Hundreds of thousands of Louisiana children attend schools each day, and Seeds to Success: The Louisiana Farm to School Program reaches many of them in a variety of ways. The program educates students about fruits, vegetables and other regional products, such as crawfish. It also helps link farmers with school districts in their areas so children can eat locally grown produce.
In this issue of Louisiana Agriculture, Carl Motsenbocker, the executive director of Seeds to Success, and Crystal Besse, the program director, explain how local food systems are seeing a resurgence. The Seeds to Success team details how the farm to school movement is assisting this growth. They also profile the people who work to make it possible — a teacher, farmers and an AgCenter Extension agent. In additional articles, researchers examine the economic benefits of farm to school programs as well as soil mixes for home gardeners and the media used by our consumer horticulture industry.
The LSU AgCenter is directly supporting a more resilient local and regional food system throughout the state and improving access to locally sourced nutritious food.
Carl Motsenbocker and Crystal Besse
Consumers are increasingly interested in local foods as many consider the perceived benefits of freshness, higher quality and better flavor for locally grown fruits, vegetables and meat products.
Crystal Besse and Celeste H. Finney
Farm to school activities not only enhance the learning environment but can also lead to improved eating habits for students throughout the state.
Celeste Finney and Crystal Besse
Louisiana Harvest of the Month, one aspect of Seeds to Success, provides food tastings and educational materials to schools across the state. Videos created with Louisiana Public Broadcasting are appropriate for children and adults.
Armstrong Farms is a third-generation farming operation in Bastrop led by 34-year-old Ashley and her 78-year-old father, Harper. They recently started providing produce to area schools.
Whitney McKinzie, Maria Bampasidou, Crystal Besse and Celeste Finney
There is no dispute that purchasing local items and using local vendors can keep money in the regional economy. Former Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness graduate student Whitney McKinzie measured Louisiana school districts’ economic impact from purchasing local foods.
Seeds to Success hosts a School Garden Leadership Workshop that features hands-on learning and lectures to help educators learn to build and sustain a school garden while incorporating farm to school programming into their curriculum.
Crystal Besse, Carl Motsenbocker and Pamela Hodson
A tool used to connect buyers with producers, Louisiana MarketMaker is directly managed by Seeds to Success, and the farm to school program promotes its use as the primary means for schools to locate local farms and producers.
Jessica Randazzo serves as the area nutrition agent for St. Mary Parish and is leading a successful example of farm to school work in action using garden-based nutrition education.
Jacey Wesley, Tyne Bankester and Pamela Hodson
The Seeds to Success team coordinates the annual Louisiana Farm to School Conference and provides a venue to exchange successes, farm to school information and networking opportunities each year.
Tyne Bankester and Jacey Wesley
The Seeds to Success team launched the Seeding LA project in 2019 to answer questions and support educators’ farm to school programming.
A nutrition instructor in the LSU College of Agriculture School of Nutrition and Food Sciences and a part of the Seeds to Success team, Myhand has worked with children, teens and college students for decades.
Melissa Starks, a Winnfield Primary School teacher, created a successful school garden with her students to help instill in them an appreciation of local food.
Jeb S. Fields and Kristopher Criscione
The practice of growing crops and plants in containers has become popular, partially because of the amount of control given to growers. A relatively novel technique for this is being developed within the Fields Lab. It involves stacking or layering unique substrate materials within a single container system.
Heather Kirk-Ballard, Kathryn Fontenot and Edward Bush
Three container mixes were evaluated for their use in the production of cucumbers, tomatoes and sweet potatoes. Those mixes were Old Castle topsoil, which served as the control, PRO-MIX as the industry standard and a potting soil developed by LSU known as Garden Greaux.
Crystal Besse works to connect Louisiana schools to local foods and the people who grow them. Seeds to Success works to educate students and school staff about nutrition, agriculture and local foods.