National Farm to College Program
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For extensive information on farm to college projects
around the country and other valuable resources and information, go to
the Official Farm to College Website
Farm to College Projects - Is There a Need?
Currently, family farming in the United States is
in crisis. Of all occupations in America, farming is facing the greatest
decline. Less than 2% of the U.S. population is involved in farming,
and the federal Census Bureau has declared the number of farms
"statistically insignificant." The farmer share of the food dollar has
declined from 41 cents in 1950 to 20 cents in 1999. The bleak outlook
for earning a good living by farming is discouraging to the younger
generation, with nearly half of farmers over age 55, and only 8% of
farmers under age 35. With increasing costs for land and water, fewer
marketing outlets, and the growth of suburban sprawl and agribusiness,
family farmers find themselves selling the farm to feed their family.
Many farms remain in business only because of family members who have
other jobs and provide off-farm income.
While farmers' wallets are getting slimmer, students nationwide are
experiencing an epidemic of obesity. Obesity puts young people at risk
for hypertension, adult obesity, cancer, heart disease, and strokes. In
an increasing number of colleges and universities, the food service
department, with limited funds and facilities, is contracting meals out
to fast food chains such as McDonalds, Domino's or Taco Bell. There is
an absence of fresh and healthy food choices, a lack of awareness of
where and how food is grown, and a lack of understanding of how
unhealthy food choices lead to health problems.
How do Farm to College Projects Work?
College food service departments have an important
influence over students' eating habits and health. For many college
students, the dining hall provides the majority of their meals. Farm to
college projects offer opportunities for increasing farmer income,
supporting the local economy and the environment, and improving
students' eating habits.
There are college campuses where meals consisting of vegetables and
meats produced in that state are featured at catered events and other
campuses that serve several locally produced items in their dining halls
on a regular basis. By purchasing directly from local farmers, food
service is helping a local farm stay in business and keeping dollars in
the local economy. Promoting these partnerships strengthens
relationships between the town and college. Supporting local foods adds
to a sense of pride for one's state that many in-state students and
native faculty and staff appreciate. Typically, locally produced foods
are raised with fewer chemical insecticides, herbicides, fertilizers,
and other synthetic additives than foods shipped in from other parts of
the country or world. Vast amounts of packaging, fuel, refrigeration,
and ozone-depleting gases are required to refrigerate and transport
food. By purchasing directly from local farmers, college food services
are supporting a more environmentally sound production and delivery of
food and preserving the comfort and beauty of farmland.
The consumption of local foods and the awareness of the benefits of a
vegetarian diet or a low-fat diet are on the rise amongst students.
Many arrive on campus already aware and used to eating these foods.
Others may take classes and learn about the benefits of supporting local
farmers. Many campuses have student greening groups that are developing
educational materials and programs on sustainable agriculture and the
benefits of eating locally produced foods. These colleges are producing
students who have gained an awareness for the benefits of eating
nutritious foods and supporting local farmers. The future of small
farms, the environment, and students' eating habits looks brighter
because of these partnerships between farmers and colleges.
The movement to organize farm to college projects has come from
farmers, students, faculty, food service, and community groups.
Including all of these players, who represent crucial viewpoints, is key
to successful design and implementation. Each farm to college project
is unique to the college or university where it is based. There is no
one blueprint; successful projects are "custom-made."
For examples of farm to college projects around the country, go to Farm to College Programs
What Assistance does the Farm to College Program Offer?
Regional Workshops and Conferences
The Farm to College Program is organizing workshops and conferences
across the United States to: 1) inform folks about farm to college
projects; and 2) bring together farmers, students, faculty, food service
staff, and community groups to address the barriers and opportunities
involved in creating a farm to college project.
Farm to College Website
The Farm to College Program hosts the Farm to College website to provide new and existing programs the latest information available on how to build a successful program.
CFSC is continually surveying existing Farm to
College programs to share what they have learned from their experiences.
The results of original National Farm to College Research Report
(2002) can be viewed here; to view subsequent research and add information about your own program, go to the Farm to College website.
After reviewing the information on the Farm to College website, if you have further questions, please contact:
National Farm to College Program Manager
Phone: (570) 658-2265
Email: kristen (at) foodsecurity (dot) org