Defining North Carolina Farm to ECE Community Partnerships
The following local entities specialize in Early Care and Education and can be contacted about establishing programs at child care sites. These groups, which specialize in providing technical assistance to ECE programs in their area, can help to establish connections with local child care facilities in your county.
The North Carolina Partnership for Children, or NC Smart Start, is a statewide resource for both families and ECE programs. In their local offices that serve every county in the state, technical assistance providers work to increase the quality of care in ECE programs and to connect them with families of young children looking for care. Your local North Carolina Partnership for Children office will provide you with a list of the child care programs in your area.
Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) connects families to ECE options in their area and enhances the quality of early childhood options by providing services to families, ECE providers, employers, and communities.
Partnering with Head Start Programs is a great opportunity to work with families in your county who are experiencing low income. Agents who seek to work with Head Start centers in North Carolina can visit the Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center website to search a detailed directory of Head Start centers. A list of Early Head Start and Head Start locations will appear. You can then contact the center's administrative team directly to introduce yourself and the Farm to ECE Initiative.
It is also an option to reach out directly to an ECE program. The program director or program administrators will welcome educational programming from community partners into their learning environments, or they can connect you with the families they serve for additional programming opportunities.
Research about the correlation between early childhood, physical activity, outdoor play, and child care centers provides a strong foundation for Farm to ECE initiatives. In Guilford County, we recognize that support for outdoor play and increased fruits and vegetable consumption at child care centers starts with training for early child care educators.
Rooted-in-Wellness is a three-part training on Farm to ECE topics for early child care teachers and center directors. The training was offered in collaboration between the Guilford Partnership for Children, who recruited interested directors to the workshop series; the Greensboro Children’s Museum, whose garden program hosted the classes; and the N.C. Cooperative Extension Guilford County Center, which helped to develop and deliver the curriculum and activities to participants. Each week focused on a different theme such as gardening with young children, cooking with young children, and understanding the impact of outdoor learning environments on lifelong health. The agenda of each session was designed to support networking among participants, provide direct education, and conclude with an engaging hands-on activity that demonstrated the learning participants could bring back to their centers. The Rooted-in-Wellness Program created a network of child care centers that now engage in gardening. Seventeen teachers and directors from 12 different child care centers in Guilford County received six hours of training about gardening that included content on fruit and vegetable varieties, planting instructions (using a planting calendar), vermicomposting (composting with worms), and maintaining their gardens. During this program, a local garden center donated white oak saplings to these child care centers for their outdoor learning environments. Other participants started composting on their campus, increasing garden time for their students, and expanding their outdoor learning environments after the program.
Joining the State and National Farm to ECE Movement
Extension agents or ECE Programs that work with agents on Farm to ECE can connect with the broader movement through the initiatives listed below. The Center for Environmental Farming Systems Farm to ECE Initiative is a resource hub for agents and community stakeholders engaged in Farm to ECE, while the Farm to Preschool Network is designed specifically for ECE programs and technical assistance providers to connect with opportunities and resources. The National Farm to School Network is a large, national resource bank available to all Farm to ECE stakeholders.
The North Carolina Farm to ECE is a Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) initiative that connects local farms with local child care centers. The initiative’s goal is to empower the development of community-based, equitable food systems. To achieve this goal, CEFS and its partner organizations assist in developing food procurement systems, connecting resources and people across food systems and early childhood education, and providing children with experiential ways to engage with food.
To sustain this work, this initiative integrates aspects of Farm to ECE within existing and well-established organizations, and conducts outreach and training for both child care facilities and producers, such as the N.C. Cooperative Extension and the North Carolina Partnership for Children. This initiative can help connect you to child care centers and partners in your area.
Operated by the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, this statewide network of ECE stakeholders connects, educates, develops, and shares resources among community and state partners, farmers, early childhood educators, and families in order to spark the local foods movement in early care and education environments and communities. You can connect to the statewide movement by subscribing to the North Carolina Farm to Preschool Network newsletter.
The National Farm to School Network is an information, advocacy, and networking hub for communities that are working to bring local food sourcing, and food and agriculture education into school systems and early care and education environments.
Publication date: Jan. 19, 2023
Other Publications in Farm to Early Care and Education Resource Guide for North Carolina Extension Agents
- Farm to Early Care and Education
- Connecting to Early Childhood Partners in Your Community
- Three Components of Farm to ECE: Gardening, Cooking, and Local Food Purchasing
- Diverse, Inclusive, and Equitable Family Engagement Opportunities with Farm to ECE
N.C. Cooperative Extension prohibits discrimination and harassment regardless of age, color, disability, family and marital status, gender identity, national origin, political beliefs, race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation and veteran status.