News Release Distributed 04/30/15
BATON ROUGE, La. – The state’s first conference dedicated to the Farm to School initiative will be hosted by the LSU AgCenter at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center on May 27 with a focus to promote farm to school activities, networking and increase awareness.
Funded through a U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm to School grant, the conference is free for anyone interested in Louisiana students’ learning about local food and farms, growing food and increased access to fresh local food in schools.
Farm-to-school programs are key in order for schools to respond to the growing demand for locally sourced foods and for producers and food processors, manufacturers and distributors to increase marketing opportunities, said Carl Motsenbocker
, LSU AgCenter horticulture professor and conference chair.
Such programs support education efforts in nutrition and healthy eating, school gardens, field trips to local farms and cooking classes, Motsenbocker said.
“The statewide conference is a forum for attendees to be more familiar with the three aspects of farm-to-school programs – education, school gardening and local food procurement – as well as have an opportunity to network and learn from successful programs in the state,” he said.
The conference will have two main tracks with three sessions each throughout the day. One track will focus on garden and community, with sessions from starting and sustaining a school garden to connecting gardens to curricula.
The second track will examine child nutrition and producers, with sessions on local purchasing best practices for all sizes and farm-to-school food safety.
The goal is to have something of interest for everyone and to have presenters from across the state, Motsenbocker said. “Everyone should have new information, contacts and motivation on farm-to-school efforts at the end of the day.”
“Perhaps the most exciting part of the day will be just before lunch when a showcase of farm-to-school programs from around the state will take place,” said Ann Savage
, an LSU AgCenter extension associate and conference organizer.
“This ‘Success Stories’ session is designed to build momentum and allow for maximum awareness and for networking to take place in a short period of time.”
The keynote speakers are Sara Tedeschi of the National Farm to School Network’s Seed Change program and New Orleans chef and restaurateur Dickie Brennan. Tedeschi will provide an overview of the farm-to-school movement and familiarize the audience about what farm-to-school is and the importance for our communities, Savage said.
Brennan will be the lunchtime speaker and provide insight into Louisiana’s rich food culture and heritage, which will lead into regional breakout sessions that afternoon.
The regional breakout session will serve as a pre-planning meeting for regional meetings later in the summer, Savage said. In mid-July three follow-up regional meetings in New Orleans, Alexandria and Ruston will address more local farm-to-school programing needs.
The one-day statewide conference will provide informative sessions on different types of successful farm-to-school programs, allow attendees to meet others doing similar work and continue momentum moving forward to the regional meetings and beyond, Savage said.
“Farm to School is a win for children, farmers and communities,” said Katie Mularz, National Farm to School Network Louisiana lead. “This conference comes at a pivotal time for Louisiana as we continue our efforts connecting Louisiana schools with Louisiana agriculture and raising awareness about Farm to School.”
Registration will begin at 8 a.m., with the program beginning at 9 and ending at 4 p.m. Lunch will be included. Although the conference will be held for no charge, registration is requested and is available online at laf2sconference2015.eventbrite.com.
“During registration participants can view exhibits showcasing local products, including fruits and vegetables, seafood, beef and sweet potatoes,” Savage said. The Louisiana Egg Commission will also be serving omelets. Rick Bogren