The Daily Dirt

Schools! Here’s how you can find farmers!

USDA Farm to School continued its webinar series on finding, buying, and procuring local food with a session this week titled, “Finding Local Producers.” For school districts just getting started with farm to school, and for those looking to grow their programs, finding farmers from whom to buy is one of the first steps! We have a lot of great tools in Georgia to help you find food producers in your area.

In addition to searching those databases for farms, you can find food producers in your community by connecting with folks who work with farmers every day. They can help point you in the right direction!

  • UGA Cooperative Extension
  • USDA Farm Service Agency
  • Georgia Farm Bureau
  • Farmers Markets are great places to find a lot of growers all in one place and start conversations with them. They may be growing on a larger scale and can support a school district.
  • Food Hubs are popping up more and more and, as aggregators of local products, will know lots of farmers.
  • Producer Associations represent a specific industry and support a specific product. Talking to a producer association is especially useful if you are looking for a specific product (i.e.: Blueberries).

Once you’ve found farms you’re interested in, try sending out a Request for Information (RFI). An RFI is not a solicitation; you won’t be making purchases from it. But it will give you a sense of what’s available, who’s willing to work with you, prices, etc. You can collaborate with a nearby district to issue the RFI so you can find out what’s available together. Good things to ask in your RFI include:

  • Products available
  • Quantity of each product available
  • Price point
  • Seasonal availability
  • Willingness to work with schools
  • If Geographic Preference is necessary when purchasing from them

For an example of an extensive RFI, see this one from School Food FOCUS. Keep in mind that your RFI could be much simpler.

For more information about working with local farms, check out our webpage for Nutrition Directors here.

For more information from USDA and to sign up for upcoming webinars, check out their Farm to School webpage here.

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