Start by scheduling a handful of visits to a farm in a school year, or by picking one or two classrooms to go on multiple visits. A one-time visit is a perfectly good starting point, but students will learn best about the cycles of food and farming if they are given multiple farm experiences through the seasons.
Before you take a trip to a local farm, consider:
Transportation: How will you get to the farm and how will you move around the farm once you’re there? (If it’s a large farm, you and your students might need to walk or drive between points.) Talk this through with the farmer ahead of time. Also, discuss parking options, so your bus or cars don’t get in the way of the farm’s activities or business.
Safety: Talk to the farmer in advance about any potential hazards on the farm, such as electric fences, stinging insects, territorial roosters, large equipment, or manure pits. Arrive prepared for them. (Don’t forget to ask the farmer about bathroom facilities, too!) As with any other field trip, arrive with a first aid kit, allergy and other medications, and an emergency plan for a sick student. Some educators find it helpful to do a pre-visit alone to identify safety issues that a farmer may not see and to take photos of the farm to prepare students for their learning experience. Be sure to talk with your students about any safety issues before your visit.
On-Farm Activities: The depth of learning that happens on a farm visit depends on how students spend their time there. Sending a group of rambunctious first graders on an hour-long farm tour may let them see the whole working farm, but how much will they get out of it? If they help dig potatoes while investigating soil insects and link that to the classroom life-cycle lessons, their experience will be more memorable and influential.
Over the past year and half, getting out to a farm has been hard because of COVID-19. However, many organizations have offered virtual farm field trips. Check out the examples below from Heifer USA and the Arkansas Department of Agriculture, and Apple Seeds.