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Do you want to sell your produce to a Farm to School program? Here are five things to think about…

Author: Kate Seybold,Farm to School Coordinator, Minneapolis Public Schools

 Farm to School programs are growing in popularity across Minnesota and the nation as more schools seek to purchase food from local farms and provide education related to food, nutrition, and farming. For many farmers, working with a Farm to School program can be an entry point into other wholesale markets, an opportunity to specialize in crops, and a way to strategically grow sales. So what should you consider if you are interested in selling produce to a Farm to School program?

1. Invest in relationships. Farm to School Programs are all about building partnerships. If you are interested in selling to school, reach out with a phone call or an email. Take the time to tell them about you and your farm, learn about their food service program, and ask about ways that you can work together. Even after you have started selling product to a school, continue to invest in your relationships.

2. Consider what products you can efficiently and profitably produce at higher volumes. Schools purchase produce at wholesale prices, which are lower than retail. However, schools generally purchase product in large volumes. Think strategically about what produce items make sense for you to sell to a Farm to School program. Offer a competitive price for your products, but don’t undercut yourself. Set yourself up for success by identifying product items and prices that are sustainable for your farm.

3. Think about food safety. Schools need to be sure that they are serving their students high-quality, safe produce. Before you reach out to institutions, write a food safety plan to document the food safety practices that you follow. A Food Safety Plan will demonstrate your professionalism and preparedness. Some institutions may require GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) Certification. If this is the case, writing your food safety plan is the first step in preparing for certification!

4. Start small and find buyers who fit your scale. Consistency in quality and quantity are important. Consider what items you can consistently grow at the highest quality, and find schools that are seeking produce in the quantities that you can provide. Avoid entering large contracts that you may not be able to fulfill. If you start small, you can work your way up to larger orders. Wholesale size and quality specifications may also be different than what you are used to selling at a farmers market, to retail stores, or in CSAs. Talk with the school to find out what exactly they want. Depending on how they plan to use the produce, they may be seeking large varieties that are uncommon in retail, or they might even have use for seconds or cosmetically imperfect items. Identify items and order sizes that work well for you and the institution—it should be a win-win!

5. Good communication is important. Schools oftentimes have to plan menus several months in advance, and last-minute menu changes hard are to make. But, as we all know, the weather can’t be controlled! Crops may be ready sooner or later than anticipated, or yields may be not be what you expected. So the key to Farm to School success is good planning and even better communication. Stay in touch with the school and give them regular updates about how crops are looking in terms of timing and yield. Like farmers, school food service professionals are busy folks, so it’s important to make communication easy and efficient.

Are you interested in learning more about how Minneapolis Public Schools operates their Farm to School Program? Curious if your farm might be a good fit for their program? Attend Minneapolis Public Schools’ FARM TO SCHOOL GROWER INFORMATION MEETING on December 12th from 10:30-11:30am at the MPS Culinary Center (812 Plymouth Ave N, Minneapolis). To learn more, visit:

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