The Center for Healthy Communities (CHC) at California State University, Chico, has launched its Farm Stand Pilot Project at an elementary school to promote healthy eating and to enhance community. Every other week, staff from CHC make an hour-long trek from CSU, Chico to Burchfield Primary School in Colusa, armed with a wagon-full of fresh, seasonal, local produce to sell, and generous amounts of free produce tastings to give away.
Colusa is an agricultural community, yet has limited access to fresh produce in its retail stores. Funded by a Farmers’ Market Promotional Program grant, the Farm Stand project has quickly become a favorite of the school’s students and their families.
“Hey! HEEEYYYY!!! What do you guys have today?” a pair of fourth-grade girls call through the chain link fence while staff sets up their farm stand booth. “We have strawberries!” they call back. “YESSSS!” the girls squeal in excitement as they jump up and down, “We brought money today!”
Bringing the farm stand project to this small community has increased its access to – and consumption of – fresh, local produce, and has created an opportunity for the school’s community to gather around healthy food. On a typical day at the farm stand, you might see a fourth-grade boy dole out crunchy orange carrots he just bought with his own money to his friends, or a mom patiently encouraging her child to try produce samples.
The after-school rush to the stand brings all types of community members – teachers, principals, groundskeepers, parents, grandparents and younger siblings – who share and connect around the seasonal bounty. Parents swap recipes and ideas, while kids motivate their parents to purchase the delicious, affordable produce they have just sampled.
Starting a farm stand at a school can encourage a new generation to make healthy eating choices. If you would like to start your own, here are some tips to guide you:
Tips for Starting Your Own School Farm Stand
- Establish school buy-in. This is invaluable! If students are invested, parents are more likely to be invested. Get students involved by creating a farm stand club. Partner with interested teachers. Organize groups of students to be in charge of different parts of the farm stand, from a finance team and advertising crew, to hospitality and tasting squads.
- Know what sells. Pay attention to which produce items the community wants to buy.
- Maintain low prices. Keep pricing simple and affordable by offering small portions or quantities. As a guideline, make $2 the maximum cost, with most items being between 50¢ to $1.
- Align with another program. For example, aligning with the state’s Harvest of the Month™ program can be immensely helpful in promoting the farm stand.
- Promote. Make sure to advertise through signage, school marquees, fliers, websites, and social media.
- Consider sourcing. Look into obtaining produce through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm or by making deals with farmers to purchase end-of-market produce to sell at your farm stand.
- Host cooking demos and free tastings. These are a must! Activities draw people in.
To learn more about the Center for Healthy Communities Farm to School programs contact Sheila McQuaid, Farm to Fork coordinator at CHC and regional lead of the California Farm to School Network, at email@example.com, or visit http://www.csuchico.edu/chc
Hayley Baumgartner is a FoodCorps Service Member with Center for Healthy Communities in Chico, CA. She supports the Harvest of the Month program by preparing and distributing up to 20,000 tastings each month across the North Valley region.