TRAFALGAR, Ind. – From the fields to the lunchroom, a statewide initiative is working to connect Hoosier farmers to Indiana schools, with the hope of putting more homegrown produce into school cafeterias.
"We’ve got about 10,000 trees to prune," said apple farmer Sarah Brown, who owns The Apple Works with her husband. "So we gotta get started early.”
As harvest is coming to an end, work for next year is already underway at The Apple Works. Even though fall business inside the retail store starts to slow down, the sales don’t stop. Brown says her farm sells apples to five area schools, some buying as many as 30 cases a week.
"I've been told the kids are now eating their apples," Brown said. "Because they’re not out of some controlled atmosphere where they're over a year old, they’re fresh off the farm.”
“The school lunchroom is kind of like the biggest restaurant in the state of Indiana,” said Heather Tallman, who is the Membership Development Program Manager at Indiana Grown, a statewide program through the Department of Agriculture that promotes Indiana farmers and producers.
“There are a lot of schools and food service directors that would like to buy local foods, but they really don't have the time and resources to chase down who is doing what in their area," Tallman said.
So Indiana Grown is teaming up with Purdue Extension, the Indiana State Department of Health and the Department of Education to make a resource guide for schools.
“Our hope is that this guide would bridge the gap and save time and help them network together to get more local food in schools,” Tallmam said.
With nearly 600 school corporations across the state, the potential business for farmers and producers is quite large.
“It’s good for them, and it's great for us,” Brown said.
Indiana Grown is currently looking for farmers to fill out an online survey. They’re taking input until February, to have the guide done by next November. You can find that survey HERE.