Last week, a team of five from Warren County took an educational trip to the New North Florida Farmer’s Cooperative, an organization of small, independent farmers who have secured the steady market of their local schools. Team members included Warren County Child Nutrition Director Robert Parker, Economic Development Commission board member and farmer Victor Hunt, Economic Development Director Gabe Cumming, Carla Norwood of Working Landscapes, and FoodCorps Service Member Caroline Stover.
Glyen Holmes, director and founder of the cooperative, showed the group how farmers had developed marketable products for local schools such as chopped collard greens and sweet potato sticks. He also explained that schools can be a valuable market for farmers because they are permanent and pay regularly. Minimally processed foods (e.g. chopped produce) are more convenient for school cafeterias than unprocessed vegetables, and therefore they can be sold at a higher price per pound.
Parker said, "Warren County Schools is looking forward to working with our farmers to put Warren County produce on every school serving line." He offered valuable input as to what our schools could viably buy from local farmers. To serve schools, farms must meet certain requirements, such as being GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) certified.
”At Warren County Economic Development Commission, we are continually working to help open up new markets to local farmers,” said Cumming. “In many rural counties like ours, school districts are among the largest food buyers, so it is definitely worthwhile to find ways of getting local farm products into our cafeterias.” Processing local produce for sale to schools directly responds to goals that were identified by Warren County citizens during the 2011 Growing Local/Buying Local project.
Farmers who are interested in growing crops to be processed for schools or other local outlets should contact Caroline Stover: firstname.lastname@example.org or 336-287-1620.