Farm to Early Care & Education

What is farm to early care and education?

Farm to early care and education (Farm to ECE) offers increased access to the same three core elements of local food sourcing, school gardens and food and agriculture education to enhance the quality of the educational experience in all types of ECE settings (e.g., preschools, child care centers, family child care homes, Head Start/Early Head Start, programs in K – 12 school districts). Farm to ECE offers benefits that parallel the goals and priorities of the early care and education community including emphasis on experiential learning opportunities, parent and community engagement and life-long health and wellness for children, families and caregivers.

Farm to ECE activities include:

  • Field trips to farms, local markets, community gardens, and food co-ops
  • Inviting guests to your facility – farmers, gardeners, chefs, etc.
  • Food sensory exploration activities such as taste-testing, food art, or blind smelling tests
  • Cooking with children
  • Farm and garden toys and books
  • Ag in the Classroom activities
  • Gardening with children

There are many benefits for children when they are involved in the gardening process. They learn about gardening, agriculture, and life skills. Children can be included with planning, planting, watering/weeding, and harvesting the garden. Fresh garden produce tastes better and data supports increased fruit and vegetable consumption in children who participate in gardening activities. Gardening also supports social and emotional growth. 

Why Farm to ECE?

  • Racial Equity and Justice – Farm to ECE initiatives are a key leverage point to advancing racial and social equity.
  • ECE Environments – All ECE environments include:
    – Access to healthy, affordable, and culturally relevant local foods;
    – Gardening; and,
    – Food, nutrition, and agriculture education.
    Comprehensive farm to ECE initiatives are a tool to:
    – Enhance the quality of ECE settings;
    – Engage families and communities;
    – Support comprehensive child development; and
    – Meet learning and programmatic standards.
  • Food Systems – Farm to ECE initiatives support development of:
    – The next generation of responsible food consumers; and
    – Sustainable, equitable, and just local food systems.
  • ECE Professional Development – Information, resources, and supports empower all ECE providers to implement culturally relevant and reflective farm to ECE initiatives.
  • Collaboration and Community Engagement – Diverse stakeholders and sectors engage in collaboratively advancing farm to ECE programs and policy at the local, state, tribal, and national level.

Resources for Farm to Early Care and Education