Category Archives: CA Farm To Fork website

Congratulations to California’s 2018 USDA Farm to School Grantees!

USDA’s Office of Community Food Systems announced today that 73 communities in 43 states, the District of Columbia and Guam have been awarded farm to school grants to explore, expand, or scale up their farm to school activities. The 2018 awards total $5.2 million, and will impact 2.8 million students.

Students bringing home vegetables from field trip

Congratulations to our California Grantees:

  • Bakersfield City School District, Bakersfield

Through partnership, collaboration, and engagement, Bakersfield City School District will create a comprehensive network that incorporates food production, processing, distribution, consumption, and waste recovery.

  • Colusa County Office of Education, Colusa

Colusa County Office of Education (CCOE) will actively partner with the Colusa Indian Community Hand In Hand Learning Center, Williams Unified School District, Colusa County Resource Conservation District, and the Center for Healthy Communities to develop a comprehensive plan to incorporate locally grown foods on student meal trays and at home. The CCOE garden site will include a greenhouse for seedlings, leafy greens and vegetables in raised beds, and a small orchard of nut and fruit trees. The garden sites will also include a laboratory pathway of native grasses, shrubs, and trees that may be used as a “science classroom” for programs working to implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Future Farmers of America members from around the county will also be able to use the “science classroom” as a training site.

  • Humboldt County Office of Education, Eureka

Humboldt County Office of Education (HCOE) will develop a comprehensive farm to school program in after-school settings to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables and improve food and agricultural literacy for low-income students. Currently, their after-school students participate in HCOE’s Harvest of the Month (HOTM) culinary activities that feature local fruits and vegetables. This project will build on the HOTM framework by integrating hands-on gardening, experiential field trip opportunities, and local procurement for supper meals.

  • Los Molinos Unified School District, Los Molinos

Los Molinos Unified School District will develop relationships with industry partners and programs to build a new greenhouse and utilize the Horticulture Pathway. The district will develop cross-curricular lessons in various career pathways while Los Molinos High School will plan which fruits and vegetables will be grown in the new greenhouse. Students will be involved in a work-based learning environment that consists of preparing the soil, growing seedlings, supporting vegetation, crop management, crop production, and food preparation. A soil center, shade house, and a grape orchard will be developed and include crops such as carrots, lettuce, broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, celery, and grapes. The future intent is to provide these vegetables and fruits to all three schools within the Los Molinos Unified School District.

Looking Ahead to a Fertile Future

Collage of walnuts, cow, tacos, lettuce, milk, bee keeper collecting honey, orange, farmer and bowl of brown eggs

As 2018 draws near, CDFA’s Office of Farm to Fork (the Office) can look back on all that happened in 2017 and know that there will be an even-stronger commitment to improving all Californians’ access to California-grown foods by working to reduce food insecurity and advancing farm-to-school relationships. We are pleased to share the details of this work through the release of the 2016 – 2017 Annual Report, a Redesigned Website, and a new Strategic Plan.

In 2017 the Office assumed leadership of the California Farm to School Network, an organization dedicated to increasing student access to food grown within our state and educating them about the production of that food. The network connects 4,300 stakeholders, including farmers and school districts, across the state with the collective goal of improving the quality of student meals and inspiring lifelong healthy eating habits.

The Office is also operating the California Nutrition Incentive Program (CNIP), which encourages the purchase and consumption of healthy, California-grown fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts by nutrition benefit clients at certified farmers’ markets. The program is a win-win for farmers and low-income Californians. Since launching this past summer, CNIP has provided over $500,000 in fresh fruit and vegetables to low-income shoppers. More details can be found here.

Throughout 2017 the Office also continued its commitment to provide stakeholders and the public with reports, program profiles, and best practices. Materials are available on the newly redesigned and are arranged by topic.

There is still a long road ahead but we are pleased with the roadmap created and invite you to explore our 2016 -2017 Annual Report, Strategic Plan, and redesigned website to learn more about the work and direction of the CDFA Office of Farm to Fork.

Redesigned Site
Strategic Plan
Annual Report

California Small Farm Conference turns 30

Man in front of herd of cows

The 30th anniversary of the California Small Farm Conference, a gathering for small-scale farmers, ranchers, and farmers’ market managers, will be held Sunday, October 29 – Monday, October 30 at the Robert Cabral Agricultural Center in Stockton. The conference aims to promote the success and viability of small farming and ranching operations and certified farmers’ markets through short courses, tours, workshops and networking opportunities.

For more information and registration visit

CDFA and the Office of Farm to Fork join in celebration of National Farmers Day

I love farmers #nationalfarmersdayCDFA and the Office of Farm to Fork join the rest of the country in celebrating National Farmers Day today. Here are some interesting facts about our farmers and ranchers:

  • There are roughly 3.2 million farmers in the United States—that’s less than 2 percent of our population.
  • Ninety-nine percent of farms are family-owned, and account for 89 percent of agriculture production.
  • The average American farmer grows enough to feed 165 people!
  • USDA’s latest Census of Agriculture found that 25 percent of farmers were “new and beginning” – meaning they had been operating their current farm for fewer than ten years. (But we need lots more new and beginning farmers!)
  • And there are 969,672 women farmers in the United States – that’s nearly 1/3 of all farmers.
  • Farmers are tech-savvy. Satellites, GPS systems, and other new solutions are helping today’s farmers get the most of every acre, drop of water and seed they plant.

***Cross-posted from CDFA’s Planting Seeds Blog***


California dairy kicks off #SealsForGood milk drive

 Child holding glass of milk. Text on Poster:Feed a Childhood with Milk

TRACY, Calif. — Milk is one of the most-requested staples at food banks, but among the least donated. On average, people served by food banks receive the equivalent of less than 1 gallon per person per year. To help fill this gap and support families in need in areas affected by hurricanes Harvey and Irma, California dairy farm families launched the Seals for Good social media challenge, which will provide up to 4,000 gallons of milk to families and children struggling with hunger.

“It is important to California’s dairy farm families to help ensure access for all to nutritious milk and dairy foods. The need is especially acute with so many families affected by the recent hurricanes,” said John Talbot, CEO of California Milk Advisory Board and Real California Milk. “Products like cheese, butter, yogurt, cottage cheese and ice cream with the Real California Milk seal are available throughout the U.S., which makes the Seals for Good campaign an easy way for people to support the people in need with just a simple social media post.”

Social Media Challenge: Post a photo of a dairy product (cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, butter, ice cream) showing the Real California Milk seal on Facebook or Instagram using the hashtag #SealsForGood.

Timing: Kicks off September 25, 2017 and runs through December 31, 2017

Donation: For each qualifying post, $5 – representing a gallon of milk – will be donated to the Great American Milk Drive (up to $20,000 total) through Feeding America to provide vouchers for fresh milk to families in need in Florida and Texas.

“Providing fresh milk to people in need is always challenging, but it’s especially difficult for food banks during times of crisis,” said Nancy Curby, SVP of Corporate Partnerships & Operations at Feeding America. “Feeding America is grateful for the ongoing support of the dairy industry, and it’s wonderful to see our partners step up to help people when they need it most. We know that giving our network the ability to distribute fresh milk will help relieve some stress for families in disaster-affected areas as they work to rebuild.”

Each year, more than 46 million people, including 12 million children, are served by Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization. It has a nationwide network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs.

Visit for more information on the Great American Milk Drive.

***Cross-posted from Morning Ag Clips from October 1, 2017***

CDFA’s Secretary Karen Ross helps kickoff the State Employees Food Drive with a farm-fresh produce donation

Karen Ross holding bundle of carrots and chard at farmers market

Secretary Karen Ross visited the Capitol Mall Farmers’ Market to kickoff the State Employees Food Drive on the final Thursday market of the season. The CDFA Office of Farm to Fork organized the fresh produce drive, encouraging state employees to purchase produce at the market and donate it to Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services.

Chard, bouquet of flowers, tomatoes, corn

Ross made several trips through the market and donated over 20 pounds of produce, including apples, tomatoes, melons, and sweet corn. She also helped designate September as Farm to Food Bank Month, recognizing the year-round need for donations.

Fresh produce donations are a triple win; they help provide healthy foods to those in need, create viable farms, and support the local economy. Throughout the market’s duration on September 21st, nearly 400 pounds of produce was donated. This is a great start to reaching the goal of 800,000 pounds of food for the 2017 State Employees Food Drive.

Visit the California State Employees Food Drive website for more information on giving.

October is Farm to School Month

Girl covering eyes with apples

October is National Farm to School Month and we are off to an amazing start! Secretary Karen Ross of the California Department of Food and Agriculture signed a proclamation designating October as Farm to School Month in California last week. CDFA and the Office of Farm to Fork recognize the importance of farm to school programs in the state as a way to support California’s farmers, school children, and the economy.

Farm to School Month provides an opportunity to show all of the great work being done as well as how anyone – students, parents, nutrition professionals – can get involved and make changes to advance farm to school in their local communities. Join schools hosting farm to school activities, like Natomas Unified School District who will  take students out to visit a local farm or Oroville schools participating in local Crunch events, where students simultaneously bite into local apples to show their support for healthy, seasonal foods.   

Farm to school enriches the connection communities have with healthy food, local producers, and nature by changing food purchasing and education practices at schools and preschools. The most recent USDA Farm to School Census reported that 55% of California schools participate in farm to school activities. This represents over 3.4 million California students, or approximately half of all K-12 students.There are numerous long-standing and emergent farm to school programs throughout the state and the California Farm to School Network aims to inspire, connect, and educate both old and new.  To learn more, check out the California Farm to School Network and the National Farm to School Network.


California farmers and ranchers celebrate Farm to Food Bank Month by giving back to their communities – over 245,000 pounds of California Grown foods donated to Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County and the OC Food Bank

Mark Lowry, Director of the Orange County Food Bank, Secretary Karen Ross of CDFA, Sue Sigler, Executive Director of the California Association of Food Banks, Nicole Suydam, CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County, and AG Kawamura, Co-owner of O.C. Produce and former California Secretary of Food and Agriculture

Mark Lowry, Director of the Orange County Food Bank, Secretary Karen Ross of CDFA, Sue Sigler, Executive Director of the California Association of Food Banks, Nicole Suydam, CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County, and AG Kawamura, Co-owner of O.C. Produce and former California Secretary of Food and Agriculture recognized California farmers and ranchers giving back to their communities through donations.

Irvine, September 29, 2017 – Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County hosted an event on Friday, September 29th to shine the spotlight on California farmers and ranchers who support organizations leading the way in contributing healthy California-grown products to food insecure populations.

Lundberg Family Farms

Lundberg Family Farms made the generous donation of 82,000 pounds of rice products for the event.

Over 245,000 pounds of California-grown and produced foods were donated to the food banks for the event including 5 truckloads of mushrooms from Monterey Mushrooms, 200 Foster Farms whole turkeys, 2 truckloads of rice products, including 2 pallets of Orca beans from Lundberg Family Farms representing 82,000 pounds, 1 truckload of pears from Rivermaid Trading Company representing 40,000 pounds, ½ truck load of stone fruit from Venida Packing representing 20,000 pounds, ½ truckload of apples from Prima Frutta Packing Company, 1 truckload of citrus from Wonderful Citrus representing 40,000 pounds, 5 bottles of olive oil from the California Olive Oil Council, 15,700 pounds of potatoes from Veg-Fresh, one pallet of watermelons from Yosemite Fresh, 2 pallets of Frieda’s assorted produce, 21,000 pounds of Coman Hamburgers, and 14,000 pounds of Driftwood Dairy Milk. The food was divided between Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County and the Orange County Food Bank, and ended up on the tables of food insecure Orange County residents.

Secretary Karen Ross of CDFA, Steve Linkhart, and Sue Sigler

Secretary Karen Ross of CDFA, Steve Linkhart, and Sue Sigler of the California Association of Food Banks discuss the process of receiving donations from farmers and ranchers.

The event featured an address from Secretary Karen Ross of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, who commended the farmers and ranchers who donated for their commitment to improving the lives of Californians. She also announced the news that Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. had released a proclamation that declares September as Farm to Food Bank Month, addressing the need for donations throughout the year. Remarks were also made by Nicole Suydam, CEO of Second Harvest of Orange County, Sue Sigler, Executive Director of the California Association of Food Banks, and OC Produce Co-owner and former California Secretary of Food and Agriculture, A.G. Kawamura who donates product, as well as time to Second Harvest.

Nearly seven years ago, the California State Board of Food and Agriculture set an ambitious goal – work with the state’s farmers and ranchers to double contributions of fresh foods to food banks; from 100 million pounds to 200 million pounds annually. While this goal was met earlier in 2017, there are still many Californians who face hunger daily. By highlighting individual farmers who give back regularly and organizations who effectively distribute donations, the generosity can inspire others in California to do the same.

Summer Feeding is FUN

Summer in California is full of fresh produce. From the farmers’ market to the grocery store, local fruits and vegetables are everywhere. Despite this bounty, many Californians lack access to these foods and summer can represent a time of hunger for low income families. Similar federal feeding programs to those that support children during the school year still exist, but attendance is significantly lower when school is out. To drive participation and take advantage of this special growing season, Natomas Unified School District Nutrition Services hosts an annual Summer Meal Celebration, a free meal, open to the general public. The day marks a time to bring the community together to eat good food and enjoy one another’s company.

This year’s celebration, held at Natomas High School, attracted 1200 attendees and served over 970 nutritious meals. The day was also a California Thursdays event, with all items sourced from within the state and freshly prepared by Natomas staff who barbequed on site, mixed salads, and cut hundreds of watermelon slices. The menu featured BBQ Airline Chicken from Modesto, a stone fruit slaw from Salinas, baked beans from Lodi, milk from Sacramento, a whole grain dinner roll from Dublin, and a kale salad from Salinas.  Natomas staff worked tirelessly to make the celebration a success and made everyone who attended feel welcome and part of the fun. During the summer months USDA runs the Summer Food Service Program and the Seamless Summer Option which provide nutritious meals to low income children under the age of 18. A generous donation from Sodexo made meals at the event available to all attendees so the entire family could eat together. The event also featured numerous vendors for attendees to visit, adding to the festive feeling. There was even a farmer’s market with free local produce for families to take home.

The Office of Farm to Fork hosted a photo booth where attendees had their picture taken eating a fresh slice of watermelon. The melon was donated by Capay Organic/ Farm Fresh to You, which is active in advancing farm to school efforts in California. Individuals, families, and friends piled into the frame together to capture the moment. Photos were posted on the Office Flickr site for download later that day.

The event ended with staff and attendees line dancing and celebrating another successful Summer Meal Celebration. The activity aimed to show people how connecting with your friends, family, and community around healthy food is not only nutritious but also fun.

Check out the Office of Farm to Fork Flickr page to see more of the fun.


USDA Awards Office of Farm to Fork $3.9 Million in FINI Funding

Daikon radish

SACRAMENTO, August 7, 2017 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded CDFA a Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grant of $3,944,573 to fund nutrition incentives at Certified Farmers’ Markets throughout the state.

Along with partners at the Ecology Center, Wellington Square Farmers Market, Napa Farmers Market, and North Figueroa Foundation, the grant will help fund the California Nutrition Incentive Program (CNIP), which is set to begin this summer. The program, administered by CDFA’s Office of Farm to Fork, will address food insecurity and access to fresh fruits and vegetables among low income Californians while simultaneously supporting and expanding markets for California farmers.

CNIP will offer nutrition incentives to CalFresh Shoppers at 339 certified farmers’ markets and mobile markets throughout California. For every CalFresh benefit dollar they spend, CalFresh shoppers will receive an additional dollar that can be spent on fruits and vegetables at the market, within set parameters. Any CalFresh shopper can benefit from the program simply by spending their benefits at participating Certified Farmers’ Markets. The incentive is intended to encourage CalFresh shoppers to purchase healthy food and empower them to increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables.

CNIP builds on the successful eight-year old California Market Match program, led by Berkeley-based Ecology Center, which received a two-year FINI grant in 2015. CNIP emphasizes innovative marketing and outreach efforts to attract more CalFresh shoppers to farmers’ markets, expansion to new markets, and the testing of different technologies to make it easier for farmers’ markets to continue offering incentives.

“CDFA is thrilled to be selected for a federal FINI award” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “The program is a triple win for California – it supports the health of our low-income shoppers, our farmers, and the local economy.”

The California Nutrition Incentive Program is made possible through a robust public-private funding structure—including the FINI grant, state general funds, SNAP-Ed (the federally funded nutrition education program for SNAP and SNAP eligible consumers) funds, and local partner support, including private donations, grants and in-kind contributions. CNIP was created by Assembly Bill 1321 (Ting) in 2015 and was provisionally funded when the Legislature appropriated $5 million for the program in 2016, contingent on receiving matching federal funds. This state funding enabled CDFA to apply for the FINI grant. The Department is exploring a second phase of the program next year and will apply for additional matching funds.

Partners were chosen through a competitive grant process, to implement the program and include programs at the Ecology Center – California Market Match Expansion and Innovation Project; Wellington Square Certified Farmers’ Market Incentive Festivals; North Figueroa Association – Market Match of Northeast Los Angeles; and the Downtown Napa Farmers’ Market Token Match Program.

More information on the California Nutrition Incentive Program can be found at

Farm-to-School: getting nutritious food to the students who need it most

Intersection of Farm Avenue and Fork Street

This story is cross posted from the CDFA Planting Seeds blog. 

The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) Office of Farm to Fork was created with a mandate to increase access to healthier, California grown foods by supporting sales to school programs. The office has focused considerable effort on the Farm to School movement.

Statistics of California farmer markets

In addition to assisting in the creation of a model multi-school-district buying collaborative, the Office of Farm to Fork has paved the way for school districts to connect with California farmers and procure fresh wholesome food. The principal accomplishment under this mandate is the California Farmer Marketplace.

Statistics of California districts and food activities

The Farm to School effort enriches the connection communities have with fresh, healthy food and local food producers by changing food purchasing and education practices at schools and preschools.

The average school district spends 15% of their budget on local products. School districts in California are focusing their purchases from local producers on the following types
of food:

  • 80% fruits
  • 76% vegetables
  • 54% milk
  • 20% meat or poultry

Office Releases a Farm to School Stakeholder Survey

Healthy Lunch: Salad, low fat milk, strawberries, taco and grapes
The CDFA Office of Farm to Fork is conducting a survey of the California Farm to School Network (CFSN) to help grow and advance the movement.

The Stakeholder Survey will help the Office understand how CFSN can better facilitate connections and collaboration amongst California’s farm to school leaders. It only takes 10 minutes and respondents will be entered to win a free registration to the 2019 conference! You have until Sunday, July 16th to complete the survey at:

CFSN is a statewide initiative that aligns farm to school efforts, shares resources, and brings stakeholders together, continuing California’s leadership in linking California farms to K-12 schools, early childhood education providers, and post-secondary institutions. CFSN is made up of farm to school leaders throughout the state, so we want to get feedback from as many stakeholders as possible and your voice matters!

Take the Survey Now!