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Farm to School

Farm to School poster

Highlights from Day 1 of the SUMMIT, May 11th:

  • Start with educating the professors who train teachers but don’t limit it to educational discipline….include non-traditional classrooms, teachers of anthropology, social studies and other related disciplines.
  • Don’t limit it to K-8; got to include highschools – a lot of mentorship opportunities for integrating farm-to-school.
  • Connect with and partner with the Teach for America program
  • Develop a network within the UNC system to train future food system leaders across all disciplines.
  • Strong feeling that there are a lot of existing resources – educational curriculea, state agencies with databases and tool-kits under development but what’s needed is greater coordination and awareness.


Original WIT meeting facilitator & SUMMIT breakout leader:

  • Emily Jackson, South East Farm to School Coordinator, Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project


  • Jennifer Curtis



Farm-to-school programs connect farmers, fresh local food and students (K-12 as well as within Colleges & Universities) in a mutually beneficial relationship to help address two major challenges: rising rates of obesity (and associated diet concerns) and the loss of farming as a way of life. North Carolina ranks 17th in the United States in terms of adult obesity and is 5th highest in youth obesity (Segal 2008). Despite being a strong agricultural state, North Carolina is tied for first in the nation in the loss of farmers in the past 30 years and has lost more than half its farmers in the past 30 years (NCDA 2008). Nationwide there are 2,016 Farm to School programs operating in forty different states. The Farm to School Network describes the benefits of these are programs which,

“[Bring] healthy food from local farms to school children, [teach] students about the path from farm to fork, and [instill] healthy eating habits that can last a lifetime and [provide] a new direct market for farmers.”


North Carolina Perspective

There are at least seven K-12 programs in North Carolina, many of which were affiliated with the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP) Growing Minds Project. ASAP works with farmers, educators and communities to expand opportunities for farm field trips, experiential nutrition education, school gardens, and serve local food in schools. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (NCDA&CS) runs the North Carolina Farm to School Program to connect fresh NC-grown produce with schools (K-12) across the state; it has served over half of the school districts in the state, dealing in about 10 types of produce. In post-secondary schools active student groups at a number of private (e.g., Duke University) and public colleges and Universities (e.g., UNC-Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University) are either implementing or in the developmental stages of programs to increase local food procurement on campuses. Models for integrating hands-on organic farming and market gardening experiences into college curriculum exist at Warren Wilson College and are under development at NCSU within an Agroecology major.


Issues Under Discussion

Providing support for teachers to integrate farm-to-school instruction into the curriculum is critical since there are plenty of exceptional instructional materials already available. The issue is one of training teachers to use and integrate these materials into all curricular activities (e.g., science, language arts, nutrition, and math). There is also concern that at the High School level, students are struggling to execute Senior Project requirements, which creates an opportunity to provide mentorship and community involvement in the area of local food systems. Incorporating local, fresh and nutritious food into the school lunch program and on college campuses is of major importance and one of the most challenging areas to address. For example, Child Nutrition Services, the agency in charge of the school lunch program at the state level is chronically under-funded. Nonetheless numerous strategies exist at the local level to facilitate progress in this area.


The WIT meeting produced the following ideas, to discussed, developed, and expanded further at the SUMMIT:


Game Changer

We propose to develop a pilot Farm to School pre-service teacher instruction program that will serve as a model for all of North Carolina’s 15 campuses that provide teacher training. New teachers are encouraged to teach across the curriculum and farm to school fits nicely within this philosophy. With the epidemic of childhood obesity, schools are being asked to step up to the challenge. By providing instruction for teachers-to-be on the integration of activities such as school gardens, farm field trips and experiential nutrition education, the next teacher vanguard will be equipped to address math, science, language arts, healthful living, and other curricular subjects with exciting and experiential learning opportunities. Integrating farm to school effectively requires a focus on inquiry-based learning, which is the expectation of our current standard course of study.


Other Statewide Action Plan Ideas

  • USDA Fresh Fruit & Vegetable grants to schools will now include requirement to develop relationship with local farmer to supply produce.
  • High School Senior Project – create mentorship program to engage youth in community food systems work.
  • County extension – engage all local agents in program to connect and train local farmers and child nutrition directors.
  • Develop statewide Farm to School resource center for information, resources, connections, on-line ordering, etc…


Local Action Ideas

  • Parents – start organizing at YOUR child’s school; work with teachers, administrators, and Child Nutrition Directors; start and manage school gardens, cooking classes, farm field trips, CSA box fundraisers and/or gifts, etc…
  • Schools – consider grants to support Farm to School Programming, reach out to extension, engage community resources
  • Extension – reach out to Child Nutrition Directors, help find local farm vendors; train CND in handling fresh foods.
  • Farmers – consider this market; identify vendor requirements


Notes from Farm to School WIT SUMMIT Breakout Session:


Game Changer: Develop a Farm to School pre-service teacher instruction program that will serve as a model for all North Carolina’s 15 campuses that provide teacher training


Reactions to Game Changer

    • Create a program that makes teachers comfortable and aware of multiple resources available to them so they don’t feel as though it’s a “solo” project.  Needs to be a ready-to-go kit.
    • Make it a bottom-up approach; ask existing teachers what they need/want to make this program work.
    • Make sure template/approach is flexible and can include rural, urban, and different age groups.
    • Include field training.
    • Demonstrate benefits & integration of school gardens into curriculum (opportunities for unrealized disciplines such as geometry)
    • Integrate into specific subject areas and lesson plans (e.g., food, land, people, nutrition).
    • Need a presence in NC Standard Course of Study (e.g., bio-science, social studies, math, language arts, foreign languages).
    • Make sure it links to testing requirements
    • Help teachers evaluate and utilize community resources; not all schools may need a school garden but can instead partner with community gardens, farms, groups, etc…
    • Pre-establish roles in the curriculum & recognize partnerships (e.g., teacher, parent, farmer, food suppliers, agencies, etc…)
    • Incorporate extension , including Master Gardeners and ECA Clubs, Family & Consumer Services, Public Health & NET program
    • NCA & T Discover Ag Program
  • INCLUDE HGHSCHOOL AND COLLEGE – need to also train University professors so they can train future food system leaders.
  • Consider ‘School to Farm” as well as “Farm to School” we need to get children out on working farms, giving them jobs and ways to engage; consider paying farmers for their time in working with kids; TAKE STUDENTS TO ACTUAL FARMS; just as important as a school garden is visiting and engaging on a real farm.
  • Need companion “top-down” program that enables Principals to get behind this.
  • Focus vocabulary as “eating-centered” rather than “ag-centered.”
  • Build on existing programs nationally.
  • Target schools of education to establish contacts and open the discussion for strategy.
  • Look at TEACHER CERTIFICATION that is happening through other departments of Universities, not only departments of education.
  • Build on existing strong relationship with one school (WCU) before tackling statewide pre-service program.
  • Design measurement criteria for the pilot so that success can be measured and used to expand/promote the training; ask teachers if they use the training and how?
  • DEVELOP A MINI-MODEL with University, Teacher Cadet & Teaching Fellows


Other Partners

  • Consider linking to NC TEACHING ACADEMY to partner around implementation
  • CONTACT TEACH FOR AMERICA as a potential partner
  • Consider conducting teacher training at HISTORICALLY BLACK UNIVERSITIES
  • Reach out to Americorp volunteers and Future Farmers of America – get them when they are young.
  • Work with TEACHER CADET PROGRAM to integrate into curriculum for Junior & Senior High School students



  • Where will funding come from this?  Private or public?
  • How do teacher-training institutions feel about this?
  • How much time will be required?
  • Why not do this as a teacher in-service training?


Other State Level Ideas

  • EVALUATE existing campus-based resources that exist and that are needed to develop training programs;
  • ESTABLISH A NETWORK of CAMPUS-BASED resources across disciplines, departments and institutions and through distance education; this needs to be UNC-wide. It would be a resource sharing network tapping into Ag Education Advisory Council so that this effort not only educates future teachers who teach kids but professors who can train future food system leaders.
  • Involve Principals, the PTA.
  • Develop an Agricultural Awareness program for teachers, include social change and leadership instruction.
  • Connect with in-service teachers.
  • Work with Office of Environmental Education, which has mentor web-site for High School Senior Project; they would love to have more mentor options in this field:
  • Don’t forget college campus nutrition directors as points of contact.
  • Reach out to text book publishers!
  • Develop competency-based program for current teachers.
  • Provide continuing ed. Opportunities as a part of existing programs (e.g., NCTS, NCCAT)
  • Support the increase of the USDA Frsh Fruit & Vegetable Program grants to schools; emphasize greater connections between farms and schools.
  • Get DPI endorsement!
  • Consider asking state to define “healthy environment” to include a school garden!
  • Emphasize greater inclusion of chefs in schools; “chef in training” begins in school cafeterias.
  • Include folks like Abundance Foundation and their “Children’s Sustainability Tours.”
  • Consider cultural “lay leaders” such as immigrants who farmed in their home country as opportunities for reaching out to students (future farmers!).
  • Must involve cafeteria staff.  They are on the front lines.
  • CONSIDER MARKETING DIRECTED TO DPI and School Boards; they need to understand the importance of these issues.
  • NEED A STATEWIDE CLEARINGHOUSE / PLATFORM for sharing resources; clearinghouse of information; utilize existing websites and organizations; include all the resources available to communities to take action on farm to school.  Following materials needed for local action:
    • Education & Marketing –
      • Kits for Parents, schools, extension, farmers
      • All materials in English and Spanish
      • Make it hands-on (how to care for plants, how to cook & preserve)
      • Include successful examples
      • Work with NET (
      • Include how to keep program alive once parents leave
  • Farmers need product liability insurance and light processing facilities and distribution to get into school dining services.


Local Action Ideas

  • Plant fruit trees at schools!
  • School Programming: Kids need to WANT to participate; don’t assume that if you build it they will necessarily come; figure out ways to engage them and interest them like:
    • Create Garden Clubs—make it cool.
    • Farm Field Trips
    • Integrate animals because this is what kids like!
    • Include questions on local food in EOG tests.
  • Bring Farmers to Schools
    • CSAs, Farmers Markets at schools to facilitate relationship & purchasing
    • Encourage teachers to join CSAs
  • Mobile gardens that can go to different schools and highschools.
  • Create a FT position at each district to promote and work on this.
  • Use existing School Health Advisory Councils who are charged with addressing wellness policies; this council can be an effective training & educational body.
  • Tap into gardening, community development, childhood obesity and healthy living grants.
  • Lunch time presentations at schools and universities.
  • Start local “leadership food session” for any citizens to come and learn about the issues & get involved.
  • Important local partnerships / resources:
    • Chambers of Commerce.
    • Work this into Leadership Development Course taught in all cities to leaders.
    • Local governments—particularly around connecting CND and Extension so there is support for local procurement.
    • School Boards — Encourage school boards to set new building standards for kitchens in schools.
    • Extension
    • 4-H – partner on educational activities & animal husbandry
    • Libraries
    • Youth groups
    • PTA
  • Consider banning snack machines.