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From farm to school, one community at a time

Arlene Jones

Arlene Jones, co-owner of The Farm on St. Mathias in Brainerd, gives tours to school food service directors as part of relationship building efforts to support new and existing farm-to-school programs.

University of Minnesota Extension is part of a collaborative effort that aims to strengthen connections between schools and the farmers growing healthy foods in their communities.

"We're building the critical mass of Minnesotans who want to start or expand creative farm-to-school programs," says Stephanie Heim, Extension Farm to School coordinator.

Heim and colleagues from other organizations, including the University Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships, are leading efforts to bring together major players in the farm-to-school movement. The group held five workshops around the state in 2010. Common barriers range from inadequate kitchen prep space—many school kitchens aren't equipped to process fresh produce—to adequate supply streams—it may take more than one farmer to feed one school.

Arlene Jones, who runs an 80-acre farm near Brainerd, says the farm-to-school workshop marked another critical step toward successful relationship-building. After the workshop, five school food service directors toured her farm to learn more.

"Shaking hands and getting to know each other is vital," says Jones. "The whole community must work together."

For more information, visit the Extension farm to school site.

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