Locally Grown: New York’s Farms to Schools Programs and Organic Farming

Farmers in a Rockingham County, Virginia check the results of no-till farming in their fields on September 9, 2008, as part of their participation in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative (CBWI).  CBWI is voluntarily program that farmers, ranchers and forestland owners install conservation practices on hundreds of thousands of acres annually to help support rural economies, protect wildlife habitat and improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. No-till farming is a way of growing crops from year to year without disturbing the soil through tillage. No-till is an agricultural technique, which increases the amount of water and organic matter (nutrients) in the soil and decreases erosion. USDA photo by Bob Nichols.

Hundreds of New York school districts are increasing children’s consumption of locally-grown fruits and vegetables through farm-to-school programs, while sales of organic farm products are rising as more and more consumers seek healthier alternatives from nearby farms.

According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture national census of farm-to-school programs, 298 districts in New York, or 43 percent, reported participating in farm-to-school activities. These districts – with 1,336 schools and nearly 759,000 students – reported spending $45 million on local food in New York, all while increasing children’s consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables and helping students learn about food production.

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