Farm to School is a great avenue for producers to explore. It increases market opportunities for farmers, food processors, and food manufacturers.

Producer Benefits

  • Average 5% increase in income for Farm to School sales for individual farmers (research compiled and supported by the National Farm to School Network)
  • Increased market diversification, positive relationships with school districts, parents and communities
  • Ability to develop contracts with schools to plant crops for them
  • Opportunities to explore processing and preservation methods for institutional markets
  • Establishment of grower cooperatives to supply institutional markets
  • Potential grant opportunities

Source: National Farm to School Network

Today, there are many ways that you can go about bringing your products into schools, markets and other institutions across the state. You can market your produce at the local farmers market, to wholesalers, or you can sell directly to schools. Here are several useful tips, tricks, and guides to help you get your products distributed across the state.

Farm to Institution

Fresh fruits and vegetables are an important part of the plates and trays served in school cafeterias and other institutions such as hospitals. Selling products to these organizations can turn into a significant new source of income for growers and producers, their families, and the communities they live in.

If you are a farmer, rancher, fisherman, food processor, baker, or other food producer then you can play a role in educating students about food and agriculture while also providing local products to schools, school districts, and other institutions to be served as a meal during breakfast, lunch, supper, and snack times.

The many schools and school districts in Louisiana are looking for you and are actively seeking farmers for Farm to School! If you are a grower or producer interested in working with schools, then please fill out the form below to tell us a little more about your farm and how to contact you. This information will be shared with schools in your area and will give school officials the information they need to enter a business relationship with you: Click Here

How to sell fruits and vegetables to Louisiana schools: a quick guide

Route 1: Direct to Schools

Who do I talk to? The child nutrition director at the school district. This person’s contact information is easy to find under Child Nutrition or Food Service on the school district website.

What products do the schools want? This is a great question to ask the child nutrition director. Tell them what you grow and what grows well when school is in session (August-May). Schools don’t have a ton of equipment and time to process food – so products like sweet potatoes, tomatoes, strawberries, citrus, and salad greens are good starting suggestions. 

*Child Nutrition Directors plan menus monthly to one year ahead. Open the conversation now for a future sale.

What food safety certification do I need? Louisiana law allows child nutrition directors to determine the safety of the product they are buying. Often child nutrition directors prefer farms that have GHP/GAP certification. The safety of cafeteria meals is extremely important to schools just as the safety of your food is important to you. Find a way to prove how safe your food is, whether by writing your produce safety plan or obtaining a third-party certification. See “Louisiana Farm Safety Checklist” to get more ideas about what schools may ask you about your farm practices.

Can schools afford local foods? Public schools have to be very careful with spending and have limited budgets for school meals. That being said, schools purchase thousands of dollars of fresh food for students every week. Often, there’s not a huge difference between the price you set to make a profit and the price the school can afford.

Route 2: Through the state program: Department of Defense Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (DoD Fresh Program)

Who do I talk to? The Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support Subsistence. Get in touch by emailing or call 205-966-0020.

What food safety certification do I need? To sell to the LA DoD program, you will need GAP certification.

Selling Local Food to Schools (USDA)

Additional Resources:

  • School Guide for Local Food Purchasing
    • The State of Louisiana established a farm to school program after LA R.S. 17:195.1 (Act 404) of the 2016 Louisiana Legislature was signed. It appropriated no state funding to support a farm to school program and does not allow school systems any additional flexibilities or waivers for the purchase of local products. Learn more about this and other state and federal policies and procedures regarding the purchase of local food within federal nutrition assistance programs that support the procurement of local agricultural products and USDA Farm to School initiatives.
  • USDA Foods: A Resource for Buying Local
    • USDA Foods has a dual mission of supporting domestic agriculture and providing healthy foods to schools. Offerings include a variety of fresh, frozen, canned and dried fruits and vegetables, lean meats, peanut butter, whole wheat grain products, and cheeses. In order to access these healthy options, each state in the country is allocated a certain amount of money, or “entitlement value,” to spend on USDA Foods, based on the number of lunches served in the previous school year. In FY 2014, $1.4 billion in USDA Foods went to schools; in any given year, about 10-15% of the value of food served through the National School Lunch Program comes from USDA Foods.
  • USDA Geographic Preference Fact Sheet
    • THE 2008 FARM BILL directed the Secretary of Agriculture to encourage schools to purchase locally grown and locally raised products “to the maximum extent practicable and appropriate.” Further, the Secretary was instructed to allow schools to use a “geographic preference” when procuring locally grown and locally raised unprocessed agricultural products. There are many ways for schools to buy local products for use in federal school meals programs (see USDA’s 10 Facts About Local Food in School Cafeterias). While using geographic preference is not the only option for local food procurement, it is a powerful tool and particularly useful in formal solicitations where respondents are ranked and scored.
  • USDA Using DoD to Buy Local Fact Sheet
    • The Department of Defense Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (DoD Fresh) allows schools to use their USDA Foods entitlement dollars to buy fresh produce. As of 2016, schools in 48 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Guam participate; schools received more than $120 million worth of produce during SY 2013-2014.
  • USDA 10 Facts About Local Food in Schools
    • Increasing access to local foods in schools is a top priority for the Office of Community Food Systems. This fact sheet, available in both English and Spanish, reviews the top 10 facts about local food in schools.
  • Louisiana Farm Safety Checklist
    • The farm safety checklist is meant to facilitate communication between farmers and potential buyers. The checklist is a resource for institutional buyers to provide background information on the farms from which products are purchased.
  • Growing Opportunity was released last year through a partnership agreement with the Farm Service Agency (FSA-USDA) and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. This is a very user-friendly guide to a variety of USDA programs and resources.
  • Loans Guidebook is offered through a partnership between the National Young Farmers’ Coalition and FSA’s loan programs. Of particular interest in this guidebook is the Farm Storage Facility Loan Program (FSFL). As its name denotes, the program originally served primarily large grain operations and provided funding for containment of manure. However in the recent past, thanks to the diligent work of a small CSA farm in New York, the program has been reinterpreted. Now, it is an excellent tool for small to mid-sized farmers looking to diversify and/or scale up, and the program can best be understood as supporting post-harvest storage to consumer. Refrigerated transportation is also an eligible cost. Links to the program can be found here.

Practical Farm Certifications

Too often are producers met with certification requirements with no information on where to start. Our Quick Guide to Practical Farm Certifications in Louisiana is the perfect resource for growers and producers wanting to gain an understanding on popular certifications, who to get in touch with, and first steps to begin the certification process.

Download Quick Guide

A simple reference to help growers in Louisiana determine which food safety, organic, and branding certifications are practical for them, with information from experts and certifying agencies.

Food Safety

Learn the basics of food and farm safety with LDAF, LSU AgCenter, SU AgCenter, James Deshotel Produce, and Guidry’s Fresh Cuts. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), Good Agricultural Practices/Good Handling Practices (GAP/GHP), Produce Safety Alliance Growers Training (PSA), Safe Quality Food (SQF), and other programs are discussed, as well as resources offered by extension. Find accompanying resources, links and further information in the Quick Guide.  The full training video can be viewed here- Food Safety- Practical Farm Certifications.


Learn the basics of branding with Louisiana Grown, Certified Louisiana, and Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP), Grassfed Ruminant Standards (American GrassFed Association, AGA) and Grass Fed Small & Very Small Producer Program (USDA-AMS). Find accompanying resources, links and further information in the Quick Guide.  The full training video can be viewed here- Branding – Practical Farm Certifications.

Organic Growing

How your food is grown can make a big difference in sales! With speakers from LDAF, 4Sisters Rice/Kennedy Rice Mill, Certified Naturally Grown, and Grow Dat Youth Farm, we cover USDA Certified Organic LDAF’s Organic Cost Share Reimbursement Program, and Certified Naturally Grown. Find accompanying resources, links and further information in the Quick Guide.  The full training video can be viewed here- Organic Growing- Practical Farm Certifications.

Market Perspective

Gain insight into the wholesale and distributor perspective of farm certifications. Hear from representatives from Capitol City Produce, Market Umbrella-Crescent City Farmers Markets, and CLEDA Alexandria Farmers Markets. Find accompanying resources, links and further information in the Quick Guide.  The full training video can be viewed here- Market Perspective Practical Farm Certifications.