Farm to Early Care & Education

Farm to early care and education (Farm to ECE) is a collection of strategies for connecting young children to healthy food and opportunities for physical activity. This is an extension of the farm to school movement, focusing on the specific learning styles, needs, and environments that young children learn and grow in. Farm to early care and education has been shown to flourish in a variety of early learning environments with three core elements:

Hands-on learning:  Educational activities that are facilitated by the educator but led by the child. Each offers the opportunity to connect with healthy food in a new way or experience physical activity. There are several curricula ready to go, but these can also be easily adapted into other lessons and curricula already in use by your program.

Gardening: Gardening offers the opportunity to experience healthy foods from seed to table. Indoor, outdoor, large and small, gardens of all types are popping up in early learning environments across Iowa. 

Focus on seasonal, fresh & local food: Early learning environments are in a unique position by serving multiple meals and snacks to young children each day. Sourcing this food seasonally and as local as possible is a triple win strategy for children, farmers, and communities. 

 
Why do we do it?

All three elements closely align with the learning styles of young children. The activities help children achieve the learning milestones important to their unique age and help them to be ready for school. They also improve the overall health and wellness of the learning environment by increasing opportunities for physical activity and access to fresh foods. 
 
Farm to ECE enriches the connection communities have with fresh, local food and local food producers by changing food purchasing and education practices in early care settings. Through gardening, farm field trips, hands-on cooking, food education, and local sourcing to child care, this movement strengthens the local economy and contributes to vibrant communities.
 
Who does it impact?

Farm to ECE can comprehensively affect communities.Children are able to explore their environments in a way that helps them learn healthy eating behaviors. Families are benefited as they have the opportunity to connect with local food producers and try new foods together. Communities are positively affected when economic support is invested locally. 

How do we do it?

Funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation presented an opportunity for collaboration between Iowa Farmers Union, Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative and Iowa Association for the Education of Young Children to expand and broaden farm to early care and education across the state. Out of this partnership, we have focused on initiatives to advance farm to ECE across Iowa.
 
The Iowa Farm to Early Care and Education Coalition was established in 2017. Recognizing shared goals and many shared stakeholders, the Farm to ECE Coalition and the Iowa Farm to School Coalition merged in January 2020 to form the Iowa Farm to School and Early Care Coalition. Comprised of dedicated stakeholders from over 20 organizations, coalition members work collaboratively to build a solid statewide network. Individuals and organizations leading or participating in farm to school and early care initiatives are encouraged to engage in the network.‚Äč
 
Resources

Getting Started:
 
Curriculum Guide Options:
 
We want to hear from you!

Are you interested in exploring how Farm to ECE could fit into your early learning program? Are you looking for ways to expand your current Farm to ECE activities?  Would you like to connect with the Iowa Farm to School and Early Care Network? Please let us know how we can support you.
 
Contact: Krista Smith, krista@iowaaeyc.org (515) 331-8000 ext. 107 
 
           
 
Funding

W. K. Kellogg Foundation   July 1, 2016 through October 31, 2021