Are you interested in farm to school? This is where you want to start!
The Arkansas Farm to School Collaborative has created a Getting Started and Action Planning Handout to help schools begin their farm to school journey.
The Getting Started and Action Planning resource helps guide you through the steps of building your team, crafting a value statement, assessing the program using the Farm to School Progression, setting goals, and taking action.
First, you need to create a team, or committee, to lead activities the school is interested in. You can’t do this alone and bringing on other school teachers, administrators, food service staff, families, and community members is crucial to ensure the program is sustainable.
Your school might already have a wellness committee or a school garden committee, which would be perfect places to include farm to school.
The School Garden Committee resource was created to help assist in building your Farm to School team. School gardens take a lot of planning and hard work, so it’s important to enlist a team to help your program succeed.
Now that you have created your team, and there is interest in farm to school, the next steps are to create a value statement, assess your program, and set goals. Similar to an organization’s mission statement, a value statement is a way for groups of people to unite around a shared goal, in this case farm to school! Have each member of the team brainstorm what they value in the realm of food, education, and community. What words come to mind when you hear, “healthy kids, healthy schools, and healthy farms?” Another place to look is at the school’s mission or vision statement, are there words or phrases that could be duplicated in your farm to school value statement?
Aim to craft a value statement that is no longer than two sentences, using combinations of the words the team brainstormed. For more information on crafting value statements and to see an example, check out Vermont FEED’s Action Planning guide.
With your team in place and value statement developed, it is time to assess your program. The Farm to School Progression is designed to help your school assess the activities you currently offer, and illustrate where you can go.
To use the Progression, gather your team together and spend time thinking about each of the five categories: People, Resources, Classroom, Cafeteria, and Community. The team will select the level (seeding, sprouting, cultivating, blossoming, and harvesting) that best represents each category. The Progression is designed to be a starting place, and should be revisited often, at least once a year.
You may also find that your school moves up and down on the Progression as team members change, funding fluctuates, and your farm to school knowledge increases. Feel free to edit and adapt the Progression so it fits your school’s culture and environment.
Now that you have crafted your value statement and assessed your school on the Farm to School Progression, you are ready to set goals!
Brainstorm a list of activities and ideas you have for the upcoming year. If you are not sure where to begin, review the Farm to School Progression to see where there are areas to grow. Do you want to increase classroom opportunities? Do you want to involve more community members? Do you want to build a sustainable program, with ample funding and resources?
Arrange those items into statements that are measurable and timebound. It might be helpful to use the SMART goal framework to create your goals. It is recommended to create no more than three goals, to ensure what you are embarking upon is both reasonable and accomplishable within a school year.
After you have established your goals you should chart out: the action steps you need to take, the person responsible for leading the goal, the timeline of action, and what resources or assistance you need to accomplish the goal.