Focusing on School Culture to Strengthen Farm to School

​​How does school culture support the development and staying power of Farm to School programs? How does engaging in Farm to School affect school culture? Those are the focal questions of this research report produced by staff members of Shelburne Farms and Vermont FEED. As Farm to School has been proven to show many benefits to schools and communities, it is important to understand what factors can ensure its long term success and staying power. School culture is both the explicit and implicit values, traditions, and messages expressed in the day to day affairs of a school, and is one of the most powerful predictor of success in implementing new educational strategies. 

In order to explore this connection between Farm to School (FTS) and school culture, ten interviews were conducted with principals of Vermont PK-12 public schools where at least 30% of students were receiving free or reduced-price lunches. After reviewing the interviews for common threads, three major themes emerged:

  1. relationships are foundational to support educational innovation and experimentation
  2. the value of engaging in FTS must be experienced and communicated by a broad swath of the school community, and
  3. prioritization of FTS leads to embeddedness into school daily life and practice. 

This research brief contains expanded information on each of these three major themes and recommendations for school professionals interested in advancing their Farm to School program.