The apple orchard and pumpkin patch field trips are already in full swing. Meals are packed with the season’s bounty of fall goodies. The opportunities to celebrate National Farm to School Month this October are endless! Designated by Congress in 2010, National Farm to School Month is a perfect time to get started with farm to early care and education initiatives.
What is Farm to Early Care And Education?
Farm to early care and education is a group of activities and strategies that include the use of local foods, gardening opportunities, and food-based learning activities implemented with the goals of promoting health and wellness and enhancing the quality of the educational experience. Farm to early care and education connects young children and their families to healthy, local foods through meals and snacks, taste tests, lessons, cooking activities, gardening, field trips, farmer visits and more.
One Small Step
The 2016 National Farm to School Month theme, One Small Step, highlights the simple ways anyone - from early care and education providers, parents and food enthusiasts to food producers and nutrition professionals - can take small steps to advance farm to early care and education in their own communities and across the country.
Real Life Program Examples
Children at Fairyland Family Child Care in Sandy, Utah, enjoy the benefits of farm to early care and education initiatives year round in a wide variety of activities. From hunting for aphids in the garden to learn more about insects to using apples to gain a hands on feel for fractions, owner and lead teacher Ilse Wilson integrates food and garden based activities into all elements of curriculum. The outdoor classroom space, diverse gardens, and even the chickens in “Cluckingham Palace” all contribute to an enriching and nurturing environment. Ilse’s commitment to providing top quality food and outdoor learning experiences have earned Fairyland valuable recognition. Fairyland is a certified Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom and endorsed by Let’s Move! Child Care and TOP Star. Ilse herself was awarded the Utah Early Childhood Teacher of the Year award in 2016!
At Roots Nature School in Belgrade, Montana, learning in the great outdoors is a way of life. Director and lead teacher, Aysha Carter, has designed her curriculum around garden and outdoor education. Children spend many hours tending to the plants in the raised beds, digging in the dirt, and hunting for bugs. That food and agriculture knowledge comes into the classroom with books, stories, and dramatic play and also to the lunch table, with garden grown produce and local meats as highlights of meal and snack time. Families enjoy the fun with garden work days and seasonal celebrations. Aysha was recently asked to share her success at the Montana Farm to School Summit. She told the fascinated crowd that engaging in farm to early care and education seems like a natural way to provide children with the best possible learning experience and the highest quality food and nutrition.
It's Your Turn
These programs in Utah and Montana demonstrate how small steps can add up to big impacts on children and families. Starting with one new, local food at snack time or a sensory exploration activity with a local pumpkin can be an easy (and delicious) first step to introducing farm to early care and education activities. This October, we’re encouraging everyone to take one small step to connect children with great food. Join the celebrations by signing the One Small Step Pledge (farmtoschool.org/onesmallstep) and we’ll send you small step suggestion to get informed, get involved, and take action for farm to early care and education during Farm to School Month. Learn more by visiting the National Farm to School Network at farmtoschool.org.
The National Farm to School Network is an information, advocacy, and networking hub for communities working to bring local food sourcing and food and agriculture education into school systems and early care and education settings.
Farm to School Month Logo
Fairyland Zucchini Harvest
Fairyland Container Garden
Roots Nature School – Picking Beans