As a national organization uniquely situated at the intersection of numerous sectors, networking and partnership building are at the core of the National Farm to School Network’s efforts. Partnerships are integral to our success, and are essential to the growth and long-term sustainability of the farm to school movement. That’s why our 2017-2019 Strategic Plan includes a key goal to facilitate expanded engagement in farm to school through new and diverse partnerships and promotion, including the designation of a “National Partner of the Year.” Through intentional programmatic collaboration, resource sharing and cross-promotion, we aim to both educate our members about the work of national partners, and increase knowledge of farm to school and our organization in diverse sectors.

This year, we are pleased to announce the National Education Association (NEA) as our 2018 National Partner of the Year. NEA is the nation's largest professional employee organization, committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA’s 3 million members – from every state and more than 14,000 communities – work at every level of education, from pre-school to university graduate programs. Furthermore, NEA’s membership represents nearly 500,000 Education Support Professionals (ESP) – school support staff who work to meet the needs of the whole student. Working as food service staff, custodians, secretaries, classroom paraeducators, bus drivers, and in many other jobs, these essential educators (who make up nearly one-third of the education workforce) help ensure that children are safe, healthy, well-nourished and well-educated. ESP can be tremendous advocates and resources for helping connect students, parents and community allies with farm to school activities, though are often underrepresented in the farm to school movement.

Through this year-long partnership with NEA, we look forward to making stronger connections with educators and ESP across the country, while additionally providing resources and tools for our members to build meaningful partnership with educators and ESP in their communities to strengthen local farm to school efforts. NEA and NFSN have a successful history of collaboration, including efforts around policy advocacy, storytelling on our blog, and celebrating events like National Farm to School Month and National Teacher Day. We look forward to deepening our partnership and furthering these efforts in 2018 to better educate and engage our membership in each other’s work.

Stay tuned for opportunities to learn more about NEA and dig into this partnership with us throughout 2018!