So, What Is Farm to School?

October is National Farm to School Month, so you may have been hearing that phrase a lot lately. But what is farm to school?
  • It’s an elementary school cafeteria full of kids eating pasta with sauce made from tomatoes grown in their school garden.
  • It’s locally sourced milk served daily with lunch.
  • It’s a sixth grade class biting into apples donated by a local orchard to celebrate The Great Lakes Apple Crunch.
  • It's kindergarteners singing about the dirt that made their lunches.
  • It’s a high schooler yanking a carrot from the school’s garden bed before feeling it crunch between her teeth.
  • It's eating a bean while talking about the plant it came from and the soil it grew in.
  • It’s your school's garden.
Farm to school is all about helping kids access healthy foods through a combination of health and agricultural education, hands on garden-based learning, and incorporating locally produced foods.
And we’re so thrilled to be part of it. School and community youth gardens can be an integral component of farm to school initiatives, from seed-to-plant connections, to hands-on learning opportunities, to cultivating enthusiasm for snacking on veggies.
Below you’ll find great resources, stories, and ideas to help you, your students, and your community get involved in Farm to School Month.
Are you planning an activity or lesson to celebrate Farm to School Month? Send us us your story or tell us about it on Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #F2SMonth!
-Renata, WSGN Communications Manager


Home Grown Taste Test Guide

Crispy or soft, tart or sweet, russeted or smooth: all apples are not created equal! Introduce Crunch participants to more than one kind of apple variety for a deliciously educational experience with the Taste Test Survey on pg. 9 or guidance in this Apple Handout. Or simply have tasters vote for their favorite variety!

Celebrate Farm to School Month Fact Sheet

This is your go-to resource for facts and ideas about Farm to School Month, including activities for teachers, schools, and organizations. And you can even enter a drawing for $1000 towards your farm to school project. Want more information from Check out some of the helpful blog and social media accounts listed in the document.
Farm to School Toolkits

The Wisconsin Farm to School Toolkits from the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems are interactive. They include a wealth of information to help you plan your farm to school program, source locally grown fruits and vegetables, work out purchasing details, estimate quantities, educate students, develop strong community partnerships, and more.

Garden Trivia Game

Even without access to a youth garden, kids can play and learn fun facts about the foods they love with this garden trivia game. Use the trivia cards provided or have students make their own as an assignment. This game is easily adaptable for elementary school kids of any age.
Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch

Having trouble identifying a local apple orchard to source apples from? Here are some helpful resources:
-Wisconsin's Apple Growers Association has a map of the state's orchards.
-Farm Fresh Atlas is organized regionally with dozens of producers listed for each region.
-Local Harvest has an extensive list of small and mid-sized farms, searchable by product.
Food Day School Curriculum

Every October 24, thousands of events all around the country bring Americans together to celebrate Food Day. This curriculum offers five lessons to teach children the importance of eating real, fresh food and advocating for a healthier community. The lessons can be easily adapted for older or younger students.

Events & Grants ... visit our Events page for more

October is National Farm to School Month!
Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch
October 13, 2016

CRUNCH! We can't wait for it! We're so excited to celebrate National Farm to School Month with our friends at Farm to School by biting into a local or regional apple this October! Sign up (it's free!) to be part of the crunch, and receive a guide to sourcing local apples, event promotion materials, and more. This event is fun, and is a great way to promote (or begin) your Farm to School program!

Sign up to CRUNCH!
NAAEE National Conference
October 19-22, Madison, WI

Madison, Wisconsin has been chosen as the location for the 2016 North American Association for Environmental Education Conference! The conference theme is "From Inspiration to Impact." Join other Environmental Educators as this national conference comes to Wisconsin!

Learn more about the conference

Food Day 
October 24, 2016

Food Day inspires Americans to change their diets for the better and to improve food policies. Every October 24, thousands of schools across the country participate in Food Day with a variety of activities including using the Food Day School Curriculum in the classroom, taste tests introducing children to new and healthy options, and health fairs.

Find a Food Day event near you or to register your own food day event here!
Roots & Shoots Mini-Grants
November 11, 2016

Roots & Shoots Mini-Grants award $200-$400 for projects serving people, animals, and/or the environment. Students can help get the process started by mapping out their service campaign together.

Scholarships for Growing Power's Urban and Small Farms 2016 Conference 

Join Growing Power's Lead Farmer and Master Composter Will Allen and other experts in community based approaches to growing fertility on November 17, 2016. This is a unique 'master compost' level training and skills building experience. Then stay for the Urban and Small Farms Conference November 18-20, 2016

Scholarships will be awarded on a rolling basis. Learn more and apply for a scholarship to attend the conference here.

Tasty Tidbits ... of wisdom, fun, and information

Garden Joke of the Month

Why should you never tell secrets on a farm?

Click here for answer

Back to School: Local School Gardens Help Kids

Fall means back to school -- and back to the garden! Check out this story and video about the Hatley Elementary School and Community Garden in Marathon County, where kids are growing tasty treats from seeds. 

Success Story: Sheboygan Falls High School

Sheboygan Falls High School: A Farm, A School, and 1,200 Pounds of Tomatoes

At Sheboygan Falls High School, the farm to school program is as local as it gets. Each year, the agricultural education program feeds students’ minds and bodies, growing 1,200 pounds of tomatoes, as well as hundreds of pounds of cucumbers, peppers, carrots, kohlrabi, lettuce, garlic, and herbs, all grown on the school’s third-of-an-acre farm.

Bruce Brunner, agricultural instructor at Sheboygan Falls High School, saw a gap in his students’ education. “Every year, it seems we’re a little further removed from where we grow our food – from that agricultural or farm setting,” Brunner explains.
Now, thanks to a robust agricultural education program, nearly a quarter of the high school’s students are involved in the farm. Students can choose from 9 agricultural courses and 3 culinary arts classes integrated into the agricultural program. From a horticulture class planting seeds in a 20 ft. x 50 ft. hot house in March to harvesting tomatoes well into November from the 72 ft. x 30 ft. high tunnel greenhouse, students spend much of the school year experiencing firsthand how to grow their own food.
But the lessons don’t stop with chomping down on a freshly picked cherry tomato. Thanks to culinary arts teacher Diana Woodworth and dedicated support staff, the farm’s produce is used to teach students what happens next in farm to table progression. Culinary arts students process hundreds of pounds of the farm’s vegetables into tomato sauce and salsa to freeze and serve in the school’s cafeteria.
And tomatoes are only the beginning. This month, students are expecting to harvest 100 pounds of honey from their two bee hives, and Woodworth says her culinary arts students are already thinking about how to incorporate honey into recipes. Students even prepare food from the farm – which includes a flock of 100 chickens – as a catering service and provide dinner at school functions.
This extensive programming, while invaluable, can be costly. Efforts to make the program self-sustaining offset much of the expense. The school buys produce from the farm for the cafeteria and culinary arts classes, much as they would if the food were grown by a local farmer. The honey, along with pickles made from the farm’s cucumbers, can be sold to back to the community for fundraising, as well. These funds are used for farm upkeep and improvement, such as drip lines for irrigation or supplies for the horticulture classes. The farm is also able to save money on compost by using composted materials from culinary arts classes. Eventually, Brunner hopes, half of the budget for the school’s agricultural education will be covered selling produce grown on the farm.
Seeing hundreds of pounds of harvested and processed vegetables is very satisfying. But for Brunner and Woodworth, the real satisfaction comes from seeing how the farm can unearth interests that students never knew they had. “You never know what’s going to be a trigger for a student,” Brunner recalls. “I had a student who was forced into taking one class with me. She ended up in college at UW Madison. She told me before she left that she thought she was just going to major in business, but she ended up minoring in environmental studies and now she works for a nonprofit that does food-related work.”

Read other Wisconsin school garden success stories

Share your garden story #wischoolgardens

Every garden is ripe with stories.  Maybe it is one about the day the first shovel-full of soil was turned over and the garden was underway.  Or about that time a brave rabbit dared to sample lettuce amidst a class of kindergartners partaking in a garden lesson. Each story has the potential to connect others with your garden program. Send us your story idea, or read our garden storytelling brief for tips on collecting and sharing thestories that make your garden program so special.  

Getting Started with School Gardens

Just starting a school garden? We're here to help. Check out these free resources, developed right in Wisconsin. Or, send us an email with your questions! 

Got Dirt? Garden Toolkit: Simple, step-by-step guide for starting a school garden
Got Veggies? Nutrition Education Curriculum: Aligned with state standards
Cultivating Childhood Wellness through Gardening Free online training with chapters on planning, planting, growing, and harvesting a garden with kids. Approved for continuing education hours for child care providers (1.5 hours of Registry credit).

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