Southern Arizona Buyer-Supplier Meeting
This article was written by past Local Food Program Director, Steve Russell.
This month, the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) and Local First Arizona held the last Buyer-Supplier Meeting of the season in Yuma, AZ. These events bring together school food policy gurus, school food buyers and potential suppliers to learn about Farm to School (F2S) and to make lasting networking connections.
Interesting fact about Yuma: it is the lettuce capital of the nation! Iceberg lettuce is produced here from fall to spring than anywhere else in the US, making Yuma a great place to set up enduring Farm to School relationships. This event, our second Buyer-Supplier meeting, featured representatives of eight different public and charter school districts.
These buyers sat in on a Q & A panel featuring Ashley Schimke, with ADE, Karen Johnson with Yuma School District #1, Sandy Fitzner ADE’s Department of Defense (DOD)’s Fresh Produce Program Specialist, and Steve Russell with Local First Arizona. The panel addressed the various policy stipulations of F2S relationships, DOD procurement guidelines and benefits, as well as to debunk some myths about the program.
After the panel, we had a round of speed networking with DOD, ADE and local food producers and distributors. Buyers and distributors had 10 minutes at each rotation to make connections and to learn about one another's needs.
That's it for Farm to School this season! We'll wait 'til the fall to resume our F2S networking opportunities and info forums. School food buyers and local producers can take advantage of opportunities to meet through LFA in the fall, at our 2014 Farmer+Chef Connection, on October 6th!