Loudoun County Public Schools School Nutrition Services and the Department of Economic Development have been recognized by the Virginia Association of Counties for their local farmer trading cards.
Normally, you’d see this type of fan reaction to celebrity baseball players like David Ortiz or Bryce Harper. But this spring, Loudoun County, Virginia 5th graders flocked to get pictures and autographs from farmers who were featured on baseball-like trading cards. This initiative, created through a partnership of the Loudoun County Department of Economic Development and the Loudoun County Public Schools School Nutrition Services, has won a 2016 Achievement Award from the Virginia Association of Counties.
“They were treated like rock stars,” said Economic Development’s Executive Director Buddy Rizer.
Twelve Loudoun County farmers agreed to be featured on trading cards to help children learn the value of farmers, farms and farm-fresh food. Economic Development distributed 87,000 farmer trading cards to 55 Loudoun County public schools. Featured farmers made guest appearances at a number of elementary schools, signing cards and posing for pictures with the kids.
“Social media went crazy,” said Economic Development’s Agricultural Business Development Officer Kellie Hinkle. News about the cards spread virally across the Internet, and within days the department heard from school systems in Maryland, D.C. and Pennsylvania who wanted to copy the campaign.
The cards ended up being highlighted at a multi-jurisdictional USDA Farm-to-School meeting at George Mason University, and also at the USDA Farm-to-School Conference in Dallas, Texas.
The program gained even more attention from local, regional and national media, and the Virginia Farm Bureau dedicated a “Real Virginia” film segment to the program, which was broadcast on Virginia public TV stations.
“Multiple schools, food-based nonprofits, farmers markets and wineries have announced that they want to launch similar programs,” Hinkle said. Rizer said the cards will be back next year: “Because of the overwhelming success of the program, we’ve decided to repeat the program in fiscal year 2017.”
Loudoun’s farmer trading cards will be recognized at VACo’s annual conference in November.