Florida's efforts provide a win for all parties in the farm-to-school equation, Bergstrom says. Pero's school sales have grown over the years as more districts buy more products – and opportunities are open to operations of all sizes.
Growers should make the state Agriculture Department their first stop for information about participating. "They've taken out a lot of the learning curve," Allen says.
Safley says her department also will guide growers if they lack the required certifications and audits for the program, and help connect them to other growers or processing facilities to better meet school needs.
"We still have a lot to learn," she says.
The program is evolving, starting with an already implemented change into seven smaller regions for smoother transportation.
Coming this summer is a beta test of an online program to match growers' products and customer needs. Modeled on the University of Illinois' MarketMaker site, she hopes for a full launch in the fall.
"This is new territory for all of us," Chong says.
She encourages growers to work with her on how best to participate.
"Two heads are better."