GARDINER — A new Maine Farm to School Institute for rural middle and high schools will focus on sourcing local food and cultivating student leadership in food and agriculture.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agricultureawarded University of Maine School of Food and Agriculture and Maine Farm to School Network at Healthy Communities of the Capital Area a nearly $225,000 Service Learning grant to lead the creation of the first annual Maine Farm to School Institute. Subrecipients include UMaine Cooperative Extension, Maine Agriculture in the Classroom, ReTreeUs, and Cumberland County Food Security Council.

Over a dozen partnering organizations will support the project providing training and technical assistance, including Falmouth Schools, FoodCorps Maine, Maine Department of Education Child Nutrition, Maine School Garden Network, and more.
Modeled after the Northeast Farm to School Institute at Shelburne Farms, the Maine Farm to School Institute will support schools to build a community-based farm to school program promoting food education and school food security, including school gardens and local food. Participating schools will attend a 3-day workshop in August 2022 at The Ecology School at Riverbend Farm in Saco.

“Right now Maine schools travel to VT for comprehensive farm to school support programming,” explains Stephanie Cesario, Maine Farm to School Network coordinator and Institute coordinator based at Healthy Communities of the Capital Area. “By creating this annual program here in Maine, schools will be immersed in Maine-specific farm and sea to school resources and professional networks.”

For more information about the Institute, contact Maine Farm to School Network Coordinator and visit

This work is supported by the Food and Agriculture Service Learning Program grant 2021-70026-35911 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture