmers with high tunnels or greenhouses may also be able to offer tomatoes and cucumbers into October.

Buy meats, dairy products, and non-perishable food items at any time of the year.

Meats such as bison and dairy products such as cheese are typically available at any time of year. Non-perishable items such as dry beans, whole grains, wild rice, and honey may be grown or harvested at certain times of year; but they are easy to store, with no loss of quality, for year-round availability.

Buy fresh fruits and vegetables in season, and process them in the school kitchen for later use.

This may be a surprising option. While it won't work for every school, some foodservices are exploring this route. Tomatoes, sweet corn, and squash are vegetables that are fairly easy to freeze for later use. Check out this fact sheet for freezing produce and chart of how to freeze fruits and vegetables from the University of Minnesota.


Explore other sections:
Finding Local Food | Purchasing Local Foods | Additional Tips and Tools

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