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 (appalachiarfbc.org).

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

Local Foods for Local Schools – online procurement discussion

On December 4, 2023 the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network hosted a FREE virtual Meet-Up for Farmers and NWTN School Nutrition Directors to:

1. Discuss procurement trends and issues

2. Cultivate relationships with NWTN School Nutrition Directors

3. Create pathways for collaboration to innovative local food procurement

4. Share Market and Funding Opportunities with Farmers & Schools

Share, network and learn from a panelist of experts including Dan Spatz from Healthy Flavors Arkansas/Tennessee, Brenda Williams from Communities Unlimited, Jiwon Jun from EAT Real.org, Mike Brown from the TN Dept. of Agriculture, hear news from the new Appalachian Regional Food Business Center, and Caroline Ideus & Samantha Goyret from the Northwest TN Local Food Network. We will be planning for the 2024 school year by connecting NWTN School Nutrition Directors to Farmers. We hope for a fruitful discussion as we plan for 2024!

Watch the recorded video below:

Watch the recorded meeting he
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Additional Resources Shared:

Local Food Procurement Resources:

Opportunities for engagement

  • Spring 2024 Local Foods for Local Schools funding must be spent by August 2024.
  • NIFA Food and Agriculture Service Learning Project: SAE Internships with Farmers 2024/2025 – To be determined upon funding to the NWTN Local Food Network in May 2024

TN Farm to School Institutes

GAP Certification Overview

~ NOTES FROM THE MEETING ~

Procurement Trends and Issues –  Dan Spatz, Healthy Flavors AK/TN

  1. Dan is transitioning his family farm from commodity crops to specialty vegetable crops and sourcing his locally grown foods into schools.
  2. Many are aware that the types of foods children & anybody in your community consumes are important to one’s overall health.
  3. Create opportunities to sit-down with people, face-to-face, and cultivate relationships with institutions – it’s a win-win on both sides. 
  4. We need more farmers willing to take managed risk. It might not be intuitive as the easiest way of selling food, but the childhood nutrition program in our schools is the largest restaurant in Tennessee.
  5. What we have coming off the farm is not packaged the way the school nutrition facilities are used to receiving it.  
  6. How do we get the food off the farm and have it ready for use in Childhood nutrition programs?
  7. You have to have a mind-set of customer service.
  8. The pricing directly from farms is not inline with school nutrition budget / allocations.  Commodities are much more affordable than direct farmer sales; however recent funding has allowed for more local food purchases
  9. Farmers – Don’t think, as a farmer, that you’re doing this on your own.  There are many resources available for farmers through grants and other incentives.   

NWTN School Nutrition Directors (and contact info!) who have receive Farm to School, Local Foods for Schools or Healthy Incentives Funding – 

Meeting Notes

What is the funding that you have now?  – NWTN School Nutrition Directors

  1. Trista Snider (Weakley Co.) – received funds through a grant (Local Foods for Schools (LFS) & Healthy Meals Incentive Grant, looking to source anything that is available.  The grants have allowed us to hire a school nutrition consultant / chef to train staff to improve techniques and recipes for scratch cooking.
    1. Particularly looking for meat products.  
    2. Barriers – costs and deliveries from the farmers.  
    3.  Weakley County School Nutrition Facebook page
  1. Lisa Seiber-Garland (Trenton SSD)- Received money through grant (Local Foods for Schools -LFS & Healthy Meals Incentive Grant) buys as much as possible and is able to buy local products at market rate.  The grants have helped us buy equipment & to hire extra staff to help prepare local foods, fresher foods, more scratch cooking.
    1. Sourcing from Stockyard Market (Stockyard Burger every friday), starting to get pork from them,  purchases produce from area farmers, Blackberry Pond Farm
    2. Vision – ALL of our students want to eat in the cafeteria, it’s their cafe. The food is always good. Every child has at least two good meals every day and they are enjoyable and students tell people about their school food. When we have a happy child, with their tummies full, they can study and learn better.

The good thing about being a school nutrition director is that we all work together, share resources and gather ideas. It is a tough profession to be in, but we have a lot of support from one another.

~Lisa Seiber-Garland, Trenton Special School District

Create pathways for collaboration to innovative local food procurement – Mike Brown – TN Dept of Ag 

What’s Needed in the future in 2024 to get more food in schools?  

Sue Miller – Blackberry Pond Farm, Martin, TN, Weakley County , West TN

  • Currently they have excess Scarlett Queen and Thai turnips & Beets right now. Additionally they have micro-greens available for taste tests. Microgreens have a high nutrient content.

Tyler Smith  – Future Visions Farms, Whitlock, TN, Henry County, West TN

  • Strawberries (Mid/late April- June) – can deliver to schools 
  • If you can’t be competitive with wholesale dealers, don’t try 
  • Growing for volume – cabbage, cauliflower, tomatoes, watermelons, cantaloupes, butternut, spaghetti, acorn, kombucha, new potatoes. Sweet onions (red and yellow)
  • Henry County has not received any grants to purchase local foods.
  • GAP Certification – the farm is GAP Certified which has been necessary for the large distributors/ market  – it’s a lot of redundant, tedious paperwork. It takes time.

Ryan Gunn – Blueberry Farms, Cottage Grove, Williamson County, Middle TN 

  • Small-Scale Beef Producer
  • Competitive Pricing
  • How small of a producer is too small for schools?
    • There is no size limit. We have sourced one beef cattle into schools and that was fine. Most importantly it needs to  be USDA certified processed, the measurements are equal – i.e. exactly 5lb packages.
  • Delivery is also a factor but could be included in the cost of the product
  • They deliver from farm to freezer
  • Dignity and Food should always be hand-in-hand. It’s good to know that people care about food and have dignity for their school food.

Keep up to date with our Harvest of the Month program here: https://nwtnlfn.org/taste-of-tennessee/

Register in this year’s NWTN Local Food Guide (it’s free!) – only for farms and producers living in Northwest Tennessee.

Thank you for your interest in the local foods for local schools online discussion. Please do not hesitate to reach out to Caroline Ideus or Samantha Goyret with questions or concerns.

Local Food Hero Awards Announced

Congratulations to the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network’s Local Food Hero awardees – Bell Family Farms, out of Gleason, TN and Blackberry Pond Farm, out of Martin, TN! They were announced during the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network’s Farm to Table Dinner mid October 2023.

“The Local Food Hero awards bring attention to individuals and family farms who deserve to be recognized, and whose work is integral to the sustainance of our local food system,” stated Samantha Goyret, Director of the NWTN Local Food Network.

The Local Food Hero awards Farmers who demonstrate leadership in our communities by:

  • Adhering to responsible environmental and/or social practices
  • Producing high-quality products and/or services
  • Positively impacting the local economy
  • Committing to building and maintaining a robust local food system

“We are honored to be awarded as a local food hero along with our friends Bell Family Farms tonight,” stated Sue Miller, co-owner of Blackberry Pond Farm. “Thank you NWTN Local Food Network for hosting this event and creating a more equitable food economy locally!”

Ashley and Darrell Bell from Bell Family Farms was awarded this year’s Local Food Hero Award! Their farm, located in Gleason, TN, is feeding school children all over our region with their locally grown foods.

Blackberry Pond Farm, Martin, TN, supplies the community & schools with hydroponic greens and vegetables.

Bell Family Farms, Gleason, TN, has supplies the community and schools with their locally grown fruits and vegetables.

Together we are cultivating a thriving and equitable local food system for all in our region! Join us by shopping local, supporting farmers, joining our network, and learning more about our local farmers at nwtnlfn.org/food-resources.

It’s Pumpkin Patch Time!

October is Farm-to-School month, and pumpkin season is HERE! This season, visit pumpkin patches all around Northwest Tennessee for the whole family to enjoy while supporting our local farmers and communities!

Check out our list of Northwest Tennessee pumpkin patches…

Donnell Century Farm
3720 Hwy 70 East
Jackson, TN 38305
Get Directions: 3720 Hwy 70 East Jackson, TN 38305 (Spring Creek Community)
(731) 424-4526
Andrew Donnell: Farmer@DonnellCenturyFarm.com
Agri-tourism: Our attractions include a 250 ft. Zipline, an epic Corn Maze, the infamous Candy Cannon, Gemstone Mining, Farm Animals, and so much more. Come one, come all and enjoy the day on the farm!
HOURS: Saturday: 10-6, Sunday: 12-6, Fridays in October: 12-6
Pumpkin & Corn Maze Fall Festival September 30- November 5. Visit their website to purchase tickets (https://donnellcenturyfarm.ticketspice.com/pumpkin-festival-and-corn-maze-23).
Pumpkin Destruction Day Weekend – November 4th and 5th

Fall Fest Family Day at the Obion County Library
1221 E Reelfoot Ave
Union City, TN 38261
October 21st starting at 10am
EVENT: Activities include pumpkin painting, magic shows, and a foam party. A free activity for the entire family!

Dixie Chile Ranch
3159 E. Union Grove Road
Kenton, TN, 38233
Timothy D. Brady & Terri Jenkins-Brady
(731) 225-0456
dixiechileranch@gmail.com
Farm Stand: Freshly locally grown variety of specialty pumpkins (Gourds)
HOURS: Sold on the farm, through our CSA, Business and Home Delivery Service, and Local Farmers Markets.

Future Vision FarmsClay Sheds
3830 Whitlock Road Paris, TN 38242
Tyler Smith
(731) 336-4892
futurevisionsfarms@gmail.com
@futurevisionsfarmstn
Agritourism: pumpkin patch, hayride, barrel train, corn maze, pumpkin painting, food trucks, sunflower field, petting zoo (sundays), slides, swings, games and more!
HOURS: Saturday 10am -5pm, Sunday 1-5pm
Future Vision Farms offer a wide variety of goods and services that can be obtained by wholesale, retail, on-site service, Murray and Martin Farmer’s Markets

Green Acres Farm
158 Medina Highway, Milan, TN 38354
Denton Parkins
(731)- 686-2004
greenacresfarmmilantn@gmail.com
Greenacresmilan.com
Agritourism: Pumpkin Patch, Corn Maze, Zinnia Patch, Pumpkinville and more!
HOURS: Pumpkin Patch, Pumpkinville and Corn Maze opening September 22nd. Sun-up ‘til sun-down until October 31st. Follow Facebook Page for seasonal hour
updates.

Holt Family Farms
357 Woodruff Road Dresden, TN 38225
Andy & Ellie Holt
(731) 364-3459
Ellie Holt (731) 819-2261
email@holtfamilyfarms.com
Pumpkins, Mums, fall décor, jams, eggs, local honey, all-natural bath and body products, goat milk soaps and Hayrides. Open to hosting students and groups for field trips. Also offer Fall Decoration Packages.

Pumpkin Patch includes a petting zoo, hayride, pony rides, barrel train rides and the corn
cannon. Last hayrides, pony, and train rides will leave at 6:30. Open September 30 – October 28
HOURS: Fridays 1 – 7pm, Saturdays 10am – 7pm

Nanney Pumpkin Patch
1767 Sharon Road, Sharon, TN 38255
Cody Nanney
(731) 514-2431
nanneyfarmspumpkinpatch@gmail.com
Agri-Tourism: Pumpkins, Mums, Cornstalks, Straw, Hayrides (last ride leaves at 5:30pm)
HOURS: Monday-Friday: 7 am – 7 pm, Saturday: 10am – 6pm, Sunday: 1 pm – 6 pm
Pumpkin Patch will be open on September 30th
October 14th food truck, pumpkin painting event day

Pa’s Pumpkin Patch
420 Little Road Martin, TN 38237
Mark Baker (Pa)
(731) 514-9103
Agri-Tourism: locally grown pumpkins, gourds, mums,
straw, & corn stalks, playground.
HOURS: 7am-8pm, 7 days a week, until sold-out

Parham’s Pumpkins
1250 Jewell Store Rd. , Dresden, TN, 38225
(731) 514-1180 parhampumpkins@outlook.com
Agri-tourism: Pumpkins, Mums and U-Pick Flowers, Family photos
HOURS: Monday – Sunday, Sunrise to Sunset

The Pumpkin Barn, LLC
2557 S. Bluff Road, Obion, TN 38240
Alan Shirley
(731) 442-0644
alanshirley49@yahoo.com
Agri-tourism: Hay Bales, Pumpkins, a Petting Zoo, a playground, and inflatables
HOURS: Monday – Sunday, 9 am – 6 pm

Todd Family Fun Farm
101 Tom Austin Road, Yorkville, TN 38330
James and Martha Todd
Barn: (731) 643-6720
Martha Todd: (731) 234-1568?
toddfunfarm@wk.net
Toddfunfarm.com
Agri-tourism: Corn maze, hayrides, pig races, gemstone mining and geocaching.
HOURS: Saturday: 10 am – 9 pm, Sunday: 1:30 pm – 5 pm

Post your family fun pumpkin patch photos using this hashtag: #GetItLocal

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.

Celebrate Applesauce Day!!

The Martin Farmers Market in partnership with the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network (LFN) and Weakley County Extension is celebrating the changing of the seasons the weekend of September 16, 2023, by encouraging individuals, families, students, and seniors to make, try and eat applesauce.

Join us for an Applesauce Day Celebration on Saturday, September 16th from 8am – 12 noon at the Martin Farmers Market featuring applesauce cooking demonstrations and taste tests from the Weakley County Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Agent, McKenzie Hurst. You can also purchase a variety of apple themed products from a variety of Martin Farmers Market vendors.

“We wanted to create a Tennessee tradition to celebrate the beginning of fall, broaden people’s knowledge about local apple varieties, encourage families to cook together, and to embolden culinary skills.”

-Caroline Ideus, Outreach Director of the Local Food Network and co-manager of the Martin Farmers Market.

Apples are the featured Taste of Tennessee Harvest of the Month product during the month of September. Any day can be applesauce day! Source your local apples from: The Northwest Tennessee Local Food Guide 2022 Magazine at nwtnlfn.org/food-resources or the Pick TN Website: www.picktnproducts.org/listview/apples

Applesauce Recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 medium local apples (2-3/4″ diameter) – peeled, cored and chopped (Visit Pick TN Website)
  • ¾ cup water
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions
Peel and core the apples. Slice apples in quarters or sixths. In a saucepan, combine apples, water, and cinnamon (You can add other spices like ginger or cardamom if you like). Cover the pan and simmer over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes until the apples soften fully. Allow to cool, then mash with a fork or potato masher. Add sugar to taste, but often none is needed.

Share your applesauce stories with us on facebook by tagging @NWTNLFN #APPLESAUCEDAY!!

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.  Happy Applesauce Day!

Can you Dig it?

Steele Plant Company Sweet Potato Farm Tour

Join the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network on Tuesday, September 26th from 10am – 12 noon at the Steele Plant Company’s Sweet Potato farm out of Gleason, TN. Participants will meet at the Steele Plant Company’s main office at 10am on 202 Collins Street, Gleason, TN 38229. From there, participants will travel out to the fields to see how sweet potatoes are harvested from the field to the warehouse (digging is optional). Can you dig it?

This is a FREE meet-up event hosted by the NWTN Local Food Network and Steele Plant Company. Minors are welcome and encouraged to attend, but must be accompanied by an adult.

The Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network is a non-profit 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 in our region.

Celebrate Earth Day with the #GrowFoodChallenge

Celebrate Earth Day with the #GrowFoodChallenge

Invest in our planet, your community and your family by celebrating Earth Day this Saturday, April 22, 2023 by joining this year’s #GrowFoodChallenge

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

From Saturday, April 22 – July 1, 2023, registered participants in the #GrowFoodChallenge will receive free seeds at a Seed Distribution Site within the 9-county region of Northwest Tennessee. During the challenge, participants may earn up to 6 prize entries by submitting online  photos of your growing food AND building compost projects. In addition to monthly prize drawings, participants are eligible to win the grand prize =>

A Rural King Chest Freezer full of a locally raised quarter processed NB Company Beef!

Join us at the Martin Farmers Market in Martin, TN to kick-off this year’s #Grow Food Challenge at the first annual Earth Day Celebration on Saturday, April 22nd from 9am – 12 noon in downtown Martin, TN. 

Activities include:
~ Plant seeds with the Martin Public Library
~ Learn about composting and reduction of food waste with Girl Scout Troop 40139
~ Join the TN Environmental Council’s #ComePostYourCompost program
~ Participate in a community-wide trash pick-up
~ Pick-up trash supplies from the Weakley County Litter Grant to support the Martin Beautiful Committee’s city-wide trash pick up
~ Learn from the UT Martin Ecology Club
~ Learn about and purchase hydroponically grown products from Blackberry Pond Farm
~ Pick up FREE seeds from the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network and register for this year’s #GrowFoodChallenge
~ Participate in a plant and pots swap from 11am-12 noon.

The #GrowFoodChallenge Plant and Pots Swap will begin at 11am – the idea is to bring some plants and pots from your house to swap them out with others. If you don’t have any of that, it’s ok – you can still participate after the second round of swapping. 

The Martin Beautiful Committee is encouraging all to participate in the GREAT GLOBAL CLEANUP® – a worldwide campaign to remove billions of pieces of trash from neighborhoods, beaches, rivers, lakes, trails, and parks — reducing waste and plastic pollution, improving habitats, and preventing harm to wildlife and humans. 

Join us at the Earth Day Celebration on 4/22 from 9am -12pm at the Martin Farmers Market, 101 Main Street, Martin, TN 38237. For more information visit: https://nwtnlfn.org/grow-food-challenge/

Share the Earth Day Celebration event on facebook at: https://fb.me/e/2DD812Hg4.

Northwest Tennessee residents can pick up FREE #GrowFoodChallenge seed packets at the following locations:
~ BENTON COUNTY – Second Harvest Food Bank;
~ CARROLL COUNTY – Carroll County Library/ Seed Bank and McKenzie Senior Citizens Center;
~ CROCKETT COUNTY – Crockett County Library;
~ DYER COUNTY – Dyer County Master Gardeners Plant Sale and McIver’s Grant Public Library & Seed Bank;
~ GIBSON COUNTY – Humboldt Public Library;
~ HENRY COUNTY – Henry County Extension Offices and W.G. Rhea Public Library;
~ LAKE COUNTY – Lake County Extension Office;
~ OBION COUNTY – Obion County Public Library;
~ WEAKLEY COUNTY – Martin Public Library and the Weakley County Extension. 

Pick Up Your Seeds during the following events throughout Northwest Tennessee

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 in Northwest Tennessee. The #GrowFoodChallenge is paid for through a #SeedMoney Grant with the following generous seed donors; Society of St. Andrews, Sow True Seed, Ferry Morse Company, Cooperative Gardens Commission; and the following prize donors: Discovery Park of America, Greenway Nursery, Tractor Supply Company, Walmart, Bamboozle, the TN Environmental Council, Rural King and NB Beef Company.

Are you ready for the #GrowFoodChallenge? REGISTER HERE

Fore more information, visit our Grow Food Challenge webpage.

Thanks for growing with us!

Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network Team

Farmers Input Needed: Act NOW!

TN Farmers Act Now. The LFN is seeking Tennessee farmers to take this very important survey by April 15, 2023! This voluntary survey will take about 10 minutes to complete and asks about your general views and input to help develop more Farm to School connections across the State of Tennessee. Those who complete the survey will be entered to win a free Local Food Network t-shirt and a variety of seeds.

The Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network (LFN) is a 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 in Tennessee. The LFN has been partnering with school districts to develop thriving and equitable Farm to School initiatives in Tennessee Schools.

The LFN researches & develops tailored, economically sustainable solutions for schools, farmers & ranchers to avoid duplication & drive meaningful change. We do this through collaboration, coordination, and increased connections between local food sources and consumers.

Some programs the Local Food Network offers regionally is the creation of the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Guide Magazine, Farm to School programming development and support, Local Food Procurement resources, and marketing of Northwest Tennessee Farmers Markets and their vendors products. Although we are regionally based, our network aims to connect farmers listed on the Pick TN Product website and NWTN Local Food Guide in-print magazine with schools across the state of Tennessee.

Through shared knowledge and collaboration, the LFN will mobilize data and research to increase access to information in ways never before possible in Tennessee agriculture. Findings will be incorporated into the new Tennessee Local Food Procurement Manual and apply for grants to support farmers collaborating with the LFN Farm to School programming in Tennessee.

Take the survey here: www.surveymonkey.com/r/tnf2sfarmers2023

Take the Farm to School Farmers Survey HERE.

Obion County Farm Day Paves the Way Towards the Future of Farming

On Friday, October 21, 2022, the Obion County School District celebrated FARM DAY at Obion County Central High School. The High School’s Future Farmers of America student group hosted close to 200 fourth graders who rotated through agricultural learning stations including chicks from Tyson Foods out of Union City, TN Corn, TN Soybean Council, NWTN Beekeepers Association, Nutrien Ag Solutions, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Beef Cattle and OCCHS FFA raised lambs.

All Obion County School District Elementary School fourth graders participated including students from Lakeview, South Fulton, Black Oak, Hillcrest, and Ridgemont Elementary Schools.

Activities like Farm Day, celebrated during #National Farm to School Month, bring awareness about the benefits of agriculture and nutrition in our daily lives. “Farm Day is a great way to educate children about agriculture because many fourth graders do not know where their food comes from,” stated Sara Frazier, Agriculture Teacher at Obion County Central High School. “The FFA program utilizes peer-to-peer learning which is a great way to empower high school students by teaching younger students about agricultural concepts.”

During the 2021-2022 school year, the Obion County School District, in partnership with the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network, participated in a year-long Farm to School Planning project resulting in the publication of the Obion County Farm to School Action Plan.

Stuart Watson (middle), Agriculture Teacher & FFA Adviser at Obion County Central High School, has a passion to teach youth about sustainable agriculture which shows in the hydroponic & greenhouse plant program he manages at Obion County Central High School. Also in the picture are NWTN Local Food Network Farm to School Coordinators (left) Samantha Goyret and (right) Caroline Ideus.
Obion County Central High School FFA students are ready to take action!
(left to right: front) Norah Kendall, Katelyn Ramsey, Aiden Cochran, Tony Blue, Genesis Wilson, (back) Stuart Watson, Daniel Northern, Jaxon Willcutt, Titan Talbot.

Will you help Obion County Central High School build a NEW greenhouse? These dedicated students want to be able to expand hydroponic growing operations in order to feed a consistent supply of Rebel Grown greens to all of the schools in the school district. Obion County is seeking matching funds to support this project – can you help? Contact Stuart Watson at swatson@ocboe.com.

Be a Part of the ACTION: Obion County Farm to School Action Plan

We envision an Obion County School District Farm to School Initiative that connects the farm to the classroom to the cafeteria to increase healthy food options and foster a deeper understanding of our food sources and their nutritional benefits to support the welfare of students, parents, and community members in Obion County, TN.”

The Obion County Farm to School team seeks schools and their communities to take action by encouraging working on collective Farm to School goals over the next 3 years. The goals are developed around supporting initiatives in the Cafeteria, Classroom, Community, and coordinating an integrated approach for Staying Power.

The following is a brief summary of the Farm to School initiative goals over the next three years: 

Education Goal: By 2023, Obion County Schools will connect students to agriculture experiences through experiential learning opportunities.

Growing Food Goal 1: Starting in 2023, school based growing food operations will improve by increasing access to agriculture education, elementary school-based growing programs, and the support and expansion of high school greenhouse growing operations.

Growing Food Goal 2: By 2024, the processing of school grown foods will be determined to increase the amount of school grown food within Obion County schools.

Local Food Procurement/Cafeteria Goal 1: By 2023, Obion County Schools will begin to incorporate school garden produce and school farm products into the cafeteria and afterschool snacks through taste tests to increase access to fresher, healthier foods for all students.

Local Food Procurement/ Cafeteria Goal 2: Starting in 2023, food service staff will have access to in-service training to incorporate local agriculture products and increase awareness of nutritional education opportunities through the school food service program.

Coordination, Integration And Staying Power Goal 1: Starting the school year 2022-2023, the Obion County Farm to School Team will seek financial stability for Farm to School Programming.

Coordination, Integration And Staying Power Goal 2: Starting in 2023, schools will increase communication by including a featured farm to school activity or resource in quarterly newsletters and a monthly social media post of school based farm to school activities from within the Obion School District. #FarmtoSchool

Coordination, Integration And Staying Power Goal 3: Starting the school year 2022-2023, a network of community stakeholders will be informed of the Obion County Action Plan to aid in increasing advocacy efforts and gain broader support from parents, community organizations, local businesses, institutions, and farmers.

Education Long-Term Goal: Within 5 years the Obion County School District will increase the number of nutrition and agriculture curriculum resources and Farm to School training opportunities for teachers.

Growing Food Long-Term Goal: By 2025, the amount of school grown produce and products procured into Obion County school cafeterias will have increased by 5%.

The Obion County Farm to School Action Plan was written in collaboration with the Obion County School District and the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network. The Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that serves as a catalyst for a thriving and equitable local food system that is accessible to ALL.

Download the full Obion County Farm to School Action Plan at nwtnlfn.org/farm-to-school

~Samantha Goyret
NWTN Local Food Network Team
Farm to School Coordinator