Farm to Fork


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The Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmers: Keeping the Dream of Farming Alive

As older farmers retire, fewer young farmers are stepping in to take their place. The number of beginning farmers dropped 20 percent in the last five-year census period, and the average US farmer now tops 58 years of age. more

CIAS Mini-Grants Support Graduate Student Research in Sustainable Agriculture

CIAS supports innovative graduate student research addressing the challenges faced by small- and medium-sized farms and food businesses. Awarded annually, our competitive mini-grants aid students as they initiate their research in sustainable agriculture and food systems. more


Announcing the 2019 Market Farm Madness Champion!

Hoophouse is your 2019 Market Farm Madness champion! They withstood high winds, late snow storms and controversy over cost share payments to win the tournament. more

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If You Serve It, Will They Come?

Posted April 2007

boy eating chili at schoolThe last decade has seen rapid growth in the number of farm-to-school initiatives in the United States. Despite the proliferation of farm-to-school programs and the significant energy and resources that have gone into their implementation, there have been few systematic assessments of these initiatives. We use the experience of the Wisconsin Homegrown Lunch Project, a farm-to-school project in Madison, Wisconsin, as a lens through which to identify structural challenges faced by all farm-to-school initiatives and examine a variety of key tactical issues that are likely to be confronted during their implementation.

We confirm that these initiatives can facilitate the acceptance and consumption of fresh vegetables by elementary school children. However, we find that the possibilities for connecting the land and the lunchroom are seriously constrained by the structure of most existing school lunch programs. These constraints include the overarching food culture, the quasi-privatized character of most school food services, the degree of industrialization of many school food services, issues of price, procurement and supply, and the need for processing facilities.

Through the Wisconsin Homegrown Lunch project, we learned that enthusiastic leadership from the food service director is critical to the success of a farm-to-school project. A cooperative approach with food service staff needs to be complemented by judicious application of external pressures. There are promising opportunities for students to consume fresh foods in places other than the cafeteria. Finally, an educational component is as important a part of a farm-to-school program as the connections between farmers and the food service.

We hope that this report will initiate a wider discussion of how farm-to-school programs are performing and what contributions they are making to the development of a sustainable food system.

Read this report (pdf file)

Related Research Brief: Farm-to -School Program Provides Learning Experience