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Selling Directly to Local Schools

March/April 1996

by David Visher, Small Farm Center

Have you ever thought about selling your produce directly to local schools? As with any other enterprise, you'll need to develop a business plan and a relationship with the schools.

Your agreement should include:

  • The total estimated volume of each item to be delivered.
  • The time the item will be ripe and when it will be delivered.
  • Amount and price of standing order items.
  • Delivery schedule: time of day, frequency, and location.
  • Packing requirements: standard box, grade, loose pack, bulk, etc.
  • Postharvest handling practices; is the product pre-cooled?
  • How you will meet basic health and safety standards administered by the county Agricultural Commissioner.
  • Acceptable seasonal substitutes.
  • Cost per unit, payment terms, payment process.
  • Name and phone number of the contact person.

It is best to begin talking to the school as early as possible so you can plant accordingly. Stay in touch to assure the school that the crops will be harvested on schedule. Try to get a standing order by offering a discount.

Selling points

  • The produce is usually picked the morning it is delivered.
  • The cost is usually comparable to what other purveyors charge.
  • The students can gain environmental and nutritional education through the arrangement.
  • Small market farmers often raise varieties of produce that taste better than conventional varieties.
  • Buying locally supports the local community.
  • The schools protect the environment by reducing the distance a box of produce must travel.

Finding a school

The following list of knowledgeable people should get you started.

Food service directors who buy directly from farmers:

Susan Lange
Director, Food and Nutrition Services
Washington Unified School District
930 West Acres Road
West Sacramento, CA 95691
(916) 371-9300, ext. 229

Johnnie Miller, F/S Director
Placer Union High School District
13101 Bill Francis Drive
Auburn, CA 95603
(916) 885-7820

Susan Murai, F/S Director
Marysville Joint Unified School District
1919 B Street
Marysville, CA 95901
(916) 749-6177

Rick DeBurg, F/S Director
Glendale Unified School District
4747 New York Avenue
La Cresenta, CA 91214
(818) 249-8020

Bill Caldwell, F/S Director
32972 Calle Perfecto
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
(714 ) 489-7371

Local farmers' markets are a good place to gather information about selling directly to schools. The California Federation of Certified Farmers' Markets will provide a list of certified farmers' markets, locations and times of operation, as well as the names of the market managers.

Randii MacNear
California Federation of Certified Farmers' Markets
P.O. Box 1533
Sacramento, CA 95812-1533
(916) 363-2020

The Community Alliance with Family Farmers is a state wide organization of farmers, many of whom are interested in sustainable farming and in selling directly. Their Farmer to Consumer Directory, a listing of farmers who sell directly, may be helpful. They also publish the National Organic Directory which lists over 1,000 farmers and wholesalers who supply organic food products.

Tom Haller
P.O. Box 464
Davis, CA 95617
(916) 756-8518

The Small Farm Program is a state wide program that serves the needs of small farmers and can provide information about how to form and maintain your relationship with schools. They will refer you to local farm advisors and other contacts.

David Visher
Small Farm Center
University of California
Davis, CA 95616
(916) 752-7779

The UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program is a state wide program that promotes research and education about sustainable agriculture and linkages between consumers and farmers. SAREP can inform the school community about the benefits of working directly with local farmers. They can also connect you to other organizations that provide curricula that educate children about where food comes from.

Gail Feenstra
University of California
Davis, CA 95616
(916) 752-8408

Southland Farmers' Market Association represents certified farmers' markets in Southern California. They can provide you with contacts in Southern California.

Marion Kalb
Southland Farmers' Market Association
1308 Factory Place, No. 68
Los Angeles, CA 90013
(213) 244-9190