As the 2010-2011 school year comes to a close, the North Carolina Farm to School Program has posted its best year ever, closing in on nearly $1 million in sales. The program, which began in 1998, brings fresh, locally grown produce to North Carolina school children, providing a new market for the state’s farmers to sell their crops. Blueberries, tomatoes and sweet-potato sticks are just a few examples of the food products distributed through the program.
Total sales this year were more than $986,600, representing an increase of more than $200,000 in total sales from the 2009-2010 year. This year the program added two more weeks to its year and tried out four new crops–romaine lettuce, collard greens, squash and zucchini.
The seasonal sales record left Food Distribution Division Director Gary Gay optimistic about more growth in the future.
“Overall the program continues to grow,” he said. “We plan on adding more crops and more weeks to the program next year.”
Gay said he expects to close in on the $1 million sales mark soon.
“I think it’s well within our reach,” he said.
The top three crops sold during 2010-2011 were strawberries, bagged apple slices and pink lady apples compared to strawberries, bagged apple slices and red delicious apples in 2009-2010. Participation increased this year to a total of 78 districts, compared with 61 districts last year. This year’s 78 districts also represented all 100 of North Carolina’s counties.
Gay also was quick to point out that it is the school districts and the farmers who make this program what it is and who are responsible for its continued success.
“We listen to them and try to meet their needs,” he said. “We thank the schools and the farmers for continuing to invest in our program and for helping us grow.”
The Farm to School Program is a cooperative effort by the Food Distribution and Marketing divisions of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. These divisions work together to match up the needs of schools with what farmers are producing by assisting in the ordering, storage, transport and promotion of North Carolina agricultural products.
Additional information on the program can be found on the North Carolina Farm to School website.