Applications open through March 15th

Farm to School Institute:
K-12

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William Walker Elementary cafeteria during a tamale lunch, Shawn Linehan. | Children’s Farmers Market at Adelante Mujeres. | Marigolds grow at Silva Family Farms, Roland Dahwen.

Welcome to the K - 12th grade Farm to School Institute

Farm to school programming enriches the connection that communities have with fresh, culturally relevant foods and local food producers by supporting gardening, agricultural education, and local food purchasing at schools and early childhood education sites. 

Together with a group of regional partners, Ecotrust is launching a Farm to School Institute in Oregon and Washington to grow comprehensive farm to school 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 2024–25 Oregon and Washington Farm to School Institute are open! Applications are due Friday, March 15, 2024. Notifications of team selections will be made by April 8, 2024. 

About the Institute

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

 

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

Build a whole-school 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 values-based, school-wide farm to school action plan that integrates curriculum, local procurement, youth voice, 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 school’s emerging needs.

Build your skills

Engage in hands-on, role-specific 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.

 Eggs at the Children’s Farmers Market at Adelante Mujeres.

 Children’s Farmers Market at Adelante Mujeres.

Commitment

This is a year-long program kicking off with an in-person 3 day summer retreat. Teams will implement their action plans during the following school year with the support of a coach.

Spring 2024
Spring 2024

Preparing for the summer retreat

All team members will prepare for the summer kickoff retreat and the exciting work ahead by attending the virtual on-boarding session or watching the onboarding video. We also ask that your team meet at least once before the summer retreat to meet your coach, review the Farm to School Rubric, and gather family and community input that can inform your action plan.

Summer 2024
Summer 2024

Three day summer retreat

Attend our summer kickoff retreat July 8-10, 2024 at Oregon Garden Resort in Silverton, OR to dive into farm to school action planning, network with peers, and engage in hands-on learning.

Fall & Winter 2024–2025
Fall & Winter 2024–2025

School year activities

Meet regularly throughout the school year with your coach as you implement your action plan; participate in virtual role-based professional learning communities; a virtual, Institute-wide, mid-year check-in; attend virtual workshops; and provide feedback through data collection, evaluation, and storytelling to support program growth and improvement.

Spring 2025
Spring 2025

Preparing for year two

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 4–7 participants and should include a diverse set of collaborators.

Schools that are part of a public K-12 district or a public charter school in Oregon or Washington can build a team and apply to the Institute as a school-based team. School districts that have 5 or fewer schools may also apply to the Institute as a district-wide team. See FAQ “Who should be on a team, and how do we select people to serve on our team?” for more information about school-based and district-wide team considerations. 

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 12 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.

School-based teams

  • Team size: 4–6 individuals representing various constituencies in the school and community
  • Roles: Teams must have representation from the three following roles: administration, teachers, school nutrition/food service
  • Additional members can include: family members, farmers or other local food producers, community partners, school garden educators or managers, school nurse and/or other staff, district-level staff, school board, etc.

District-wide teams

  • Team size: 5-7 individuals representing various constituencies in the school and community
  • Roles: Teams must have representation from the three following roles: administration, teachers, school nutrition/food service
  • Additional members can include: family members, farmers or other local food producers, community partners, school garden educators or managers, school nurse and/or other staff, district-level staff, school board, etc.
  • Currently, we are only accepting district-level applications from districts with 5 or fewer schools.

How to apply

Applications for the 2024–25 Oregon and Washington Farm to School Institute are open!

Applications are due Friday, March 15, 2024. Notifications of team selections will be made by April 8, 2024. 

Thanks to grant funding, we are able to reduce the cost to participate to $1,000 per team. This includes most of the associated cost of the yearlong professional development and community building experience. See our FAQs for more. If this fee presents a barrier to your team, please reach out.

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

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

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Child Care Aware Northwest / Opportunity Council

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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)

FAQs

Click the questions below to view more information.

The Farm to School Institute is a unique year-long professional learning opportunity for selected school or district 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. Since 2010, 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

Teams selected for the Institute are given support leading up to and during the entire 2024-2025 school year. Selected teams first start with an onboarding session and ideas to gather student and family input. Then at a 3 day in-person summer retreat, teams are joined by an experienced coach that supports the team to develop an action plan inspired by workshops, learning experiences, and the work of other schools. During the school year, team members implement and adapt their plans with the support of their coach. Throughout the year, participants network and learn with peers in similar roles in a professional learning community.

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 school policies and curricula, but integrated throughout the school priorities and culture. This requires collaboration among administrators, school nutrition professionals, students, families, and educators.

In the Classroom

Farm to school education provides a real-world context for learning across all disciplines. Engaging youth 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

The school cafeteria is a major hub of activity. It can be a powerful educational environment engaging youth 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 school for place-based learning and garners community support for school initiatives. Youth have opportunities to learn about how their food is produced and to develop their own agency for creating change. Farmers build relationships with schools, early childhood programs, and other local institutions that allow them to expand into other wholesale markets and boost the local economy. Community dinners, service learning projects, 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 school 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 school nutrition/food service staff, teachers, and administrators. They may also include school garden educators or managers, family members, students (middle and high school), school nurses, 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. Teams for the Institute’s summer retreat are expected to be about 4-5 members, but a full team or farm to school committee can be larger during the school year. 

Consider inviting people who are already farm to school 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 school may already have a group that has been working on farm to school 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.

If your school has a preschool program such as Head Start, ECAP, Preschool Promise, transitional kindergarten, or other pre-k program on-site, we encourage a representative of that program to be part of your team. 

FOR SCHOOL-BASED TEAMS: Teams must be composed of 4-6 individuals representing various constituencies in the school and community. Teams must have representation from the 3 following roles: administration, teachers, school nutrition/food service. Additional team members can include: school garden educators or managers, district-level staff, school nurse and other staff, farmers or other local food producers, school board, community partners, family members, etc.

FOR SCHOOL DISTRICT-WIDE TEAMS: Currently, we are only accepting district- level applications from districts with 5 or fewer schools. Teams must be composed of 5-7 individuals representing various constituencies in the school and community. Teams must have representation from the 3 following roles: district-level administration, teachers, district-level school nutrition/food service. Additional team members can include: school garden educators or managers, school-based administration, school nurse and/or other staff,  farmers or other local food producers, school board, family members, community partners, etc.  In your application, please identify 1 or 2 particular schools in your district in which you will focus efforts on implementing a Farm to School action plan that can serve as an example for other schools within the district.  This has been found to be the most successful way to guide district teams through the planning process.

The application is used to gain an understanding of each applicant’s school community and existing farm to school 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 schools that prioritize making their farm to school program inclusive of diverse students and community members, equitable, and incorporating opportunities for youth and family leadership.

We use the following criteria to evaluate all applications:

  • Team composition: The team has at least one member from each of the following roles: school nutrition, administrator, and educator.
  • Accessibility: We consider metrics such as the percentage of students participating in free and reduced lunch (public schools/districts that serve at least 40% of children eligible for free or reduced-price meals are prioritized), demographics of the student body and staff, school location (rural/urban), and other demographic information of the geographic region.  
  • Team readiness: The team demonstrates some experience in farm to school and is in a suitable phase to receive support and grow.  
  • 3Cs mindset: The team has an understanding of the 3Cs (classroom, cafeteria, 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 school work, and demonstrates how the Institute will benefit their equity work.
  • Staying power: The team has a clear commitment to farm to school, 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 school work, and can explain how their goals align with the Institute’s vision.

The K-12 Farm to School Institute is developed with school-based programs in mind. If you are an early childhood program based at a public school, we encourage a representative of that program to be part of your school’s Farm to School Institute team. 

We are simultaneously developing a Farm to Early Care & Education Institute specifically for early childhood sites that are not connected to a school district. The Farm to Early Care & Education Institute model will vary somewhat from the K-12 Farm to School Institute model and timeline outlined here, due to the unique opportunities and challenges for early childhood sites and centers. We will post more info here as it becomes available. You are also welcome to reach out to institute@ecotrust.org for more information. 

During the summer retreat, teams gather in-person to get inspired by and learn from leaders in farm to school, build relationships across the team, gain new skills, and develop a year-long action plan for farm to school programming. A network of farm to school partners provide support via role-based professional learning communities, workshops, and learning experiences during the retreat. During the school year, as the team implements their action plan, they work with their coach to assess and adapt to successes and challenges. 

When: Kickoff retreat July 8-10, 2024; program continues through spring 2025.

Where: The retreat takes place at Oregon Garden Resort in Silverton, OR.  The rest of the year action plans are implemented at your site with virtual learning and connections continuing until the virtual program celebration and reflection in May 2025.

What: Three days of professional learning, networking, planning and fun! Participation in the summer retreat is a requirement of 4-5 members of each selected team. 

Action planning kicks off at the summer retreat with your coach. With the ongoing support of your coach, teams spend the school year putting their plans into action and strengthening their capacity to impact classrooms, cafeterias, and communities with change that lasts. A role-specific professional learning community supports individual team members with their unique role and helps them integrate the farm to school action plan. 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 school programming.

This is a year-long program that really digs in with an in-person summer retreat. Teams will implement their action plans during the following school year with the support of a coach.

Spring 2024: All team members attend the virtual on-boarding session or watch the onboarding video and engage with Institute materials prior to the summer kick-off to prepare for the exciting work ahead. We also ask that your team meet at least once before the summer retreat to meet your coach and review the Farm to School Rubric.

Summer 2024: Attend our summer kickoff retreat July 8-10, 2024 at Oregon Garden Resort in Silverton, OR to dive into farm to school action planning, network with peers around the region, and explore farm to school possibilities.

Fall–Winter 2024–2025: Meet regularly throughout the school year with your coach as you implement your action plan; participate in a virtual role-based professional learning community; virtual Institute-wide, mid-year check-in; attend virtual workshops; and provide feedback through data collection, evaluation, and storytelling to support program growth and improvement.

Spring 2025: Participate in a virtual, Institute-wide celebration and reflection; provide feedback through data collection, evaluation, and storytelling to support program growth and improvement; and prepare an action plan for the following school year. 

Once a final draft of the action plan is ready, teams share their plan with members of their school or district’s administration and any other relevant parties. Institute schools are expected to commit to implementing their Farm to School 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. In addition, there will be role-specific professional learning communities that allow for individuals to meet with others in similar roles across all the teams. 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 and rubric for the following year.

Every team participating in the Institute has a designated, experienced Farm to School 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 during the summer retreat and throughout the year. 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 summer retreat, for $1,000 per team. Meals will also be provided at the summer retreat, though they are not funded by the USDA. Additionally, we have funds to help offset some, though not all, travel costs for teams to attend the summer retreat. Incidentals are the responsibility of teams. If the $1,000 team fee presents a barrier to your team, please reach out to institute@ecotrust.org

Please complete this form which  is intended to identify those that have interest in the Farm to School 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 school 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.