Picture Source: National Farm to School Network farmtoschool.org
What is Farm to Early Care and Education?
Farm to early care and education (farm to ECE) is a natural extension of farm to school that offers increased access to healthy, local foods, gardening opportunities and food-based activities 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 activities are a natural fit for the 0-5 age group and offer extensive benefits in these young years. Children are developing taste preferences and eating habits that will impact their health for a lifetime. Farm to ECE activities not only integrate seamlessly with the learning style of young children, but are also an evidenced-based approach to meeting educational standards and improving the quality of ECE environments. In addition to promoting health, wellness and high quality educational opportunities in ECE settings, farm to ECE expands healthy food access and family engagement, provides additional market opportunities for farmers and supports thriving communities. Farm to ECE is truly a win for kids, families, farmers and communities. National Farm to School Network
Tips and Getting Started
- USDA Fact Sheet: Local Food and Learning in Early Child Care and Education Settings
- What is Farm to Early Care and Education?
- Getting Started with Farm to Early Care and Education
Resource from the National Farm to School Network: overview and initial steps to starting your farm to early care education program
- Digging into Wisconsin Farm to Early Care and Education
Learn how Farm to Early Care and Education can help you enhance health and the educational experience of your children through local food purchasing, hands-on learning, gardening, and family engagement!
- Farm to ECE Interest Areas for Young Children
This brief features Farm to ECE activities organized by interest area so you can mix and match to meet your site needs and children's interests. Includes farm to ECE story time, dramatic play, and outdoor investigation ideas!
- How to Buy, Prepare, and Serve Local Foods
Learn how to incorporate local foods into meals, snacks, and taste-tests with this getting started guide.
- Farm to Early Care and Education for Growers
Tips and resources for growers and food producers interested in partnering with early care and education sites as community partners and alternative marketing opportunities.
- Let's Go to the Farmer's Market!
Answers to frequently asked questions about finding, visiting, and purchasing from farmers' markets. This sheet is geared toward an ECE director or staff person that is interested in visiting a market, but feels overwhelmed with not knowing what to expect.
- Farmers' Market Activity Ideas for Young Children
Ideas for developmentally appropriate activity before, during, and after a farmers' market visit, including ideas for story time, scavenger hunts, and prompts that will enhance the learning potential of the visit.
- Engage Families with Farm to ECE
Family engagement is central to early care and education quality. Farm to ECE can be used as a tool to promote successful family partnerships! Check out this resource for ideas on how to cultivate a healthy site for all your families, connect caregivers to learning, and free printables!
- Fearless Beginning Gardening at Your Program
This resource is designed to remind you of your well-honed ability as an educator to learn new skills and share the experience with young children (in other words, you already have what it takes to do this!).
If you are interested in starting a Farm to Early Care and Education program, please feel free to contact our Farm to Early Care and Education Specialist with questions. We also love sharing your success stories in our quarterly newsletter, so make sure to call or email Brittany with exciting updates on your Farm to ECE program!
Brittany Zerbe, RDN
Nutrition Program Consultant
Community Nutrition Team