The state’s first Farm to School conference will be May 27 at Pennington Biomedical Research Center, 6400 Perkins Road, Baton Rouge.
Hosted by the LSU AgCenter and Pennington and funded through a U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm to School grant, the conference is free to anyone interested in Louisiana students learning about local food and farms, growing food and increased access to fresh, local food in schools.
Sara Tedeschi, of the National Farm to School Network’s Seed Change program, and New Orleans chef and restaurateur Dickie Brennan will be keynote speakers. Tedeschi will provide an overview of the farm-to-school movement while Brennan, the lunchtime speaker, will discuss Louisiana’s food culture and heritage.
Carl Motsenbocker, LSU AgCenter horticulture professor, will head up the conference. He says farm-to-school programs support education in nutrition and healthy eating, school gardens, field trips to local farms and cooking classes.
“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.
One track of the conference will focus on garden and community, with sessions on subjects like starting and sustaining a school garden and connecting gardens to curricula. The second track will focus on child nutrition and producers, with sessions on local purchasing best practices and food safety.
“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.”
A regional breakout session will serve as a pre-planning meeting for regional meetings later in the summer, Savage said. Those meetings, in mid-July, will be held in New Orleans, Alexandria and Ruston.
“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 for the conference begins at 8 a.m., with programming running from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Lunch is included. Though the conference is free, registration is required. Visit laf2sconference2015.eventbrite.com.