The conference is designed for school districts looking to start or expand a Farm to School program, consumers who want to learn more about local food opportunities, as well as farmers and producers looking for ways to sell fresh, local foods to schools and other institutional cafeterias. Submitted photo.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State University Extension will serve as the local host for the National Farm to Cafeteria conference in Cincinnati April 25-27, 2018. The conference is designed for school districts looking to start or expand a Farm to School program, consumers who want to learn more about local food opportunities, as well as farmers and producers looking for ways to sell fresh, local foods to schools and other institutional cafeterias.

The conference is expected to draw more than 1,000 farmers, producers, educators, school food service professionals, parents, business leaders and OSU Extension experts. It is part of an effort to get more fresh, locally grown and produced foods into more school cafeterias and increase farmers’ economic opportunities, said Carol Smathers, an OSU Extension field specialist and director of Ohio Farm to School.

Farm to School is a national initiative, which in Ohio is led by OSU Extension in partnership with numerous agencies, organizations and industry groups. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) at Ohio State. The conference is organized by the National Farm to School Network and is being hosted by Ohio Farm to School, Smathers said.

“The national conference highlights innovative Farm to School approaches,” she said. “We expect participants will become aware of many ways their own work fits within Farm to School efforts.

“They’ll leave motivated to forge new procurement channels, plant school gardens, and offer more Ohio-grown foods in their communities’ cafeterias.”

The conference is April 26 from 7 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. and April 27 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Duke Energy Convention Center, 525 Elm St. in Cincinnati.

The conference will include speakers, workshops, poster presentations, field trips and several short courses. The event will also include a pre-conference forum April 25 to highlight Ohio’s Farm to School program and will focus on emerging issues, unique opportunities, challenges and barriers, and policy development, said Amy Fovargue, youth wellness program coordinator for Farm to School.

The forum will be facilitated by Ohio Farm to School and the Initiative for Food and Agricultural Transformation at Ohio State. It will feature an “Ohio Days: My Plate, My State” dinner as an example of a locally sourced Ohio Farm to School meal that would qualify as part of the school lunch program, Fovargue said.

Registration for the conference is $250 due by March 9, with additional costs for field trips and short courses. After March 9, the registration fee goes up to $300, plus any additional costs for field trips and short courses. To register or for information on scholarships to attend the conference, as well as other discounted admissions, go to go.osu.edu/farm2school-conference. For more information about the Ohio focused preconference, contact Fovargue at 740-398-8397 or fovargue.1@osu.edu. More information about Ohio Farm to School can be found at farmtoschool.osu.edu.