The National Farm to School Network’s Strategic Plan for 2017-2019 includes three strategies for farm to school at the state level: policy, networks and positions. These strategies have been shown to increase the capacity of the National Farm to School Network’s Core and Supporting Partners and farm to school practitioners across the country, and to expand the breadth of farm to school activities nationwide. Since our founding in 2007 the National Farm to School Network has maintained a State Farm to School Legislative Survey that documents all proposed and enacted state farm to school policies, as well as best practices for state advocacy. We are pleased to announce the release of two new companion resources: the State Farm to School Networks Toolkit and the State Farm to School Positions Guide. Used together or separately, these three resources support farm to school stakeholders from every state and territory leverage proven strategies to grow and sustain the farm to school movement.
The State Farm to School Networks Toolkit is a compilation of network development tools, best practices, case studies, analysis, and tangible examples of how individual states are building teams to grow their statewide farm to school efforts. State farm to school networks are key to bringing together diverse sectors and stakeholders and to creating a united voice and set of priorities to propel the movement. But just as farm to school is not a one-size-fits-all model, nor are state farm to school networks. While each state farm to school network is unique, our research found that many share a set of best practices that facilitate growth at the state level and in turn support the national movement — what we call the Six Seeds of a Successful State Farm to School Network. The toolkit expands on each “seed” with a detailed look at the implementation of these best practices and examples shared by our Core and Supporting Partners, including starting a farm to school network, leveraging partnerships, and developing lasting and effective networks.
In addition, the toolkit includes a primer on general network models and development, four case studies highlighting successful tools and tactics, and an analysis on challenges for and the future of state farm to school networks. Throughout this resource, you’ll find a plethora of practical examples and useful tools that can help increase capacity and involvement in growing farm to school efforts in your state or territory. Explore the full toolkit here.
The State Farm to School Positions Guide aims to help stakeholders strategically advocate for the creation of more state farm to school positions in state agencies and university Extension programs. The guide includes an extensive list of all known farm to school positions, both full- and part-time, in state agencies and university Extension; case studies highlighting the development, evolution, successes, and challenges of positions in four states; analysis of trends in developing state positions; and several example farm to school position descriptions.
Across the 50 states, Washington, D.C., and U.S. territories, there are 157 farm to school positions (part-time and full-time), with 98 housed in state agencies and 59 in university Extension offices. The majority of state agency positions are based in Departments of Agriculture and Departments of Education. Positions based in Departments of Health, Social Services, and Environment also exist, though are not as common. The total full-time equivalent of all farm to school positions adds up to 86.975, a significant increase from 28 FTE documented in 2015. Although the majority of states and territories have at least one position focused on farm to school, more often than not, positions are only dedicated part-time to farm to school. The cases studies, analysis of trends, and example position descriptions in this guide give stakeholders the tools and information they need to advocate for the creation of new and expansion of existing farm to school positions in their states and territories. Explore the full guide here.
Together, the State Farm to School Networks Toolkit, State Farm to School Positions Guide, and State Farm to School Legislative Survey work as a trio of resources to support states and territories in growing and institutionalizing the farm to school movement. The strategies outlined in these three resources are also mutually supportive: state networks can be instrumental in helping shape goals for state farm to school policies; state policies can dedicate funding for farm to school programs and positions; and state agency and Extension positions are important stakeholders in state networks.
Currently, there are 29 state farm to school networks, 29 states with at least one full-time farm to school position, and 33 states with funded farm to school legislation. Preliminary data analysis suggests that states that have at least one of these strategies have higher state-wide participation in farm to school. That’s good news for the farm to school movement, and a good reason for farm to school advocates in every state and territory work towards these impactful strategies. Whether your state is already implementing these strategies or just looking to get started, we hope you’ll find new and useful information in these new resources to keep your state and territory farm to school efforts going. As the National Farm to School Network's tagline encourages, let’s employ these strategies to continue growing stronger together!