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.

#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 nwtnlfn.org/food-resources.

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 nwtnfoodguide@gmail.com.

“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 https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/LFG2023 or learn more at nwtnlfn.org/food-resources.

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! nwtnfoodguide@gmail.com

Grow Food Challenge Winner Donates Prize and Hunger Relief Guide Published

Beginning on Earth Day, Saturday, April 22 through July 1, 2023, the #GrowFoodChallenge partnered with 14 Seed Distribution Partners in 9 northwest Tennessee counties to distribute 2,700 seed packets donated by the Society of St. Andrews, Sow True Seed, Community Gardens Commission, Barefoot Gardens, and Ferry Morris. 

Doubling the amount from last year, in 2023, 105 participants registered, impacting a total of 609 individuals, families, and childcare centers, including 338 children from nine (9) Northwest Tennessee Counties: Benton, Carroll, Crockett, Dyer, Gibson, Henry, Lake, Obion, and Weakley, TN. 

The #GrowFoodChallenge is a yearly call to action for individuals, families, schools, & community groups in Northwest Tennessee to grow food (#NWTNEssentialGardens) & build soil (#ComePostYourCompost). Local growers are encouraged to donate their extra produce to food pantries throughout the region by visiting the NWTN LFN’s webpage: nwtnlfn.org/volunteer/plant-a-row-for-the-hungry.

#Grow Food Challenge participants could participate in three themed photo entry opportunities to win prizes: START. GROW. HARVEST. Participants entered up to a total of 6 photos showcasing their growing food and food waste projects. There were several prizes associated with each theme including the grand prize to fill a chest freezer with a quarter processed beef from NB Beef Company.

Owen Wenz, is the #GrowFoodChallenge winner of a family pass for four from Discovery Park of America! Owen is very knowledgeable about plants and loves to grow food! It’s little guys like him that inspire big kids like us to grow more food and reduce food waste!

Margaret Perry Childcare Center inWeakley County, Tennessee won theBamboozle compost pail prize from this year’s#GrowFoodChallenge. The staff and children not only grow healthy food, they serve healthy food in their daycare meals, too!#farmtoECE

Bethany Overington from Carroll County won the START prize for the #GrowFoodChallenge donated by Tractor Supply out of Milan, TN.

The NWTN Local Food Network recently published a Hunger Relief Guide. Local growers are encouraged to donate their extra produce to food pantries throughout the region by downloading the guide from NWTN LFN’s webpage: nwtnlfn.org/volunteer/plant-a-row-for-the-hungry.

On Saturday, July 1st, at the Martin Farmer’s Market Celebration Event, Samantha Goyret and Caroline Ideus, Local Food Network Team Members and Co-Managers of the Market, with the help of musician Alex Sadler, announced the winner of this year’s #Grow Food Challenge. 

The McKenzie Senior Center from Carroll County, TN was announced as the grand prize winner. They won a chest freezer to include a quarter processed beef from NB Beef Company out of Sharon, TN. 

Pictured here, left Samantha Goyret and Right Caroline Ideus present a sign of gratitude to NB Beef Company owners – Cody Nanney and Justin Burlison, who donated a quarter of their locally raised and processed beef to the #GrowFoodChallenge Grand Prize Winner: McKenzie Senior Center who will be donating their prize to United Neighbors, a food pantry in Carroll County.

“We are thankful for the opportunity to partner with NWTN Local Food Network to provide this type of offering. Eat local and Eat beef!”

– Justin Burlison, Co-owner of NB Beef Company

These gifts keep on giving because, as a collective decision, the McKenzie Senior Citizens Center has donated their prized freezer full of local beef to United Neighbors, a local thrift store and food pantry located in McKenzie in Carroll County, TN.

Left to right: A #GrowFoodChallenge collaboration with Samantha Goyret – NWTN Local Food Network, Cody Nanney – NB Beef Company, Saudia Aiken – United Neighbors, Karen Ibarra – McKenzie Senior Citizens Center

“We have been serving our community’s seniors since 1963 with a total 82 active annual members today,” stated Carol Armpriest, President of the McKenzie Senior Citizens Center.  “We decided to donate our grand prize to United Neighbors because they could use a freezer full of local beef for their clientele in our community. It aligns with the activities the Local Food Network is promoting in the #GrowFoodChallenge – provide your extra food to others who are in need.”

Photo: (Left to Right) Carol Armpriest, Samantha and Sofia Goyret, and Karen Ibarra pose with the Hunger Relief Guide and their #GrowFoodChallenge Winner Certificate in front of the McKenzie Senior Citizens Center square-foot garden that is located behind their building, near the EW James Grocery Store parking lot in McKenzie, TN. They will be donating their prize to United Neighbors, a local food pantry.

Karen Ibarra, also pictured, partnered with Carol in creating the garden with the goal of benefiting the McKenzie Senior Center members and local community with vegetables and knowledge about growing your own food. As a UT Extension Master Gardener Volunteer, Mrs. Ibarra stated, “sharing the garden experience and the beef also aligns with the mission of the Tennessee Master Gardener Program to improve the lives of Tennesseeans by promoting individual and community health and environmental stewardship.”

“The timing of this gift could not be at a better moment,” stated Saudia Akin, Executive Director of United Neighbors. “We are seeing more families in need of food this year, and we often run out of food by the end of the month. Providing this local source of protein is an incredible gift to our clientele in need.”

United Neighbors, located on 2455 Cedar Avenue in downtown McKenzie, will be offering food boxes to anybody in need on Wednesday, October 4th at 5pm.

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.

We hope you can join us for next year’s Northwest Tennessee #GrowFoodChallenge. Learn more at nwtnlfn.org/grow-food-challenge.

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.

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.

NWTN Farm to School Partnerships win $1 Million through Action for Healthy Kids & Local Foods in Schools Grants

As part of a cooperative agreement to develop and implement the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Healthy Meals Incentives Initiative, Action for Healthy Kids today announced that it is awarding nearly $30 million in subgrants to 264 school districts across 44 states and the District of Columbia, reaching students in some of our nation’s highest need schools. These funds are being provided by USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service.

Out of nine (9) grants awarded throughout the state of Tennessee, four (4) of these grants were awarded to the following Northwest Tennessee Schools: Bradford Special School District – $144,086; Milan Special School District – $144,086; Trenton Special School District – $144, 086; and Weakley County School District – $150,000 totaling $582,258 for Northwest Tennessee School Districts.

“We are so grateful to be a recipient of the Healthy Meals Incentive Grant.  This $150,000 grant will be a tremendous asset and will enable us to replace some antiquated equipment,” stated Trista Snider, Director of Weakley County Schools Nutrition Department.  “We will also consult with a chef that specializes in K-12 operations to assist us in learning how to prepare even more delicious, scratch meals, incorporate efficiency hacks, and assist in learning how to incorporate more locally grown produce and locally raised meat.”

The Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network, a local nonprofit based out of Martin, TN, was a fundamental partner in helping facilitate the formation of the Healthy Meals Incentive projects. 

“Our mission is to catalyze actions that are increasing access to a thriving and equitable local food system for all in our region,” stated Caroline Ideus, Outreach Director and Farm to School Consultant of the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network (LFN). “Access to healthy food is vital for our growing children. Our school nutrition programs have proven to be a vital asset and the largest classroom in every school. Through our established Farm to School partnerships in Bradford, Milan, Trenton and Weakley School Districts, we are helping advance their farm to school initiatives through increased access to healthy and nutritious meals, nutrition education, and fortifying school nutrition programs across our region.”

Earlier this year, the LFN facilitated additional grant applications with four additional school districts (Crockett County Schools, Trenton Special Schools, Weakley County Schools and Cheatham County Schools) to receive a grant for TN school districts called “Local Foods for Schools” grant through the TN Department of Education. This grant aims to help offset costs for local food  purchasing, storing and distributing local foods from local farms.

Each small and/or rural school district will receive up to $150,000 to support them in improving the nutritional quality of their meals and modernizing their operations, through efforts which could include:

  • Innovative staff training programs;
  • Redesigning food preparation and service spaces;
  • Kitchen updates and renovations;
  • Other school-district led efforts to support school meals and school nutrition professionals.

“When we strengthen school meal quality, we strengthen child health,” said USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Stacy Dean. “These grants are the largest targeted investment USDA has ever made for school meal programs in small and rural communities. We want to ensure every child in America has the opportunity to attend a school with high quality, nutritious meals, and this support is a step in that direction.”

An online map features the selected school districts and their grant amounts. The map will be updated on a rolling basis as schools formalize their grant agreements.

“Offering healthier school meals is key to helping our nation’s kids get the nutrients they need today and for their long-term development,” said Action for Healthy Kids CEO Rob Bisceglie. “Through this historic investment in school nutrition, we will help school districts across the country overcome challenges and develop solutions to provide nutritious foods for the children they serve.”

USDA and Action for Healthy Kids also recently opened applications for the Healthy Meals Incentives Recognition Awards, which celebrate school districts that have made significant improvements to the nutritional quality of their school meals. All school districts in the United States are invited to apply. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis through June 30, 2025.

School districts that meet Recognition Award criteria will receive benefits such as national and local recognition; travel stipends to attend a national Healthy Meals Summit; access to diverse best practices, training activities; and more.

Action for Healthy Kids will manage the grants to school districts, Recognition Awards, and Healthy Meals Summits with the support of The Chef Ann Foundation and Rocky Mountain Center for Health Promotion and Education.

FNS works to end hunger and improve food and nutrition security through a suite of 16 nutrition assistance programs, such as the National School Breakfast and National School Lunch Programs, the Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants, and Children and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Together, these programs serve 1 in 4 Americans over the course of a year, promoting consistent and equitable access to healthy, safe, and affordable food essential to optimal health and well-being. FNS also provides science-based nutrition recommendations through the co-development of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. FNS’s report, “Leveraging the White House Conference to Promote and Elevate Nutrition Security: The Role of the USDA Food and Nutrition Service,” released in conjunction with the historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in September 2022, highlights ways the agency will support the Biden-Harris Administration’s National Strategy. To learn more about FNS, visit www.fns.usda.gov and follow @USDANutrition.

Action for Healthy Kids is dedicated to improving children’s health and well-being by bringing together and mobilizing educators, families, and other key stakeholders to help children lead healthy lives. Through its core programming and family-school partnerships, AFHK has impacted more than 20 million children in 55,000 schools nationwide to address systemic challenges in underserved communities. To learn more about its growing network of volunteers and champions, visit www.actionforhealthykids.org.

The Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network envisions a sustainable regional food system that utilizes locally grown and produced foods to promote healthy individuals, equitable communities and thriving local economies. The LFN serves as a consulting partner to growing Farm to School initiatives throughout Northwest Tennessee. Learn more at nwtnlfn.org/programs/farm-to-school.

The Tennessee Department of Education’s School Nutrition program is responsible for providing nutritious meals and snacks for students in public and private schools, as well as residential and child care institutions. TN School Nutrition administers the USDA’s National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program and Afterschool Snack Program across the state. All public schools in Tennessee are on the National School Lunch Program, which provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day. Learn more at www.tn.gov/education/health-and-safety/school-nutrition.html

Source: Weakley County School Nutrition Department
This is a snapshot of a school meal provided by Weakley County School District in March 2023, sourcing strawberries from Bell Family Farms out of Gleason, TN, local milk from Prairie Farms, and FFA school grown hydroponic lettuce. The Weakley County Farm to School Initiative plants the seeds for students to learn where their food comes from by growing, observing, and experiencing hands-on opportunities. The growth of the initiative occurs as educators, farmers, and local ag-based entities work together to create a nationally recognized sustainable model. Learn more about NWTN Farm to School Action Plan visions and goals at nwtnlfn.org/programs/farm-to-school

Join Our Team – Paid Internship Positions Open

The Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network is HIRING! We have two openings for the following paid internship position to start this May – Marketing & Communications, and starting this August 2023- Local Food Procurement.

Summer – Marketing and Communications Internship has been filled.


Fall – Local Food Procurement Internship

Intern Job Description

The Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network Local Food Procurement Intern, starts August 2023 – December 2023, and will serve in this capacity to complete at least 135 hours of service. The intern will receive a $500 stipend upon completion of this internship. This is a grant funded position paid for through the USDA Farm to School Implementation Grant.

Purpose of Internship

This position will foster a deeper understanding of how local food systems work, hone the following skill sets: organizing, research, & writing skills, team building, and project management. The intern will report to the LFN Executive Director while supporting the following programs and initiatives within the following areas:

  • Harvest of the Month: Share HOTM Calendar with Farmers to start connecting their products with local schools, early childcare centers and hunger relief organizations
  • Local Food Procurement Education & Access: Continual support virtual local food procurement training and sourcing opportunities related to #FarmtoSchool activities, promote the Local Food Procurement Manual Publication, connect schools with local foods
    • Encouraging increased consumption of local grown foods through promotional activities, taste tests, and other activities featuring local products in collaboration with the Harvest of the Month Program, School Nutrition Programs and local farms.
  • Press Releases: draft press releases and support monthly e-newsletter content creation
  • Nourishing Connection: support Fall Nourishing Connection Grow Kit assemblies and distribution
  • General program support: responsibilities may include administrative tasks, survey dissemination, assisting with general organizational operations, and attending Local Food Network team, Board meetings and tabling events.

Qualifications of Applicant:

  • Remote capable – have access to the internet from your place of residence
  • Self-Motivated, Detail oriented, organized, dependable
  • Effective written and oral communication skills
  • Proficiency in using Microsoft Programs, Google Drive, and WordPress
  • Interest in and dedication to promoting local food and agriculture

STEPS TO APPLY FOR INTERNSHIP POSITIONS
This position is open until filled.

Send a cover letter and your resume to Samantha Goyret, Executive Director, Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network at nwtnfoodguide at gmail.com.

Applications are due by Tuesday, August 8, 2023.

Interviews conducted the second week of August.

Internship positions begins on Monday, August 14, 2023 through December 15, 2023.

The Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network serves as a catalyst for a thriving and equitable local food system that is accessible to ALL.

The Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network does not discriminate against any qualified applicant for employment because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, familial status, physical or mental disability.