Know Your Farmer. Know Your Food.

Presentation during the Tennessee School Nutrition Association Conference, Chattanooga, TN, 2024.

There are clear benefits for building school food service menus around locally procured foods, and we discuss them! There are considerations and challenges as well, ranging from how to construct a bid to organizing logistics. Dan Spatz, from Healthy Flavors, and Samantha Smith Goyret from the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network share their farm to school experiences along with listening to needs and seeking answers during the TN School Nutrition Association Conference in Chattanooga, TN on June 19, 2024.

Learn more about Healthy Flavors:

NWTN Local Food Network links of interest:




Download the Presentation HERE.

Watch the conference talk with Dan & Sam below.

Food Is Medicine Interest Survey

Our journey began back in May 2022, when we hosted a “Food Is Medicine” virtual Meet-Up. We learned from experts in the fields of medicine, nutrition, programming, and research, as well as learned barriers and solutions to reduce healthcare costs through our food sources. The concept of “Food is Medicine,” is using food as both treatment and prevention of chronic disease through a healthy diet.

This past year, we received funding from the Nutrition Incentive Hub Capacity Building Fund to explore the beginnings of a Northwest Tennessee Food Prescription Program.

We are partnering with the McKenzie Hometown Health Clinic, the Tennessee Department of Health, the Carroll County Department of Health, Carroll County Extension, Second Harvest Food Bank, E.W. James, and Blackberry Pond Farm to begin a new “Food is Medicine” program to our region, but we need your help!

Take our 3-minute anonymous survey to help us gather information about your food needs.

Tips to Get STARTed

During this #GrowFoodChallenge season, here are a few tips, tricks and great information about how to get your veggie and herbs seeds started.

The #GrowFoodChallenge is a call to action for individuals, families, schools, youth, & community groups in Northwest Tennessee to grow food & build soil.

From Saturday, April 13 – June 29, 2024, registered participants residing in NWTN may earn up to 6 prize entries through the START. GROW. HARVEST categories by submitting online photos of your growing food AND reducing food waste projects.

Learn more about photo submission forms HERE

Register for the #GrowFoodChallenge HERE

How to Read Seed Packets

Learn from Dr. Bethany Wolters, Assistant Professor of Plant and Soil Sciences at UTM, about how to read the information on your seed packets (in 9-minutes).

START your Seeds

There’s something almost magical in the process of planting a tiny, humble seed, and watching it transform into a plant with broad, green leaves, magnificent flowers, and delicious fruits.

Growing a garden in the ground or in pots from seed takes a little planning and care, but seeds want to grow. With a little know-how, a few tools, and some prep work, you can help them.

Learn more garden planting & tips at

Beginner Gardening Tips

Are you looking to start your first garden this season? Have you been gardening for a while, but just can’t seem to get it right? We have been there! The journey to a productive garden isn’t always an easy one. Learn from Jessica Quinn, owner of the Mama on the Homestead blog, with her 20 beginner gardening tips to help you get started.

Learn More from Mama on the Homestead

Download Composting Made Easy E-Book

Beginner Gardening Tips

Follow Jessica on Facebook

Plants have friends, too! All about Companion Planting

Here are a few plants we have gotten started for our #NourishingConnection Early Childcare Center partners in Weakley County, TN #FarmtoECE #GrowFoodChallenge

For a healthy, thriving garden, companion planting can help guide when you’re deciding what seeds to put where.

In Depth Companion Planting Guide

How To Water Your Garden

Learn from Farmer Dave a few tips and tricks about how to water your garden from seed to harvest.

Watch 1-minute Video Here

Now that you can start growing your own food, let’s get started on making compost!
START Turning Waste into TN Gold

Challenge accepted? You’ve got this! Grow food and reduce food waste with the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network during this year’s #GROW FOOD CHALLENGE!!!

~Samantha Goyret
Local Food Network Team Blogger

TN Smart Yards & YOU

A virtual Meet-Up Review

The Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network hosted Celeste Scott for a virtual meet-up on Friday, May 31st from 12 noon to 1pm (Central).

Celeste Scott, Extension Horticulture Specialist in West TN, gave a presentation titled “Stewardship in Home Landscapes: An Introduction to the TN Smart Yards Program”. The TN Smart Yards education program teaches stewardship principles and practical actions for gardeners who wish to promote sustainability and stewardship that starts at home.  Attendees learned about the 9 stewardship principles of TN Smart Yards and discovered new educational resources with an emphasis on vegetable gardening.

Watch Recorded Meet-Up Video Below

Learn more about the TN Smart Yards Program on their website:

Review Celeste’s Presentation HERE

Celeste is a native West Tennessean raised on a production row crop and beef cattle farm. Her passion for plants began early in life collecting plants from friends and family, working at local garden centers and managing a vegetable truck crop patch. Celeste attended Middle TN State University for her undergraduate degree in Plant & Soil Science, and obtained her Master’s degree from the University of TN Martin in Agriculture & Natural Resources.  Her career in agriculture began with TN Farmers Co-operative followed by service with UT Extension as a County Agent.  Celeste is now the UT Extension Horticulture Specialist in West TN. She is married, has 2 young children, and spends her free time with soil under her nails.


UT Hort Website

UT HORT HELPINE: Do you have a question you want/need to ask the UTHort Team? Use the following form to submit your question(s) to be reviewed and answered by an Extension expert! Then simply join us via our Live Q&A to hear your question answered in real time!

TN Smart Yards


Soil Plant Pest Center

Check out UTHORT on Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube

UTHort Youtube Channel – The faculty and staff at the University of Tennessee’s Institute of Agriculture want to share the findings of their latest research and their best tips with you! Subscribe to the UTHort page where you’ll find videos that will help you create landscapes and gardens that you will love.

JOIN THE #GROW FOOD CHALLENGE! This virtual meet-up coincides with this year’s #GrowFoodChallenge from April 13th – June 29th. The #GrowFoodChallenge is a call to action for individuals, families, schools, youth, & community groups in Northwest Tennessee to grow food & build soil.  Learn how you can be a part of this challenge at  

The Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization serving as a catalyst for a thriving and equitable local food system that is accessible to ALL.

~ Samantha Goyret
Local Food Network Team Blogger

Hunger Relief Virtual Meet-Up

The Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network invited hunger relief organizations and community groups to join us virtually on Tuesday, March 19th at 12 noon (central) for a FREE virtual meet-up via zoom. Participants networked and learn from local experts about Hunger relief resources to support local food relief efforts in Northwest Tennessee.

Watch Video HERE or below.

Hunger Relief Resources Shared:

Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle TN Project Grow:

  • Project Grow” uses numerous gardens, ADA-accessible raised farming beds and row crop fields to serve as a long-term food source.
  • Watch video
  • To learn more about volunteering with Project Grow and with Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee, visit, contact Donna Vick at or call 731-213-5203.

Unite Us Platform:

  • Unite Us supports community-based organizations in choosing the technology that best meets their needs and the needs of those they serve, without any restrictions.
  • Over a decade ago, Unite Us pioneered the first closed-loop referral platform. Our mission is to facilitate accountable connections to care for anyone in need, empowering government, healthcare, and local community-based organizations to thrive and focus on what they do best. Through cutting-edge technology, we seamlessly bring communities together, predicting, delivering, and facilitating payment for community-based social care. Our platform encompasses more than one million services, boasting the industry’s largest outcome-focused community network.
  • Find your network here
  • For more information contact Kylee Dick, Customer Success Manager:, (423) 963-3294

Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network:

  • The Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based out of Martin, TN with a mission to serve as a catalyst for a thriving and equitable local food system that is accessible to ALL. Learn about this year’s #GrowFoodChallenge and how your food pantry can benefit from access to resources and locally grown foods for your clientele.
  • Current Hunger Relief Food Guide
  • 2024-2025 Local Food Guide Magazine – hunger relief listings (please contact Sam to request current listings for your review)
  • Grow Food Challenge
  • Contact us! Samantha Goyret – or call (731) 332-9071 or email Caroline Ideus –

The Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, based out of Martin, TN, with a mission to serve as a catalyst for a thriving and equitable local food system that is accessible to ALL.

Support for School Garden Helps #GrowSharon, Educate, and Engage Students

Thanks to the generous support from the Northwest Tennessee [NWTN] Local Food Network, grant funds, and the Weakley County Soil Conservation District, students at Sharon School have even more opportunities to learn and participate in the cycle of food – from the ground straight to the lunch table.

Through the collaboration, Sharon School has welcomed new galvanized steel raised beds into its school garden. The tasty and nutritious vegetables grown in the garden will be harvested and served up for lunch to hungry students. The new garden beds will provide fertile ground for hands-on learning experiences in agriculture, sustainability, and nutrition. 

In addition to local support from the Soil Conservation District, a $500 GroMoreGood Grassroots grant kicked off the initiative through the NWTN Local Food Network. This grant, facilitated by the Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation and, provided the crucial funding to jumpstart this phase of the school garden project.

Samantha Goyret, Executive Director of the NWTN Local Food Network, has been instrumental in shaping the Farm to School initiative in Weakley County.  She expressed her gratitude for generous local partners.

“We are thankful to the Weakley County Soil Conservation District for this support. Working to conserve and protect soil and water resources in Weakley County through education and outreach. The partnership was the missing piece to making this project happen for Sharon School.”

-Samantha Goyret

Goyret’s passion for educating children about growing food and healthy eating habits has been instrumental as the driving force behind the program’s success. She believes in the importance of teaching students about where food comes from and healthy eating habits.

“Our goal is to not only educate children about where their food comes from but also to instill a deeper understanding of the benefits of healthy eating for themselves, their families, and our communities. By integrating the produce they grow into the school cafeteria, we create a full feedback loop that reinforces this understanding.”

Sharon School students working on cleaning up the garden.

Under the guidance of Dresden High School teacher and FFA chapter advisor Jonathan Holden, Dresden FFA students built, loaded, delivered, unloaded, and placed the raised beds at Sharon School in February. Students, faculty, and staff at Sharon School have also been cleaning and preparing the area for spring planting.

Recognizing the pivotal role of school leadership, Samantha commended Sharon School’s Principal Michelle Clements, Assistant Principal Beth Davidson, and teachers Danielle Johnson and Lydia Hazlewood for their guidance and dedication to the project.

“Having strong leadership at the school level is crucial for the success of any school garden project. These individuals lead the charge each year by integrating outdoor learning experiences into the curriculum, ensuring that students are engaged and learning from the entire experience.  Weakley County Schools is the beacon that is leading the Farm to Schools movement in West Tennessee.”

The theme for this school year at Sharon School is #GrowSharon, according to Principal Michelle Clements, and this collaboration reflects the theme perfectly.

“We love providing our students with the chance to grow with hands-on learning experiences that they can use for the rest of their lives. We are thankful to have these partnerships that allow students to get their hands in the soil, learn about agriculture, and to get a better understanding of all that it encompasses to grow nutritious and sustainable foods.”

-Michelle Clements

The NWTN Local Food Network, founded as a grassroots organization in 2015 and later established as a nonprofit in 2018, has been instrumental in fostering partnerships between schools and communities to promote sustainable agriculture and nutrition education. With a focus on empowering students to make healthy choices and fostering community resilience, the NWTN Local Food Network is at the forefront of the Farm to School movement in West Tennessee.

For more, visit

Harvest of the Month Poster Winners Announced

The Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network (LFN) hosted the Taste of Tennessee Harvest of the Month (HOTM) poster contest during Farm to School month in October 2023.  All K-12 students in the Northwest Tennessee Region were eligible to enter the contest. The Harvest of the Month program’s goal is to encourage healthy and local food choices by increasing Northwest Tennessee residents’ exposure to seasonally available foods. 

“This project provides awareness of the locally grown foods, artistic expression, and the important connection with our local food system,” commented Samantha Goyret, Executive Director of the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network. “The entries showed how students, when given a chance, have an incredible ability to showcase their creative skills and agricultural knowledge.”

The 12 student winners were chosen from 58 entries from South Carroll County Special School District and Weakley County School District. The winners are (drumroll please….):

January – Beef: Candice Bowlin, Grade 9, Clarksburg School

February – Pork, Jayden Garcia, Grade 8, Clarksburg School

March – Hydroponic Lettuce, Basil Parsaca, Grade 9, Dresden High School

April – Radish, Bayleigh Laws, Grade 4, Clarksburg School

May  – Strawberries, Vivian Flippin, Grade 3, Clarksburg School

June – Broccoli, Mattie Burnett, Grade 12, Dresden High School

July – Corn, Klover Santiago, Grade 5, Clarksburg School

August – Melons, Becky Melton, Grade 5, Clarksburg School

September – Apples, Lily Lucas, Kindergarten, Clarksburg School

October – Gourds, Tegan Stout, Grade 3, Dresden Elementary School

November – Sweet Potatoes, Annaka Townsend, Grade 6, Clarksburg School

December – Turnips, Alexa Vu, Grade 6, Martin Middle School

“We celebrate the Clarksburg Rockets Farm to School program in partnership with the NWTNLFN that is guiding us as we develop a robust Farm to School culture in all grade-levels in our school,” stated Dr. Lisa Norris, Director of Schools, South Carroll Special School District. “The Harvest of the Month program is a great example of how to tie in art, agriculture, nutrition and local food education all in one project. ”

The winning artwork will be featured in Harvest of the Month Promotional materials in the Northwest Tennessee region. The Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to serve as a catalyst for a thriving and equitable local food system that is accessible to ALL in Northwest Tennessee.

Clarksburg School Taste of Tennessee Harvest of the Month Poster Winners 2024
(From left to right): Caroline Ideus – NWTNLFN, Annaka Townsend, Klover Santiago, Candice Bowlin, Bayleigh Laws, Vivian Flippin,  Lily Lucas, Clarksburg Art Teacher LeAnne Edwards, Samantha Goyret, NWTNLFN
(Winners not present: Becky Melton & Jayden Garcia)

Weakley County Schools Taste of Tennessee Harvest of the Month Poster Winners 2024  (From top to bottom): Tegan Stout – Grade 3, Dresden Elementary School, Alexa Vu – Grade 6, Martin Middle School, Mattie Burnett – Grade 12, Dresden High School
(Winner not present: Hydroponic Greens, Basil Parsaca – Grade 9, Dresden High School)

New Regional Food Business Center partners with Local Food Network

In May 2023, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the creation of 12 new USDA Regional Food Business Centers that will provide national coverage coordination, technical assistance, and capacity building to help farmers, ranchers, and other food businesses access new markets and navigate federal, state, and local resources, thereby closing the gaps to success. 

“The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to transforming our food system to one that offers new market opportunities to small and mid-sized farming operations through a strengthened local and regional food system,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The Regional Food Business Centers, along with investments through the Resilient Food Systems Infrastructure Program will create new and expanded local market opportunities which will improve farm income, create good paying jobs and build greater resilience in our overall food system.”

The Regional Food Business Centers will support producers by providing localized assistance to access a variety of markets, including linking producers to wholesalers and distributors. By strengthening connections between rural and urban areas, the Regional Food Business Centers will drive economic opportunities across the region, creating a more diversified and resilient food system. Collectively, the organizations selected to lead each Center reflect an impressive cross-section of the varied institutions, organizations, and associations that must cooperate to achieve genuinely strong and distributed food systems. These organizations are engaging with grassroots food and farm organizations and employing a range of creative strategies to build food system resiliency. Regional Food Centers will target their work to historically underinvested communities in their region.

Lead Organization Selected for Each Center: Appalachia USDA Regional Food Business Center, Rural Action Inc.

In partnership with lead organization, Rural Action, based out of Ohio, the Northwest Tennessee  Local Food Network is facilitating the coordination, technical assistance and capacity building with local farmers through business builder subawards of up to $100,000 to support projects focused on regional needs and businesses that are working towards expansion and other investment.

“We are proud to be one of the partners making up the Appalachia Regional Food Business Center!” stated Samantha Goyret, Executive Director of the NWTN Local Food Network. “We are excited to explore this new online hub and share upcoming resources to support local food innovators in our region.”

Sign up for email updates on their “Contact Us” page, or through their newsletter link. Stay connected with the Center for the latest updates on regional food initiatives and events at Appalachia Regional Food Business Center (

The Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, based out of Martin, TN, to serve as a catalyst for a thriving and equitable local food system that is accessible to ALL.

Additional Resources

Regardless of the current size of your business, it is best to plan and structure so that you’re ready for the future. When it comes to growing a #smallbusiness, a little proactivity will pay off in the long run. There are several ways to grow your business, and having an actionable plan is key. This is where the TSBDC can help. From branding to diversification, we are here to here to help you start and implement a growth strategy that is right for your business! Contact your consultant HERE

11 Ways to Enjoy Farm to School Month

  1. K-12 Students – Harvest Your Art and Win!  Students K-12 enter artwork depicting one of the 12 Taste of Tennessee Harvest of the Month poster challenge options.
    ~ Download the Registration Packet.
    ~ Share our blog/press release
  2. Join us for our Farm to Table Dinner Fundraiser on Saturday, October 14th, 5:30-8pm at the Dresden Farmers Market, celebrating locally grown foods, music, a silent auction and fun!
  3. Give the Garden Some Love: Is anything growing in your school garden? Plan a clean-up day to prepare the garden for winter, plant a fall crop or plant cover crops – protect your soil. Register for our upcoming volunteer opportunities!
  4. Connect with a Local Farm: Take a field trip to a nearby farm or ask a farmer to present to your class about what it’s like to live and work on a farm. Check out our Pumpkin Patch Guide
  5. Get Fresh at the Farmer’s Market: Visit your local farmers market or encourage families to go to the market and post a photo of their purchases on social media using the hashtag #NationalFarmToSchoolMonth.
  6. Try Something New: Feature a new local menu item for school breakfast or lunch. Host a taste test of the new item so students can try it.
  7. Celebrate Apple Crunch Day: Take a collective crunch out of a local apple on Apple Crunch Day on Tuesday, October 19, 2023 at where fresh, local food is celebrated. Connect with the NWTN LFN to learn how your school can participate in Apple Crunch Day.
  8. Looking for healthy snack ideas?
    Download our FREE Taste of Tennessee Harvest of the Month Snack Recipe PDF.
  9. Connect to the Curriculum: Teach a lesson or two during the month as part of your celebration. Check out the National Agriculture in the Classroom Matrix.
  10. Take action: Support Cafeterias, Classrooms, Community and Staying Power initiatives through the short-term and long-term goals. Visit our farm to school webpage to learn more from our Farm to School Action Plans.
  11. Advocate for Universal School Meals: Many organizations, groups and policymakers are focused on ensuring America’s children have access to healthy and nutritious meals, but more work is needed by individuals like you. Learn about the National Farm to School Network’s Value-Aligned School Meals Initiative and how you can advocate for ALL children to eat equally.

#Get it Local! Registration opens for Local Food Guide

We invite YOU to fill out our FREE registration form by November 30, 2023 to be included in this year’s Northwest Tennessee Local Food Guide Magazine. Get started at

Residents throughout the region use the NWTN Local Food Guide Magazine to find family farms, farmers markets, wineries/distilleries, restaurants, food artisans and bakers, farm stores and stands, pumpkin patches, u-pick farms, CSAs, animal products, beekeepers, processors, food trucks, locally owned restaurants, locally owned plant vendors, and food relief organizations. 

Do you grow food? Do you own a local restaurant or food truck? Do you make artisan foods? Do you have chickens with eggs for sale? Are you a beekeeper? Do you sell plants? Do you raise or process freezer beef/pork? Are you involved in agri-tourism or have a u-pick farm? Does your organization provide food relief? Do you own a local restaurant or cafe?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions then #Get It Local in this year’s NWTN Local Food Network’s Local Food Guide. The guide is a FREE directory of locally produced and distributed foods in Northwest Tennessee. Whether you are a backyard gardener, small-scale or large scale farmer – all are invited to list their products and services by registering for a FREE listing (please note: personal addresses will not show on the listing, but it is needed to mark your business on the regional map).

Left to Right: Lindsey Frilling – Director of Obion County Chamber of Commerce, Scott Williams  – Director of Discovery Park of America, Samantha Goyret – Executive Director of the NWTNLFN.ORG & Mayor Jake Bynum of Weakley County #GetitLocal

“We distribute Local Food Guides through schools, and community events throughout our region and state,” declared Caroline Ideus, Outreach Director of the NWTNLFN, “We want to shine a light on our growing local food movement in West Tennessee. “

The registration listings are free due to the printing support from Ad Sales. 100% of Ad Sales cover the cost of printing with no administrative charges. For more information or to purchase an advertisement, please message/call Samantha Goyret, (731) 332-9071 or email

“The LFN is working with farmers listed in the guide to establish and expand farm to school programs increasing locally grown food in schools for our children to enjoy a fresh healthy meal straight from the source,” stated Samantha Goyret, Executive Director of the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network. “Additionally, we are seeking to list more locally owned restaurants and hunger-relief organizations in this year’s Local Food Guide Magazine. It’s free to register.” 

The Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network is a local nonprofit organization based out of Martin, TN serving as a catalyst for a thriving and equitable local food system that is accessible to ALL. This year’s 2024-2025 NWTN Local Food Guide will be distributed throughout the 9-county region of Northwest Tennessee in late Spring. Registration is due by, November 30, 2023. 

Register directly here or learn more at

Yates Jackson, a winner of the #Grow Food Challenge 2021, was featured on the cover of the 2022 Local Food Guide Magazine.

Do you have an amazing photo? Send it to us – it could be featured, too!