MAINE FARM TO SCHOOL NETWORK HISTORY
2008 - 2017
The Maine Farm to School Work Group formed in 2008 to convene key stakeholders to organize around farm to school in Maine.
This followed a conversation focusing on Farm to School among key stakeholders at a Western Mountains Alliance Conference in late 2006. That group agreed that the movement should get organized.
Individuals who helped create the network represented the following organizations:
· Coastal Enterprises, Inc.
· FARMS: Focus on Agriculture in Rural Maine Schools
· Healthy Maine Partnerships (several)
· Maine Ag in the Classroom
· Maine Center for Public Health
· Maine Department of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Resources
· Maine Department of Education
· Maine Department of Health & Human Services/ME CDC
· Maine Farmland Trust
· Maine Nutrition Network
· Maine School Food Service Association
· MOFGA: Maine Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association
· University of Maine Cooperative Extension
· Western Mountains Alliance
The Maine Farm to School Network (MFSN) formed from the original Work Group under the leadership of Ken Morse, its first Coordinator. Subcommittees were created to address Policy, Farm to School Best Practice (which resulted in a Guide and Resource CD), Procurement, and Education. In 2012, MFSN convened its first statewide conference at Mt. Blue High School in Thorndike.
Since then the Network has continued to offer the conference at different locations across the state to reach more people (2013 Portland - East End School, 2014 Ellsworth Elementary School, 2015 Hinckley - Kennebec Valley Community College, 2016 Lewiston - Bates College), integrating broader, institutional cross-sector conference programming in 2015 and 2016 as the result of the formation of Maine Farm to Institution (MEFTI). MFSN took a hiatus from the conference in 2017 to focus on strategic planning and to assist in organizing a Maine Farm to Institution Summit which took place in 2018 in Belfast.
LEADERSHIP, NETWORK STRUCTURE, AND FISCAL MANAGEMENT
Ken Morse served as the original Coordinator for the MFSN until 2015 when he began to share that role with Renee Page for a year. Then, she took over in 2016 and has served as the Coordinator since. During his tenure Ken was the Maine State Lead on the National Farm to School Network Northeast Regional Steering Committee. Concurrently, Amy Winston served as co-Regional Lead Agent (RLA) of the Northeast Regional Steering Committee, sharing this position with Dana Hudson of Vermont. Amy worked hand in hand with Ken in forming MFSN. Ellie Libby served as the State Lead to the National Farm to School Network after Ken. Farm to Institution New England (FINE) grew out of this regional work, and provided financial support for MFSN for a few years. Ken also served on the FINE Leadership Team for its first few years and Renee has served on their Network Advisory Council since 2016.
In 2015, Renee took over as Maine State Lead to the National Farm to School Network Northeast Regional Steering Committee from Ellie Libby who had succeeded Ken. Renee is also the Assistant Director for Healthy Communities of the Capital Area, which currently serves as the fiscal sponsor for MFSN, managing any Network funds for a 10% organizational management fee.
In 2010 MFSN Public Health District Representative positions were created to identify individuals who could act as liaisons and provide technical assistance more locally. Stipends funded initially by FINE and by the Bingham Fund have supported the District Rep positions off and on, but presently there is no monetary support and only about half of the positions are filled by volunteers.
The Network currently meets monthly in person with a videoconference option on the third Mondays of the month from 9:00 AM-noon, hosted by the Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry. Individuals who regularly attend these monthly meetings include the Coordinator, active District Representatives (Cumberland and Downeast Districts), and representatives from Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry, Department of Education, Let’s Go!, Maine Ag in the Classroom, Maine Network of Community Food Councils, Maine School Garden Network, MOFGA, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, and FoodCorps.
MAINE FARM TO INSTITUTION
Building on the momentum of the Maine farm to school movement, and the close connection with FINE, in 2015 MFSN formed Maine Farm to Institution (MEFTI), a group of farm to institution leaders in Maine (or doing work in Maine) to capitalize on emerging efforts being done to procure more local foods in colleges and hospitals across the state. MFSN applied to Elmina B. Sewall Foundation to support a leadership team to begin working to build connections and collaborations among the K-12, college, and health care institutional sectors to identify and overcome barriers and build on successes.
MEFTI received two additional years of funding from Sewall and has prioritized its role as convener while also focusing on a possible cross-sector Harvest of the Month program and other initiatives. In year one, MEFTI convened three cross-sector forums in Ellsworth, Ft. Kent, and Standish and in year two, provided scholarships for several Mainers to attend the 2017 FINE Summit in Leominster, MA.
In 2015, MFSN began to incorporate cross-sector sessions into the Maine Farm to School Conference and held the two most recent conferences on college campuses (KVCC and Bates, respectively). MEFTI, in collaboration with MFSN, held a Maine Farm to Institution Summit in early 2018.
MEFTI’s 6-member leadership team is comprised of Katie Freedman (Healthy Acadia), Emily Kain (MaineHealth), Lauren Kaskey (Health Care Without Harm), Ken Morse (Maine Network of Community Food Councils), Riley Neugebauer (Local Foods Consultant), and Renee Page (Healthy Communities of the Capital Area).
CONCURRENT EFFORTS - NATIONAL & REGIONAL
National Farm to School NETWORK (NFSN)
The National Farm to School Network began in 2007 and has grown to include all 50 states, Washington D.C., and U.S. Territories. NFSN hosts the biennial (even years) national Farm to Cafeteria Conference. From 2008 – 2016, NFSN supported 8 Regional Lead Agencies (RLAs) and State Leads across the country. RLAs were charged with convening a Regional Steering Committee (RSC) comprised of the State Leads and supporting farm to school initiatives across their regions. Individuals who have held the Maine State Lead position and state representative to the Northeast RSC include Ken Morse, Ellie Libby, and Renee Page. VT FEED acted as the Northeast RLA during this time with Dana Hudson and Amy Winston sharing this role in the early years, followed by Betsy Rosenbluth at VT FEED most recently.
In 2016, the NFSN replaced the RLA structure and support with state level support for Core Partners (one per state, formerly known as State Leads) and up to four Supporting Partners. Currently 2016 – 2019, Maine’s Core Partner to NFSN is Renee Page (MFSN Coordinator) and Supporting Partners are Leigh Hallett (DACF), Viña Lindley (UMaine Cooperative Extension), Stephanie Stambach (DOE), and Emily Walters (Let’s Go!). States are provided support from NFSN for the 3-year period at one of two levels of funding based on need and capacity. Maine is one of 13 states provided slightly higher Level II funding to focus on state network development, state agency engagement, policy, and engaging early care and education sites in farm to school.
Though NFSN no longer recognizes or supports RSCs, the Northeast RSC renamed itself the Northeast Farm to School Collaborative and continues to meet monthly via teleconference and in person one or two times a year with support from VT FEED and the Henry P. Kendall Foundation as the group finds this regional networking invaluable.
FARM TO INSTITUTION NEW ENGLAND (FINE)
Farm to Institution New England launched in 2010 as a joint initiative of the Northeast Farm to School RSC and a collaboration of New England agriculture commissioners. FINE focuses on developing cross-sector connections among K-12 schools, colleges and universities, hospitals, and other institutions. FINE serves those at the forefront of the farm to institution movement in the region, providing a forum to connect and share ideas, models, resources, and support. FINE hosts a biennial (odd years) New England Farm to Institution Summit. Maine Representatives to the FINE Network Advisory Council have formerly been Ken Morse and Mark Lapping, and currently Shelley Goraj, Sarah Redfield, and Renee Page. Riley Neugebauer formerly held a staff position at FINE for several years.
USDA’s Farm to School program is housed in the Food and Nutrition Service’s Office of Community Food Systems and was formally established with the passage of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (aka Child Nutrition Reauthorization), which also created the Farm to School Census and the USDA Farm to School Grant Program. Maine Awardees of USDA Farm to School Grants to date are:
2013: MSAD 12 – Jackman and Portland Public Schools
2014: Healthy Communities of the Capital Area
2015: Healthy Acadia and RSU 18 – Oakland
2016: Auburn School Department
2018: Auburn School Department
The USDA Farm to School program also offers local procurement training, technical assistance, and other resources. The USDA Farm to School Northeast Regional Lead is Danielle Fleury.
2001 (pre-MFSN) School Food Service Programs; Local Produce Fund (created by the Maine State Legislature in 2006): may be used to match $1 for every $3, up to $1,000 annually, for minimally processed local produce, when funds are available (largely unfunded until last 2 years).
2009 Maine Legislative Resolve: Chapter 106 LD1140 Resolve, Directing the Department of Education and the Department of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Resources and the Department of Health and Human Services To Convene a Work Group To Strengthen Farm to School Efforts in the State. Result: February 2010 Report to the Maine State Legislature. This report was written by the Maine Farm to School Network Policy Committee with Amy Winston as lead.
2011 An Act to Establish The Maine Farm and Fish to School Program: Based on the recommendations from the 2010 Report to the Maine Legislature. Passed, but was not signed into law by the governor.
MFSN has received funding support off and on over the years from the following sources to support stipends for Network members (Coordinator, Public Health District Representatives) and projects like a statewide farm to school scan and Maine-ly Beans and Greens workshops:
● The Henry P. Kendall Foundation
● The Bingham Program
● Conference Sponsors (numerous)
● Elmina B. Sewall Foundation (to launch MEFTI)
● Farm to Institution New England
● Healthy Maine Partnership Think Tank
● National Farm to School Network
The logo on the left above is the new logo for the Farm to School Network in Maine, the logo on the right was the former logo, and is now retired.
MILESTONES & ACCOMPLISHMENTS
2005 Healthy Acadia organized first statewide Farm to School Conference
2006 Farm to School Conference organized by Western Mountains Alliance convened folks who agreed “we need to get farm to school more organized”
2008 Formation of Maine Farm to School Work Group
2009 Legislative Resolve
2009 Statewide Farm to School Scan (assessment of farm to school activities in Maine)
2010 Formation of Maine Farm to School Network
2011 Maine becomes one of the inaugural FoodCorps states with 6 service sites
2012 50 Mainers attended National Farm to Cafeteria Conference in Burlington VT
2012 Annual Maine Farm to School Conference, Mt. View High School, Thorndike
2013 Maine-ly Beans & Greens Workshops (to help school nutrition staff comply with new menu guidelines using fresh, local foods)
2013 Annual Maine Farm to School Conference, East End Community School, Portland
2014 Maine Healthy Food in Health Care Work Group formed
2014 Annual Maine Farm to School Conference, Ellsworth Elementary Middle School
2014 Maine Farm to College Conference, St. Joseph’s College
2015 UMaine Food Service RFP requiring commitment to Maine Foods
2015 Formation of Maine Farm to Institution (MEFTI)
2015 MEFTI Cross-sector Regional Gatherings, Ft. Kent, Standish, Ellsworth
2015 Annual Maine Farm to School Conference, Kennebec Valley Community College/Maine Academy of Natural Sciences, Hinckley (began incorporating cross-sector topics)
2016 Annual Maine Farm to School Conference, Bates College, Lewiston
2016 Sea to School Guide published
2018 First Maine Farm to Institution Summit, University of Maine Hutchinson Center, Belfast
2019 Secured funding for and hired a Network Coordinator, Stephanie Cesario, whose position focuses solely on developing and supporting the network.