Farm to School and Public Libraries

By Deborah Dutcher, Library Services Consultant, for the New Hampshire State Library

This past summer I had the pleasure of being invited to and attending the Monadnock Farm to School Network for a “Farm to School Day Camp for Teachers” at the Cornucopia Project Educational Farm in Peterborough, New Hampshire. The ideas and resources provided from this educational day fit in perfectly with both the Naturebrary program and Food Literacy Initiative at the New Hampshire State Library. Libraries are natural partners for Farm to School programs. Many libraries already host community gardens and or food pantries, have seed libraries and hold cooking programs for our patrons of all ages. Our collections are full of books and other resources where community members can grow their knowledge of local foods, gardens, agriculture, health and nutrition. Libraries of Things often offer the tools to explore these topics such as the Field to Fork Community Tool Lending Library at the Brooks Memorial Library, Brattleboro VT.

The day consisted of so many activities that could easily be used as part of a public library program. We took a tour of the educational farm and explored ways to build raised garden beds. A discussion on collecting rainwater led us to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rainwater Harvesting guide. There was a scavenger hunt for pollinators and native plants that help support these incredible and necessary creatures. We made fabric prints from cosmo’s and other plants. There was pesto and salsa making and eating (yum!). We took a walk to identify (and pick off for those without bug phobias) tomato and potato plant pests. The afternoon broke us up into three different workshops, grant-writing, incorporating animals into your programs (they had two fun chickens and one big nice fluffy bunny), and curriculum.

When an institute such as the public library partners with local growers, we take hold of the great opportunity to promote health and well-being within our communities while supporting our local economy. These are our people, our community, our patrons who in return support us. To incorporate the Farm to School beneficial experience, a public library can partner with their local school(s) and or look at the Farm to Early Care and Education (ECE). Farm to ECE has the same core elements as Farm to School: local food sourcing, gardens and education. The National Farm to School Network  offers the resource Farm to Early Care and Education:A guide to understanding farm to school opportunities in early care and education setting HERE. The National Farm to School Network Farm to Early Care and Education Working Group’s vision includes professional development that supports implementation of culturally relevant farm to ECE initiatives and encourages collaboration with diverse stakeholders. The National Farm to School Network, The Policy Equity Group’s Farm to Early Care and Education Shared Metrics resource provides guidance in planning, implementing, research and evaluation to Farm to ECE practitioners HERE. 

Schools and Public Libraries have similar barriers to implementing even the most beneficial programs. Lack of space for gardens or programs gives us the opportunity to collaborate with other organizations within our community, region or state. Collaborating with others can also relieve the time of staff barriers. Lack of funding to difficult fiscal management procedures often requires grant writing and or fiscal partner obtainment to have food literacy initiatives happen. In addition to organizations referenced in this blog, funding and material donations may exist with your local banks charitable giving program, grocery store chains and big box stores such as Walmart, Lowes and Home Depot.