Farm to Early Care and Education

Cultivating healthy habits for our littlest eaters

A Vision for Farm to Early Care and Education

ECE Vision Graphic

As a leader and national convener in the farm to early care and education (farm to ECE) movement, NFSN aims to support the development of vibrant and equitable, community-based food systems and enhance the health and wellbeing of young children and their families through comprehensive farm to ECE initiatives. NFSN works to achieve this aim by (1) broadly sharing information and resources; (2) promoting state, regional, and national networking; and (3) supporting advocacy efforts.

To meet these objectives, National Farm to School Network convenes the Farm to Early Care and Education Working Group, a cohort of experienced leaders and stakeholders in the field that work collaboratively in identifying and addressing barriers and strategic opportunities to further the national farm to early care and education movement.

The National Farm to School Network Farm to Early Care and Education Working Group’s vision for the future of farm to early care and education:

  • 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.

Read more about the 2020 Farm to Early Care and Education Working Group’s Vision and Key Strategies to Advance Farm to Early Care and Education at the link below. National Farm to School Network’s early care and education work is supported in part by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

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.

2021 National Farm to ECE Survey

In 2021, the National Farm to School Network and Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems surveyed early care and education (ECE) providers across the country to better understand current initiatives, motivations and challenges in applying farm to ECE activities in early care and education settings. More than 2,900 providers in 26 states and Washington, D.C. responded and shared with us the benefits and challenges of connecting young children to healthy, local foods, gardening, and food and agriculture education through farm to ECE. You can find the survey fact sheet, infographic, and sharing toolkit here. Our series of briefs, coming soon, will expand on survey findings.

New Resource: Farm to Early Care and Education
Shared Metrics

The National Farm to School Network and The Policy Equity Group (PEG) are proud to release our Farm to Early Care and Education Shared Metrics: Outcomes, Indicators, and Measures for Farm to ECE Evaluation. This resource is intended for farm to ECE practitioners and evaluators to guide planning, implementation, research, evaluation, and reporting efforts. The resource focuses on outcomes, indicators, and measures specific to farm to ECE and emphasizes metrics related to equity. This work aligns to farm to ECE-specific metrics and tools to move our collective work forward under shared priorities and language. This alignment of priorities can also guide and improve decision making for policymakers and funders who can make better informed decisions on the growth and direction of the farm to ECE movement. The new resource consists of: 

  • Farm to ECE Shared Metrics: Outcomes, Indicators and Metrics for Farm to ECE Evaluation
  • Farm to ECE Shared Metrics User Guide and Framing Resource
  • Farm to ECE Shared Metrics Guidance Video
  • Farm to ECE Shared Metrics Blog Post
  • Farm to ECE Shared Metrics Sharing Toolkit
  • Farm to ECE Shared Metrics Webinar (coming soon!)

NFSN Farm to Early Care and Education Webinar Archive

The quarterly Farm to ECE Webinars presented by NFSN offer in-depth discussions, case studies and tools and tips for implementing farm to ECE at multiple levels.

Watch Archived Webinars: 

Getting Started

Key resources for farm to early care and education:

For more information, contact:

Sophia Riemer
Program Associate, Farm to ECE
sophia@farmtoschool.org

Email Sophia to join the farm to ECE listserv for important farm to ECE announcements, policy action opportunities and special events from the National Farm to School Network and Farm to ECE partners.

Join the National Farm to School Network to stay up to date on the latest news, resources and opportunities to help farm to early care and education grow in your community.