For Farmers & Producers
Farm to School Overview
Why market your products to schools?
Watch the recording of this hour-long webinar to hear from farmers who are selling to schools on how its benefitted their business. Slides from the presentation are also available for download.
Toggle through the tabs on the left to learn more!
Finding Schools & Early Care Sites
It can be difficult to figure out which school districts or early care providers to reach out to. We suggest starting local first: do you have personal connections to a school or daycare? Reaching out to a site where you know a teacher or child can be a great entry point. Otherwise, use the tools below to expand your search.
This website catalogs school districts whose school nutrition directors have taken the Farm to School Census. Take a look through the list to find districts near your operation who have shown interest in purchasing local foods.
Check out the map of feeding and garden sites and paretner organizations who have participated in Illinois Harvest of the Month, our primary program for all sites to celebrate local and garden foods.
Use this directory to find school districts around Illinois. The site links to each district’s website, where you can find the contact information for the school nutrition director (or foodservice director).
Building Relationships with Schools
If you’ve found a school you’re interested in working with, be sure to clearly communicate your offerings and services upfront. Be prepared to share:
It’s also important to ask for detailed information from the school district or early care site. Information to collect from schools & early care providers:
If you can provide on farm learning experiences in the form of field trips or virtual learning you will add value to your relationship with schools and early childhood customers. Check out these guides to creating a field trip and education program on your farm:
This guide includes a translation between common wholesale units and school meal serving sizes (see pg 8-11). Use this to better understand how your products can be used in school meals!
This guide from our friends in Michigan provides valuable advice on working with schools, including how to set reasonable prices and respond to school food service Request for Prices (RFPs).
Wisconsin Farm to School Toolkit for Producers, UW-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS)
This is a fantastic resource for farmers to prepare for selling to schools. The guide includes tools to help you communicate about your business and set reasonable wholesale prices.
Early care centers, daycare programs, and preschools are another way to expand your markets and provide good food to children. This resource shares some key elements and considerations for growers interested in selling to childcare sites.
Food Safety for Farm to School
School nutrition directors are responsible for providing safe meals for children. Use the tools below to communicate with them about the practices you follow on your farm to keep products free from pathogens and safe for consumption.
Use these resources from the Local Foods and Small Farms team at UI Extension to explore Good Agricultural Practices. Contact your local Extension Office for more support.
This guide is intended for farmers and foodservice to use as an evaluation of readiness for selling to institutions. It covers water, soil amendments, field location, personnel, field sanitation, and packing shed sanitation issues.
Provides farmers with a comprehensive checklist on water, soil amendments, field location, personnel, field sanitation, and packing shed sanitation issues.
Learn more about the voluntary Good Agricultural Practices and Good Handling Practices (GAP & GHP) audits, which many distributors require from farmers. Some school districts may require GAP, though state and federal regulations DO NOT require school districts to use GAP certified farms.
GroupGAP makes food safety certification accessible for small and middle-sized producers by allowing farmers, food hubs, and other marketing organizations to work together to undergo GAP certification as a group. This allows group members to pool resources to implement food safety training programs and share the cost of certification.
Explore Logistical Options
If meeting volume or delivering product is a concern, you may want to look into joining a local farmer cooperative or food hub. If you have GAP food safety certification, a produce or broadline distributor may also help you deliver to multiple sites or districts. Check out the resources below to explore the ways you might connect to these logistical resources.
FarmLogix is a technology platform where farmers can list their products and get connected to distributors who sell to schools. Free to use for farmers! Learn more and sign up via our IL Harvest of the Month page–click the link.
Search the USDA’s directory to find a food hub operating near you. The directory includes contact information and a description of what kinds of products and services each food hub provides.
Interested in starting a new food hub in Illinois? This resource, published in 2012, provides support on food hub development within the state context.
Tell Your Story
Farm to school is not just about selling more product–it’s about educating the next generation about where their food comes from and building relationships across the community. Share photos and videos from your farm, invite students for farm field trips, and arrange visits to the school during the off-season.
This guide is designed for farmers, teachers, and others interested in using farms for education and connecting them to the community. It includes strategies for marketing local food to schools and 45 hands-on, farm-based, educational activities. Published by VT FEED.
Making the Farm Connection: A Guide to Field Trips for Farmers, Community Alliance with Family Farmers
CAFF created this guide to help farmers and farm educators feel more comfortable planning and running successful farm visits for students.
FBEN provides free resources for farm-based educators that span a variety of focus areas: activities, songs, book suggestions, fundraising for farm-based ed, and more.