Where Do I Start?

Key Elements of a Farm to School


Nationwide, Farm to School Programs come in all shapes and sizes. They vary by region, by state, and by school system. Critical to the success of a program is the support from administrators, collaboration with farmers, food service managers, teachers, parents, and students.


Typically a Farm to School Program has four key elements:

  • Purchase of farm products from local farmers for inclusion in school meal programs and other food sales
  • Agriculture and nutrition education in the classroom as part of existing standards-based curricula
  • School gardens, where children can learn to eat what they grow and link their experience to tangible lessons in science, math, and other disciples
  • Hands-on experimental education programs, such as visits to farms and farmers’ markets.

Do background reading and research

  • Navigate through our website for various resources to help you get started.
  • The National Farm to School Program Website has a wealth of information about farm to school programs across the country. Watch this excellent introductory video from the Vermont Farm to School program.

Develop community partnerships

The time constraints placed on a food service director are enormous, and adding a local food program may seem like just too much. Even a highly motivated, passionate food service director can't do it all. You need help! A committee, a task force, a working group, whatever you want to call it -- you need some other folks who are willing to help with the work. 

Communication is key!

Communicate with food service staff, teachers, school administrators, students, and community member. 

Start slowly, and plan carefully

Planning needs to begin many months in advance of the date when you expect to serve a food item. You need to:

  • Find a farmer or distributor to supply the food item
  • Develop a plan for promoting the local food idea to your school
  • Decide how the food item will be served and find a good recipe
  • Train the cooks and other food service staff 


Connect students with the food

Go beyond simply adding a local food to the lunch menu. Utilize materials in this toolkit to engage children:

  • Farm visits
  • Classroom announcements
  • School newsletters
  • Hands-on activities like gardening and cooking that connect children with delicious and nutritious local foods 

Don't be afraid to ask for help

Remember that there are people across Maryland and the country that are invested in connecting young people with local and healthy foods in their school lunchrooms. Please contact them.