On Feb. 3, the Georgia Farm to Early Care and Education Learning Collaborative launched in Macon. Eighteen early child education providers were selected from over 80 submissions to participate in the inaugural year.
The Georgia Farm to Early Care and Education Learning Collaborative was created in 2017 with support from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. Georgia Organics, Little Ones Learning Center, Quality Care for Children, The Common Market, and Voices for Georgia’s Children formed the multi-year initiative to create proof of concept farm to early care and education (ECE) models that feature hands-on education in nutrition, cooking, gardening and promotion of local foods at early care centers to improve the quality of child care programs and increase access to healthy food.
The Collaborative launch included a full day of training and networking for the 18 learning sites. Staff from the Georgia Farm to ECE Partnership led action planning sessions, farm to early care demonstrations, and equipped participants with tools to sustain their respective farm to ECE programs.
Providers made a farm to school “web” emphasizing the creativity and variety of partners and people that can join together in a farm to early care program, from teachers to business owners to community organizations.
Gina Cook of Quality Care for Children hid a vegetable in a mystery box to demonstrate hands on exploration. Cook explained how to encourage children to explore and identify the appearance, smell, and taste of leafy greens using curriculum from USDA’s Grow It, Like It, Try It Nutrition Education Kit.
Chef Asata Reid demonstrated a simple kale pesto recipe while providing tips and tricks for leading taste tests and cooking with early learners. Providers tested simple cooking tools to engage kids in cooking, such as an inexpensive, hand powered food processor and kid-friendly wavy vegetable chopper.
Farmer and Georgia Organics Farm to School Assistant Kimberly Koogler walked attendees through gardening basics, including selecting seeds, planting with kids, and ways to make gardening simple and easy. Providers connected learning standards with gardening using the bilingual pre-k curriculum Our First Harvest.
Using the activities and discussion from throughout the day, providers evaluated what farm to early care activities they are currently doing and brainstormed areas that they would like to expand using a Center Asset Mapping worksheet.
The resources provided at the launch kicked off a year of technical assistance and peer learning for these early learning leaders. Follow along with the Collaborative on Instagram and Twitter at @GAFarmtoECE. To learn more about farm to early care and education in Georgia and resources for your program, visit the website here or email firstname.lastname@example.org.