Farm to Early Care and Education

This story was originally published in the 2022 Local Food Guide. Find this story and more in the Guide!

Growing Up with Local Food

Farm to Early Care and Education (ECE) is a group of activities that support young children in early child care settings to grow, choose, and eat nutritious local foods. Farm to ECE can be an integral part of child care, influencing the ways child care providers obtain local food (procurement), and use gardening activities and nutrition and agriculture education activities.

“This experience allows the children to learn more about fruits and vegetables, how things grow, responsibility for other living things, entrepreneurship and how to work hard for a goal.”

-Nominator of Little Daisy Daycare for the Michigan Grow More Award

Planting seeds with young children, watching them grow, and harvesting are some examples of farm to ECE activities. Similarly, reading books about farms, talking about where food comes from during a meal, or trying a new vegetable as part of a tasting demonstration fall under the category of nutrition education. Childcare providers procure local foods to serve in children’s meals and snacks from grocery stores, farmers markets, food hubs, or by working directly with a local farmer to purchase what they need.

ECE sites can start procuring local food with farm to ECE by identifying foods they already purchase and looking to see if it is a local product, and if not, how to make the substitution. The Local Food for Little Eaters Guide can be a helpful resource for making small changes, one product at a time.

For farmers who want to work with ECEs, it’s helpful to keep in mind that selling to child care sites can be different than working with K-12 districts in terms of quantity needed and sites’ storage capacity, but ECEs are an important and valuable market. To increase local food at the child care site and for families, some ECEs are working with local farmers to connect families with produce boxes, maximizing the trip for the farmer and increasing access to fresh produce for the whole community.

The Michigan Farm to ECE Network

Child care providers and farmers can learn more about farm to ECE and stay connected via the Michigan Farm to ECE Network.

In 2021, the Michigan Farm to ECE Network celebrated champions in farm to ECE with the Michigan Grow More Award, and plans to seek nominations for both early care and education sites and farmers engaged in extraordinary work in farm to ECE again in 2022.

To learn more about the recipients of the Michigan Grow More Award and the Michigan Farm to Early Care and Education Network, visit

Meagan Shedd is the PhD Assistant Professor in Farm to Early Care & K-12 Education at the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems.

Lindsay Mensch is the Outreach and Communications Specialist for the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems.

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