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How to Plan a Student-Centered Farmer Visit to Your School

How to Plan a Student-Centered Farmer Visit to Your School

Introduction

The state of California grows the most fruits and vegetables in the country, and many of our state’s public school students come from families that contribute to the agricultural economy. Connecting our youth to local agriculture creates an opportunity for nutrition education and community building.

Through our Fresh from California campaign, the Center for Ecoliteracy facilitated 11 farmer visits to public schools in California in 2022 and 2023. This guide was developed to share our insights to help schools plan and host successful visits from local farmers.

When planning visits, we encourage you to prioritize farms owned and operated by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) farmers. Featuring BIPOC farmers can benefit farmers from historically marginalized backgrounds while featuring agricultural leaders that reflect the diversity of California students.

Many smaller BIPOC farmers are not connected with school districts due to procurement systems that are not designed for equitable access, smaller yields, and small businesses. Building these relationships and finding ways to “think outside the box” to connect with and purchase from the small farms in your region benefits farmers and students alike. To get started, review the micro-purchase procedures for your district to learn how purchasing directly from farmers can be achievable.

This guide is designed for all school personnel to use, including administrators, educators, and school nutrition professionals. Farmer visits can be an exciting event for the entire school community. Use this guide as a template, and share your planning with other departments in your district early in the process.
 

Coordinating with Farmers

Build Relationships. The first step! To build and maintain relationships with local farmers:

  • Meet Your Farmers: Try visiting a local farmers market! Meet local farmers and ask if they will sell produce to your district.

  • Focus on Community: Are there farmers in your area who reflect the diversity of your students? Use the Community Alliance with Family Farmers directory to find a farmer in your area.

  • Stay in Touch: Ask your farmer about the easiest way to stay in touch with them. (Farmers are typically in the field and do not check email regularly!) While coordinating farmer visits, text messages or phone calls may be preferred.

Schedule. Both schools and farms have strict calendars to meet their goals! Consider:

  • Lead Time: How much lead time is necessary to plan a farmer visit? We advise at least one month, and potentially six to eight weeks if you want to make a purchase from a new farmer. Consider all of the stakeholders involved in making the event happen.

  • Seasonality: Something important to consider is the growing season. Spring and summer can be very busy for farmers due to planting and production. Many farmers might be more available during the winter. Are you planning on having a taste test activity during your farmer visit? Keep in mind the active growing season for your area, and the type of produce that your farmer grows. For inspiration, check out the Eat the Season Calendar from California Grown. Many local farmer’s markets have region-specific seasonality charts on their websites, too – take a look for your area!
     

Hosting the Visit

Prepare Students. To support student engagement, get students thinking about their connections to food and farmers. Consider:

  • What are the students’ personal experiences or connections with food, agriculture, land stewardship, climate change, etc?

  • What do students want to learn more about from the farmer?

  • What connection can be made to what students are studying in class?

  • Are there any connections to current events, seasons, celebrations, etc.?

Prepare the Farmer. Share questions or topics you would like them to speak to during their visit. Consider:

  • What do they grow or raise on their farm?

  • What makes their farm unique?

  • What do they do with their crops/products?

  • How did they get into farming?

Provide a Hands-on Activity. Deepen students' learning experience with a hands-on activity during the visit. Consider:

  • Taste Tests: Prepare a small sample for each student. Encourage students to try the new item with an open mind and be positive. “Savoring California: A Comparative Tasting of California Fruits and Vegetables” provides guidance and handouts for a taste test. Use this Taste Test Poster with stickers to collect class feedback.

  • Seasonal Wheel: Students can learn about locally-grown produce and create a seasonal circle to share with their families in this Seasonal, Local Food lesson from Nourish.

  • Seed Sort: Gather a variety of different seeds. Create a mix of seeds for each group of students. Share a list of names and images of the plant for each seed included in the mix. Students can attempt to identify as many of the seeds as possible using the list and images as clues.

  • Culinary Activity: This could be as simple as making a salad with enough for each student to sample a few bites, or something more involved depending on the available time and facilities.

  • Plant Seedlings: Use potting soil and recycled containers (water bottles, yogurt tubs, etc.) with a hole poked in the bottom for drainage. Students can plant a seed or seedling and care for it at home. Good seed options include lettuce, mustards, arugula, radish, and marigolds. Good seedling options include herbs, lettuce, flowers, and tomatoes.

  • Harvest of the Month: The California Harvest of the Month website has a range of free resources for educators to use to teach students about local produce.

Download a Farmer Visit Planning Template

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