SDSU Extension welcomes new farm to school specialist

South Dakota State University Extension
Anna Barr

Brookings, S.D. - South Dakota State University Extension has selected a former SDSU dietetics intern and SDSU Extension graduate intern to lead its South Dakota Farm to School initiative. A native of Newton, Iowa, Anna Barr brings broad expertise to the position as Extension's first Farm to School Nutrition Field Specialist.

"We are very excited to have Anna on board in the Farm to School Specialist position," says Michelle Tjeerdsma, SDSU Extension Food and Families Program Director. "Her background and previous experience in horticulture and nutrition is a perfect blend for the needs of this position. We are thrilled to have her working with communities across the state and are eager to see this initiative get off the ground."

One of SDSU Extension's main objectives for the position is the development and dissemination of research-based programming and resources to support the integration of local food production into school nutrition and community-based nutrition programs.

This includes establishing a sustainable 'farm-to-school network' with members representing state agencies, non-profit and grassroots organizations, producers and gardeners, educators and administrators, healthcare professionals and more. Barr, who will be based in the Mitchell Regional Extension Center, will work with schools to promote and adopt the new South Dakota Farm to School Guidebook, assist with the implementation and evaluation efforts of high tunnels located throughout South Dakota and improve organizational capacity to implement farm-to-school projects in school communities with more than 50% of students receiving free or reduced meals.

"Farm to school is a broad term that includes local procurement, school gardens and in-class education," Barr says. "While what we often think about with farm-to-school is procuring fruits and vegetables from local farmers, I foresee a couple more areas as my focus. One will be assisting school and community gardens to get established and grow for school meals while incorporating nutrition and horticulture education, and, knowing the strengths of South Dakota, another focus will be establishing strong beef-to-school programs."

A May 2021 graduate of SDSU, Barr holds a master's in nutrition and exercise science and a bachelor's in nutrition and dietetics. She most recently obtained her registered dietitian credentials in June. As an undergraduate, she studied nutrition and horticulture at SDSU while taking any opportunity to learn about food systems and the intersections between food, environment and culture.

Having a father that farms and a mother that teaches, Barr says she has strongly valued agriculture and education from a young age. She is also grateful for the opportunity to work with SDSU Extension once again.

"The people in SDSU Extension are kind, passionate 'go-getters,' and I am happy to work alongside many experts in the fields of nutrition, horticulture, community vitality and more," Barr says. "I hope to be the point person for any farm-to-school effort in South Dakota, whether that be from a school district, producer, partner organization or others. I look forward to growing connections throughout the state in this first year and gaining a better understanding of the needs of our communities by learning from the diverse citizens of South Dakota."