Back to school with locally grown food

Justin Carter, Project Associate, Center For Rural Affairs
Thursday, September 17, 2020

As the new school year gets underway across the nation, we are seeing a renewed focus on agriculture education and local food.

Next to many schools, greenhouses are a common sight. With these come educational curriculum on planting, growing, and harvesting, along with nutrition and health. Greenhouses are not new to rural agriculture education, however, they may not include food production. For instance, schools often devote greenhouse space to flower production for school fundraisers and, while this offers financial incentives, an opportunity is missed. Growing food on campuses offers students the ability to visualize the origins of their meals, successful programs can introduce new technologies and even offer ingredients to school cafeterias.

For example, at East Butler Public Schools, in Brainard, Nebraska, students cultivate vegetables, such as lettuce, for the school cafeteria. This school is one of 10 rural schools selected to receive technical and financial support through the Center for Rural Affairs’ Greenhouse to Cafeteria project, which aims to revamp school greenhouses for food production.

Schools making this transition have purchased equipment to introduce new growing techniques. Grow towers have become a popular selection, offering students a new way to produce fresh greens. Many schools are also exploring aquaponic systems, which integrate fish production into the greenhouse growing. Importantly, greenhouses give educators the ability to instruct students during the bulk of the school year, whereas outdoor cultivation is most active in the summer.

For more information on farm to school or greenhouse to cafeteria projects, contact me at

Upcoming Events

Thursday, December 3, 2020
First Thursday, 5 p.m., City of Laurel Council Chamber
Monday, December 7, 2020
Mondays, 1:30 p.m., 201 1/2 E Main St.
Tuesday, December 8, 2020
2nd and 4th Tuesdays, 5:30 p.m., Council Conference Room
Tuesday, December 8, 2020
2nd Tuesday, 6 p.m., Council Conference Room
Tuesday, December 8, 2020
2nd and 4th Tuesdays, 6:30 p.m., Council Chambers
Wednesday, December 9, 2020
2nd Wednesday, 5:35 p.m., Council Chambers


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The Laurel Outlook


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