Monday, February 20, 2012

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Post-Harvest Handling, Food Safety, and GAPs: Making it Work on a Real Farm

Course description
As the demand for local and organic food has exploded in the last five years, so has the expectation on the part of consumers and institutional buyers for clean produce that lasts on the shelf and in the refrigerator. At the same time, institutions have begun demanding food safety assurances, and now the Food Safety Modernization Act has opened the door for FDA regulation of the production and handling of fresh vegetables and produce.

Join Rock Spring Farm's Chris Blanchard for a review of post harvest handling practices, and the methods developed at Rock Spring Farm for meeting the documentation and record-keeping requirements of the GAPs audit process in a way that flows with the work on the farm, rather than existing as a separate set of tasks and requirements.

• Attendees will receive:
• Food Safety Begins on the Farm
• Food Safety Begins on the Farm: A Grower Self-Assessment workbook
• Sample farm map and SOP
• Water testing FYI handout

Who should attend?
•Specialty crop farm owners/operators and key employees
• School garden staff
• Food service/produce buyer professionals
• Extension staff, NGO staff, nonprofit employees, educators who work with specialty crop production and/or food safety/service

What you will gain...
Ability to describe the main areas of farm food safety
• Ability to assess areas that require implementation of GAPs to reduce chemical, physical, and biological risks.
• Ability to develop SOPs and record keeping logs for key areas.

About the Speaker
Chris Blanchard owns and operates Rock Spring Farm, with fifteen acres of certified organic vegetable, herb, and greenhouse production north of Decorah, Iowa, selling produce year-round through a 200-member CSA, food stores, and a farmers market since 1999. Under the banner of Flying Rutabaga Works, Chris' workshops about farm business concepts, food safety, organic vegetable production, and scaling up to farmers throughout the country have gained a reputation for fresh approaches, down-to-earth information, and honesty. He also co-directs the MOSES Organic Farming Conference. Rock Spring Farm passed the USDA GAPs audit in the fall of 2010.

Registration and Schedule
Thanks to the generous support of our sponsors, we’ve been able to keep costs low. Please mail or drop off your registration as soon as possible to ensure that we have the appropriate number of handouts and food.
Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. Workshop begins at 9 a.m. Workshop concludes at 4:45 p.m.
Location: Dreher Family 4-H Building, (next door to the Extension office), 2110 Harper St, Lawrence.
Questions? Contact us at 785-843-7058

Download Workshop Registration Brochure

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Johnson County Community College Plows a Campus Farm

Reposted from the Johnson County Community College website.

Mike Ryan, JCCC Campus Farm and Community Outreach Manager, stands in front of the 1870's timber-framed barn adjacent to the college's Horticultural Science Building.
 When the northwest corner of campus was plowed to create a vegetable farm this fall, the land came full circle after more than 40 years ­ from farm to suburban landscape back to farm.

 Mike Ryan began his duties as the campus farm and community outreach manager on Aug. 17, overseeing a two-and-a-half acre, four-season vegetable farm in support of the sustainable agriculture entrepreneurship certificate program, hospitality management program and the community.

Students in the sustainable agriculture entrepreneurship certificate program are required to complete three semesters of a practicum, learning a broad range of tasks facing the market farmer – planning, planting, harvesting, delivering, marketing, selling and bookkeeping. Previously, students completed their practicums at the Kansas State University Research and Extension Center in west Olathe, miles from the program’s classes offered at the main JCCC campus or Lawrence.

“Hopefully, having the vegetable farm on campus will be more convenient for students,” Ryan said.

Ryan, who helped to develop the K-State/JCCC student farm site and sustainable agriculture campus produce market, is working with Stu Shafer, professor and chair, sociology, who teaches sustainable agriculture classes, and students to plant one acre of land south of the Horticulture Science Center this fall with garlic, onion seed, spinach, leafy greens and cover crop plants that will be used to enrich the soil. Fall practicum students are also moving a high tunnel from the K-State Extension Center to JCCC.

“It is neat to see the students’ enthusiasm in their realization that the campus farm is a new operation and they are on the ground floor,” Ryan said.

Eventually, Ryan wants to see the farm become a four-season operation with crops available to JCCC’s Dining Services and to faculty, staff and the general public through a farmers’ market.

 “We are hoping to expand our weekly farmers’ market sale, providing volume allows,” Ryan said. “The market gives our students the experience of marketing produce and also provides people on campus with access to locally grown reputable food.”

Ryan also foresees the farm as a community outreach site for people interested in the local food movement to try different growing methods and for school districts interested in farm-to-school lunches, a movement he has volunteered with in Lawrence. Ryan also has been involved in composting efforts with the K-State/JCCC farm and JCCC dining services.

Ryan has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Kansas and a sustainable agriculture entrepreneurship certificate from JCCC.

“I would like to see the college establish a small local food community where consumers are face-to-face with the people who grow their food,” Ryan said.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Local Food Procurement Tips for School Dining Services

Solid, long-term relationships are built on trust and compatible goals. Three major components will make your search for local products most productive. First, provide detailed information about your operation to share with a prospective farm products vendor. Second, be ready to ask basic questions of the farmer or other supplier. Third, in order to fully utilize fresh fruits and vegetables which are seasonal, and to build a mutually advantageous relationship with a local supplier, be prepared to be flexible and creative. It’s worth the effort!

Step One: Prepare basic information about your operation for farmer or distributor conversations. 

1. Provide the following information:
  • Name:
  • Contact info:
  • Location of drop off point(s):
  • Time and day of drop off requirements:
  • Indicate the best way to reach you, and best times to call or visit.
2. How and when do you prefer to place orders (fax, email, phone)?

3. How does the farmer become an official vendor for your operation?
What paperwork is required in advance, and for each delivery?
Can the packing slip serve as an invoice or must bills be sent separately?

4. What produce are you interested in purchasing?
Provide a rough estimate of your weekly orders. Do not include items not grown in KS. Check the Growing Lawrence seasonality chart at
What quantities/product volume?
How often do you need delivery?

5. Provide a rough estimate of your weekly orders:
Dollar amount or product volume per type of product:
How long will it take farmer to get paid?

6. Do you serve meals in the summer? If yes, tell the farmer the dates, delivery locations, and size of orders for summer vs. regular school year.

Step Two: Talk with potential suppliers. 
Ask these questions and prepare others as needed.

Option 1: Talk with a local farmer.

1. Find prospective farmers in your area through searchable databases available at:
and visit local farmers markets or farm stands.

2. ls the farmer interested in, or already selling to, colleges or schools?

3. Give the farmer the basic information you prepared above.

4. What products does the farm sell? When are these products available for sale?

5. Does the farmer have a delivery truck and the ability to deliver regularly?

6. Would the farmer pick up products from other farms to deliver at the same time?

7. Does the farmer require a minimum purchase per delivery location, or per invoice?

8. How does the farmer address food safety issues?

9. Can you visit the farm?

Option 2: Talk with a distributor or other non-farm vendor about securing local items.

1. Can the vendor provide a list of local farms from which products have been procured in the past, and a sense of what local foods will be available, and when?

2. Can the vendor provide you with promotional materials from the farms whose products they sell?

3. Can the vendor give you a list of the local items that were offered to customers in the past year?

4. Does the vendor have a system in place to alert you to which products are in season and available each week?

5. Will the vendor pick up local products at the farm gate and deliver them directly to you? If not, how are locally grown foods tracked or segregated in the warehouse?

6. Will products be delivered to you in boxes which note the farm of origin, or which identify in some way where the items were locally grown?

7. How does the distributor address food safety issues?

8. Can you visit the farm and the distribution center?

These tips were adapted from the New Jersey Farm to School Network based on previous versions prepared by the Maryland Department of Agriculture, National Marketing Services and the Massachusetts Farm to School Project.  

Saturday, October 9, 2010

School Gardening Grants Available: Youth Garden Grants and Mantis Tiller, a project of the National Gardening Association, lists several grants available to school garden projects.

Deadline: November 1, 2010

NGA awards Youth Garden Grants to schools and community organizations with child-centered garden programs. In evaluating grant applications, priority will be given to programs that emphasize one or more of these elements:
  • educational focus or curricular/program integration
  • nutrition or plant-to-food connections
  • environmental awareness/education
  • entrepreneurship
  • social aspects of gardening such as leadership development, team building, community support, or service-learning.
Who should apply: Schools, youth groups, community centers, camps, clubs, treatment facilities, and intergenerational groups throughout the United States are eligible. Applicants must plan to garden with at least 15 children between the ages of 3 and 18 years. Previous Youth Garden Grant winners who wish to reapply may do so, but must wait one year (e.g., if you won in 2010, you can apply again in 2012) and have significantly expanded their garden programs. 
For the 2011 grant cycle, 100 grants are available. Packages are as follows:
  • Five (5) programs will receive gift cards valued at $1000 (a $500 gift card* to The Home Depot and a $500 gift card to the Gardening with Kids catalog and educational materials from NGA
  • Ninety-five (95) programs will receive a $500 gift card* to The Home Depot and educational materials from NGA
For more information and to download application info, please visit: 

Deadline: March 1, 2011

Each year, Mantis presents the Mantis Awards to charitable and educational garden projects that enhance the quality of life in their host communities. NGA selects 25 outstanding applicants to receive Mantis tiller/cultivators.

Who should apply: Any nonprofit garden program may apply. In the past, winners have included schools, churches, correctional facilities, parks departments, youth camps, community gardens, and many others. These are groups turning slim resources into bountiful gardens with far-reaching benefits, from increasing their community’s access to fresh nutritious foods to educating the public about the importance of gardening in our nation’s history.
Applicants must:
  • operate a charitable or educational program that is not for profit in the United States
  • not offer the tiller as a prize for fundraising (e.g., auction or raffle)
Award Packages: 25 programs will each receive a Mantis Tiller/Cultivator with border/edger and kickstand, and their choice of gas-powered 2-cycle engine or electric motor. Value: $349.00.

For more information and to download application info, please visit:

Digging Through the Farm to School Resources

 On October 7, 2010, a webinar entitled Digging Through the Farm to School Resources took place.

The USDA Farm to School Team and the National Farm to School Network jointly discussed where to find farm to school related resources, as well as highlighted a sampling of available resources in the areas of: 
  • how to get started; 
  • distribution; 
  • food safety; 
  • procurement; 
  • and nutrition/agriculture education. 
A series of Q&As related to this webinar, as well as a PDF of the presentation,  can be found on the USDA Farm to School page. A recording of the October 7th webinar will be available shortly.

UPDATE from the USDA website:
On October 7, 2010, a webinar entitled Digging Through the Farm to School Resources took place. The USDA Farm to School Team and the National Farm to School Network jointly discussed where to find farm to school related resources, as well as highlighted a sampling of available resources in the areas of: how to get started; distribution; food safety; procurement; and nutrition/agriculture education. We would like to thank the webinar participants for their thoughtful questions and comments. Below you can find links to watch and listen to the webinar, to a webinar handout, as well as follow-up questions and answer from the webinar.
Digging Through the Farm to School Resources:
Watch and Listen to Webinar
Presentation Handouts
Webinar Q&As
Farm to School Resources
Food Safety
Procurement of Local Food Products