A Preview of the Upcoming 2018 National Farm to Cafeteria Conference in Cincinnati


Cincinnati will host the 9th Annual 2018 National Farm to Cafeteria conference April 25-27 at the Duke Energy Convention Center. The conference, organized by the National Farm to School Network, will offer speakers, smaller group informative sessions, in-depth short courses, and regional field trips. The event is a collective of innovators who have done the research and laid the groundwork for creating programs that benefit children, farmers, and communities throughout the country and worldwide.

Two main organizations, The National Farm to School Network (NFSN) and Ohio Farm to School, are working on this conference. As a non-profit organization, NFSN, advocates and serves as a central hub of information for the local food movement throughout the country. The organization provides nutrition education to communities and encourages the relationships necessary for local food procurement. The many attributes of NFSN including innovative leadership, networking opportunities, and compilation of information have helped to create school gardens, agriculture education, and locally produced food to cafeteria programs in over 42,000 schools nation-wide. This organization recognizes the civic importance of food, and has been an invaluable advocate for the movement.

Ohio Farm to School (farmtoschool.osu.edu) is a program through Ohio State University Extension. Ohio Farm to School provides our region knowledge and support regarding nutrition, agriculture and the connection to the community within Ohio. The OSU Farm to School program provides resources to preschool to college institutions by aiding in connecting key resources in our communities to create strong and lasting partnerships throughout Ohio. The National Farm to School Network and OSU Farm to School, along with other organizations have joined forces to propel the Farm to School movement.


While the focus of the conference may appear to be farm to school, the information is applicable to nearly every institution concerned with the health and wellbeing of its community. It will be a great opportunity for public health professionals, teachers, school administers, food service workers, farmers, and parents interested in advocating for the health of our communities to network and collaborate. Topics and considerations of everything from farms and gardens to institutions throughout communities will be presented.

Calling all Ohioans! Wednesday, April 25 3-8pm a pre-conference event will be hosted by OSU Ohio Farm to School and InFACT (Initiative for Food and AgriCultural Transformation) focusing specifically on farm to cafeteria within Ohio. Topics will include achievements, opportunities, challenges, and government policy concerning farm to school in Ohio. A dinner highlighting the bounty of Ohio will be included in the pre-conference. It will be a chance to have significant and progressive discussions regarding the advancement opportunities in our area.


There is an abundance of workshops and short courses presented Thursday and Friday throughout the day. Sessions will provide a how-to of securing government funding, strengthening local food chains, and creating viable and effective programs. Conference sessions will include information on equity in food access, government policy, integration of farm to school into classroom curricula, and how to form collective partnerships. Additionally, there will be presentations on examining the efficacy of programs through data collection, food ethics, and racial equity in food systems. Basically, the sessions and short-courses offer the proven toolkit to create socially responsible, sustainable and successful programs.  


On Friday choose from an array of field trips throughout the area. An outing with OSU extension will detail research into the nutritional aspects of local foods. At Rothenberg Rooftop School Garden, you can explore a successful urban garden program. Le Soup offers the experience to visit an area non-profit combating the issue of food waste in Cincinnati (Check out our annual printed CORV (eatlocalcorv.org) guide in April for an in-depth look into food waste). There are also several opportunities to visit area farm to cafeteria programs, production farms and gardens, and other integral partners in the local food chain.


For those of us who value and understand the importance of supporting the health and wellbeing of our community, this is an amazing chance to gather insight from pioneers in the local food movement. The Ohio River Valley region has the natural resources and vibrant community necessary to propel the local food to institution movement, and the conference affords the opportunity to further existing programs, and create new ones.

For more information and to register for the conference visit:



Haley Shutter recently moved to the Cincinnati area from southern Wisconsin, near Madison with her husband Chase.  Professionally, she has worked as a director of a childcare center, developing the nutrition and children’s garden programs.  She enjoys volunteering for the leadership board of Granny’s Garden School in Loveland, OH.  Her passions and hobbies include: gardening, cooking, and traveling.