Applications open through Friday, May 24, 2024

Farm to Early Care & Education Institute

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Elementary school children harvesting tomatoes in school garden, USDA | New Day School, Shawn Linehan. 

Welcome to the Farm to Early Care & Education Institute

Farm to Early Care and Education (ECE) connects early childhood professionals to local food producers and community partners with the goals of serving culturally relevant, locally-produced foods to young children, providing hands-on experiences with food and gardening, and improving child nutrition. While part of the Farm to School movement, Farm to ECE programs are specifically designed for early care providers who support age-appropriate social and emotional development for young children and differ in scope and content from farm to school programming offered in K-12 environments.

Together with a group of regional partners, Ecotrust is launching a Farm to ECE Institute in Oregon and Washington to grow comprehensive farm to ECE programming in both states. With support from the USDA Patrick Leahy Farm to School Grant, the Institute will enable collaboration, planning, and project implementation across the two states for the 2024-2025 school year, the first of its kind in the Northwest region.

Applications for the 2024–2025 Oregon and Washington Farm to ECE Institute are open! Applications are due Friday, May 24, 2024. Notifications of team selections will be made by June 5, 2024. 

Join a Farm to ECE Institute info session

Info coming soon — please check back

About the Institute

Grow farm to ECE in your community with the support of an entire network

The Farm to ECE Institute model is a year-long professional learning experience that brings site-based teams together to build relationships, skills, and a collaborative action plan to further their farm to school goals. Team members bring a variety of expertise and include classroom educators, administrators, nutrition services staff, and community partners. With the support of a coach, teams spend the school year putting their plans into action and strengthening their capacity to integrate lasting impacts across classrooms, cafeterias, and communities.

A recipe for success: Benefits of participation

The Farm to ECE Institute goes beyond learning the basics of farm to ECE. We help teams build the relationships, skills, and connections needed to implement robust and integrated farm to ECE programs aligned with your site’s priorities and rooted in the community.

Build a whole-site team

Forge strong cross-departmental relationships that enable classroom teachers, administrators, and child nutrition staff to build shared leadership and capacity for the long haul.

Create an action plan

Develop a farm to ECE action plan that integrates curriculum, local food purchasing, and family and community connections.

Work with your coach

Your team is paired with an experienced coach from your state’s network. You’ll collaborate with your coach throughout the school year to implement and adapt your action plan to meet your site’s emerging needs.

Build your skills

Engage in hands-on workshops and meet with technical assistance providers to support your action plan.

Network with peers

Build valuable connections with experienced practitioners, other teams, and community partners who can provide support, resources, and inspiration.

smiling adult helps young child scoop cut watermelon into bright yellow bowl

USDA

Four young children with notebooks look at vibrant eggplant bushes in garden

USDA

Commitment

This is a year-long program (approximately August 2024-June 2025) that includes virtual learning and connection as part of a cohort of Institute teams, two one-day in-person retreats (Fall 2024 and Winter 2025), action planning and implementation.

Summer - Fall, 2024
Summer - Fall, 2024

Preparing for the fall retreat

 All team members will prepare for the fall retreat (October 2024) and the exciting work ahead by attending the virtual on-boarding session; 1-2 virtual workshops to connect with other teams, build knowledge and skills, and begin outlining your action plan; and meeting with your coach.

FALL 2024
FALL 2024

Fall retreat

Attend the fall retreat in October in Portland, OR  to dive into action planning, network with peers, and engage in hands-on learning. On the application, please select dates that your team would be available to attend the fall retreat (October 18, 19, 25, and/or 26). The fall retreat will be for one full day and accommodations for traveling teams will be covered at no cost to teams.

Fall & Winter 2024–25
Fall & Winter 2024–25

School year activities

Meet regularly throughout the school year with your coach as you implement your action plan; participate in a virtual professional learning community; attend 1-2 virtual workshops; and provide feedback through data collection, evaluation, and storytelling to support program growth and improvement.

Winter 2025
Winter 2025

Winter retreat

Attend the winter retreat in February or March 2025 (Date TBD) in the Portland Metro area (Location TBD)  to check in on action planning, network with peers, and engage in hands-on learning.

Spring 2025
Spring 2025

Spring planning

Prepare a Year Two action plan with your coach and regroup with your cohort to share your progress and reflections in a year-end virtual gathering, May 2025.

Building a Team

Institute applications must be submitted by teams, not individuals. Teams consist of 3–5 participants and should include a diverse set of collaborators.

Early childhood sites or centers in Oregon or Washington can build a team and apply to the Institute. Sites that serve at least 40% of children eligible for the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) are prioritized for the 2024-2025 program.

See FAQ “Who should be on a team, and how do we select people to serve on our team?” for more information. 

The Institute is designed to support programs in either the early stages of development or for taking their programming to the next level. We plan to select up to 6 teams to participate in the 2024-2025 program. We encourage and seek diverse teams that contain members of different racial and gender identity, experience levels, and program roles. Your team must have representation from the 3 following roles (multiple roles may be represented by one person for programs with limited staff, however the team must be at least 3 people): Administration, teachers, and nutrition/food service.  Additional team members can include: staff,  farmers or other local food producers, board members, family members, garden educators, community partners, etc.

Please note that the Farm to ECE Institute—including virtual and in-person gatherings—will be conducted in English. We will work with selected teams to assess accommodations and overcome barriers to participation as needed.

young child in red jacket planting a small kale plant start in the soil

Single-site teams

  • Team size: 3-5 individuals representing various roles in the ECE site and community
  • Roles: (multiple roles may be represented by one person for programs with limited staff, however the team must be at least 3 people): administration, teachers, school nutrition/food service.
  • Additional team members can include: staff, farmers or other local food producers, board members, family members, garden educators, community partners, etc.

Multi-site teams

  • Team size: 3-5 individuals representing various roles in the ECE center and community.
  • Roles: Teams must have representation from the three following roles: administration, teachers, school nutrition/food service.
  • Additional members can include: staff, farmers or other local food producers, board members, family members, garden educators, community partners, etc.

    Depending on the number of centers you operate, we may recommend you focus your efforts at 1-2 to get started.

How to apply

Applications for the 2024–2025 Oregon and Washington Farm to ECE Institute are open!

Applications are due May 24, 2024. Notifications of team selections will be made by June 5, 2024.

Thanks to grant funding, the costs of participating in the Farm to ECE Institute are covered. This includes all program fees, lodging for retreats, and travel stipends to support teams getting to and from the retreats. Incidentals will be the responsibility of the teams. See our FAQs for more.

We encourage applicants to read through our FAQ section for more information about the program, Institute model, and in-person retreat details. 

We acknowledge this is a new program and applicants will have questions we may not have anticipated. We look forward to connecting with you to better understand this opportunity. Please reach out to institute@ecotrust.org

FAQs

Click the questions below to view more information.

The Farm to ECE Institute is a unique year-long professional learning opportunity for selected ECE site-based teams in Oregon and Washington. The Institute supports teams in working together to create a culture of equity and wellness, improve food access, increase leadership, and strengthen local food systems. Our Farm to ECE Institute has been developed based on Vermont FEED’s Northeast Farm to School Institute, has been bringing teams together across New England and New York and since 2015, they have been working with other regions to adapt the Institute model. 2024-2025 is the first time the Institute will be offered in Oregon and Washington. Read more about our adaptation here
This is a year-long program (approximately August 2024-June 2025) that includes virtual learning and connection as part of a cohort of Institute teams, two one-day in-person retreats (Fall 2024 and Winter 2025), action planning, coaching, implementation, and technical assistance. See FAQ “What does the year-long program look like?” for more information on the schedule for the year.

The 3Cs Approach to Farm to School (adapted from Vermont FEED)

The 3Cs approach, which Vermont FEED developed in 2000, has taken root across the country as a successful model of change that connects efforts in the Cafeteria, Classroom, and Community to achieve robust and sustainable farm to school programs.

We’ve found that the more successful programs are not “add ons” to policies and curricula, but integrated throughout the site or center’s priorities and culture. This requires collaboration among administrators, school nutrition professionals, students, families, and educators. 

In the Classroom (also referred to as “curriculum” for ECE)

Farm to school education provides a real-world context for learning across all disciplines. Engaging young children in hands-on opportunities such as planting school gardens, cooking food from scratch, and visiting local farms establishes meaningful connections to the curriculum and deepens understanding. Rather than an add-on to an already crowded curriculum, food, nutrition, and agriculture can be integrated within the existing curriculum, from literacy and history to math and science.

In the Cafeteria (also referred to as “kitchen” for ECE)

The place where meals are served (cafeteria, kitchen, tables in the classroom) is a major hub of activity. It can be a powerful educational environment engaging young children in activities like taste tests and cooking lessons to introduce them to new foods and empower them to make healthy choices. Farm to school programs connect the expertise of school nutrition staff with education initiatives, resulting in increased participation in the meal program, reduced waste, and making nutritious food accessible to all students.

More than half of America’s children—nearly 30 million students—get daily nutrition from school meals, and schools spend over $6.3 billion on food costs. These numbers present enormous opportunities, and farm to school programs leverage this potential by strengthening connections between school meal programs and local food producers. When a cafeteria increases its local purchasing, it bolsters its local economy, resourcing it with funds that recirculate and build value long after the original sale.

In the Community

Making connections within the community builds partnerships outside the site or center for place-based learning and garners community support for school initiatives. Young children have opportunities to learn about how their food is produced and to develop their own agency for creating change. Farmers build relationships with early childhood programs, schools, and other local institutions that allow them to expand into other wholesale markets and boost the local economy. Community dinners and harvest festivals involve parents, families, and the whole community in building a food culture that is celebratory, honors multiple foodways, and is committed to healthy and sustainable food choices.

Farm to ECE efforts are most successful and long-lasting when teams take the time to build commitment and capacity of a diverse set of collaborators. These must include nutrition/food service staff, teachers, and administrators. They may also include garden educators, family members, farmers and other food producers, and community partners. We encourage and seek diverse teams that contain members of different racial and gender identity, experience levels, and program roles. Sites that serve at least 40% of children eligible for the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) are prioritized in the 2024-2025 program.

Consider inviting people who are already farm to ECE champions as well as key decision-makers and implementers who have yet to become involved but could provide valuable insights or connections when it comes time to implement your action plan. Your site may already have a group that has been working on farm to ECE or wellness, or there might be a committee that has worked on these efforts in the past but possibly needs a “refresh” with some new planning and new team members.

  • Single-site teams:
    Teams must be composed of 3-5 individuals representing various constituencies in the ECE site and community. Teams must have representation from the three following roles: administration, teachers, school nutrition/food service. Additional team members can include: staff,  farmers or other local food producers, board members, families, garden educators, community partners, etc.
  • Multi-site teams:
    Teams must be composed of 3-5 individuals representing various constituencies in the ECE center and community. Teams must have representation from the three following roles: administration, teachers, school nutrition/food service. Additional team members can include: staff,  farmers or other local food producers, board members, families, garden educators, community partners, etc. Depending on the number of centers you operate, we may recommend you focus your efforts at 1-2 to get started.

The Farm to Early Care & Education Institute is developed specifically for early childhood sites that are not solely connected to a school district. If you are in an early childhood program based at a public school, we encourage you to build a broad school-based team and apply for the K-12 Farm to School Institute, which is developed with school-based programs in mind. You are also welcome to reach out to institute@ecotrust.org to discuss what you think might work best for your program. 

The application is used to gain an understanding of each applicant’s community and existing farm to ECE efforts. We aim to build a diverse cohort of teams that have both similarities and opportunities to share lessons learned with others. We are looking for ECE sites that prioritize making their farm to ECE program inclusive of diverse children, families, staff, and community members.

We use the following criteria to evaluate all applications:

  • Team composition: The team has at least one member from each of the following roles: nutrition, administrator, and teacher / educator.
  • Accessibility: We consider metrics such as the percentage of students participating in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (sites that serve at least 40% of children eligible for CACFP are prioritized), demographics of the children and staff, site location (rural/urban), and other demographic information of the geographic region.  
  • Team readiness: The team demonstrates some experience in farm to ECE and is in a suitable phase to receive support and grow.  
  • 3Cs mindset: The team has an understanding of the 3Cs (classroom/curriculum, cafeteria/kitchen, and community) and intends to use an integrated approach to bring the three components together.
  • Equity: The team has clear goals for centering equity in their farm to ECE work, and demonstrates how the Institute will benefit their equity work.
  • Staying power: The team has a clear commitment to farm to ECE, and has in-place or identified strategy and additional resources to sustain their farm to school work.
  • The “why”: The team has a clear “why” for their farm to ECE work, and can explain how their goals align with the Institute’s vision.

During the in-person retreats, teams gather in-person to get inspired by and learn from leaders in farm to ECE, build relationships across the team, gain new skills, and develop a year-long action plan for farm to ECE programming. 

What: Two one-day retreats for professional learning, networking, planning, inspiration, and fun! Participation in the retreats is a requirement of each selected team. 

When: 

Fall Retreat: On the application, please select all of the dates that your team would be available to attend the fall retreat (October 18, 19, 25, and/or 26). We will use responses of selected teams to confirm a date for the fall retreat. The fall retreat will be for one full day and accommodations for traveling teams will be covered at no cost to teams. 

Winter Retreat: February or March 2025, date and Portland area location to be determined. 

Where: Portland-area locations for retreats are still to be determined.

Action planning kicks off virtually before the fall retreat. With the ongoing support of your coach, teams spend the school year putting their plans into action and strengthening their capacity to impact the curriculum, kitchen, and community with change that lasts. A professional learning community supports team members and helps them integrate the farm to ECE action plan. In Winter of 2025 we will gather again for an in-person retreat to connect, reflect, and engage in hands-on activities together. In May 2025, teams regather with their peers virtually to share successes, how they adapted to challenges, and begin planning for future years of farm to ECE programming.

This is a year-long program that uses a mix of virtual and in-person retreats. Teams will implement their action plans during the 2024-2025 school year (approximately August 2024-June 2025) with the support of a coach, a professional learning community, and a network of farm to ECE partners who provide training and support.

  • Summer-Fall 2024: All team members will prepare for the fall retreat and the exciting work ahead by attending the virtual on-boarding session; 1-2 virtual workshops to connect with other teams, build knowledge and skills, and begin outlining your action plan; and meeting with your coach.  
  • Fall 2024: Attend the fall retreat to dive into action planning, network with peers, and engage in hands-on learning. On the application, please select all of the dates that your team would be available to attend the fall retreat (October 18, 19, 25, and/or 26). We will use responses of selected teams to confirm a date for the fall retreat. 
  • Fall–Winter 2024–2025: Meet regularly throughout the school year with your coach as you implement your action plan; participate in a virtual professional learning community; attend 1-2 virtual workshops; and provide feedback through data collection, evaluation, and storytelling to support program growth and improvement.
  • Winter 2025: Attend the winter retreat in February or March 2025 (Date TBD) in the Portland Metro area (Location TBD) to check in on action planning, network with peers, and engage in hands-on learning.
  • Spring 2025: Prepare a Year Two action plan with your coach and regroup with your cohort to share your progress and reflections in a year-end virtual gathering, May 2025.

Once a final draft of the action plan is ready, teams share their plan with members of their site or center’s administration and any other relevant parties. Institute teams are expected to commit to implementing their Farm to ECE Action Plan and establishing systems to track progress throughout the year. Teams will establish regular meetings that include their coach (monthly is recommended), with the focus on assessing progress, communicating and celebrating successes, and changing course as needed. At the end of the Institute, all teams will share their successes and challenges through a spring webinar with other teams. Teams will also have a final opportunity to work with their coach to create an updated action plan for the following year.

Every team participating in the Institute has a designated, experienced farm to ECE coach that will be matched with them based on their geography and/or specific needs their team may have in building up their program. Coaches are supported by the Oregon Farm to School & School Garden Network in order to provide the best support possible to their teams. Coaches facilitate the development of the action plan and make connections to any technical assistance a team could use as they implement their plans. Coaches keep teams informed of learning opportunities and professional development that can strengthen their practice. They can help infuse creativity into the planning and implementation process by offering insights, suggestions, and feedback regularly. Most of all, coaches guide their team, rather than do things for them—they listen, reflect, evaluate, rethink and support the implementation of the Action Plan.

Thanks to generous funding from the US Department of Agriculture, we are able to provide the year-long Institute programming, including lodging at the retreats, at no cost to the teams. Meals will also be provided at the retreats, though they are not funded by the USDA. Additionally, we have funds to help offset some travel costs for teams to attend the retreats. Incidentals are the responsibility of teams. Please reach out to institute@ecotrust.org with questions. 

Please complete this form which  is intended to identify those that have interest in the Farm to ECE Institute but may not be at the point that they are ready to make a full investment of time. If you’d still like to join our networks and learn more about the Institutes and other farm to ECE opportunities please submit your contact information via this form.

The Institute is a collaboration between non-profit organizations, state agencies, and other partners in Oregon and Washington. Questions? Email institute@ecotrust.org.

Partners

This opportunity is provided by a network of partners in Oregon and Washington and funded in part with Federal funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

logo that reads: Adelante Mujeres in purple, joyful person in sketch above with stars overhead

Adelante Mujeres

Child Care Aware Northwest / Opportunity Council

blue and white logo, graphic face

City of Seattle Department of Education and Early Learning

the word "Ecotrust" in blue with a white background

Ecotrust

FoodCorps

NorthEast Washington Educational Service District 101

Oregon Farm to School and School Garden Network

Oregon School Nutrition Association logo, red apple with a bite and text

Oregon School Nutrition Association

logo reading: Shelburne Farms Institute for Sustainable Schools

Shelburne Farms Institute for Sustainable Schools

logo with a apple outline and two "T"s

Tigard-Tualatin School District Nutrition Services

Washington State Department of Agriculture

Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction

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Washington Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—Education (SNAP-Ed)