Farm to early care and education (ECE) is a set of activities and strategies—including the use of local foods in meals and snacks, gardening opportunities, and food, nutrition, and agriculture learning activities—implemented with the goals of promoting health and wellness and enhancing the overall quality of the educational experience in all types of ECE settings.
In 2018, the National Farm to School Network (NFSN), in partnership with the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems (CRFS), implemented the 2018 National Farm to Early Care and Education Survey. Similar surveys were conducted in 2012 by NFSN, Ecotrust, and the NFSN Farm to Preschool Subcommittee and in 2015 by NFSN with support of the Farm to ECE Working Group. As with the previous iterations, the 2018 version was implemented to better understand the current landscape and reach of farm to ECE, including the application of activities, motivations, and challenges.
The 2018 survey utilized a purposive sample inviting a representative sample of ECE educators to participate in the survey in order to gain a better perspective of the activities, motivations for implementation, and barriers to farm to ECE among a variety of types of providers. However, limitations of the sampling method and survey design have implications for interpreting the results. These limitations also point to a need for further research and analysis to gain a better understanding of the needs and opportunities for expansion of farm to ECE across all types of programs and settings. This survey and subsequent analysis represent the best efforts to date to capture the information available across as many program types as possible. Future research to evaluate the various characteristics associated with implementation of farm to ECE activities and their barriers is necessary to inform policy and programmatic development to advance farm to ECE.