Launched: Our First Ever Virtual Northeast Farm to School Institute!

Posted on August 25, 2020

In a "typical" year, over a dozen teams from schools, school districts, and early childhood programs would convene at Shelburne Farms in June for a three-day immersion to kick off our Northeast Farm to School Institute. The retreat begins a year-long program designed to create robust, sustainable Farm to School programs in their communities. Though the Institute looks different this year, this work is more important than ever in engaging students and supporting local food systems, school-community partnerships, and hand-on learning.

This summer, we launched our first ever *virtual* Northeast Farm to School “IN-stitute” with 110 participants from schools from New York City to northern Vermont! We are proud to announce the 2020-21 Institute teams:

  • Barnum School Bridgeport • Bridgeport, CT
  • Bennington County Farm to Early Childhood • Pownal, VT
  • Caledonia Central Supervisory Union • Danville, VT
  • Concord-Carlisle Regional School District • Concord, MA
  • Folsom Education & Community Center • South Hero, VT
  • Franklin Central School • Franklin, VT
  • Franklin Northeast Supervisory Union • Enosburg Falls, VT
  • High School for Environmental Studies • New York, NY
  • Mansfield Public Schools • Storrs, CT
  • Orange East Supervisory Union • Bradford, VT
  • Saratoga Springs City School District • Saratoga Springs, NY
  • Tracey Elementary School • Norwalk, CT
  • The Winston Prouty Center • Brattleboro, VT
  • Bridport Central School • Bridport, VT

Our virtual retreat included a message from US Senator Patrick Leahy, a long-time champion of Farm to School. Senator Leahy helped create the USDA Farm to School grant program which has now reached over 33,000 schools nationwide and is supporting this year’s Institute:

During the retreat, each team’s goal was to collaboratively build a Farm to School Action Plan to bring back to their school community and implement over the school year. The teams have the support of a coach, an experienced Farm to School practitioner who advises the team as they navigate change and overcome challenges to grow their Farm to School program. 

The action planning process supports a school team to integrate Farm to School within larger school priorities, looking at opportunities in the classroom, cafeteria, and community. The process calls for continual reflection on where teams find success or challenges, and adjusting their strategies as they learn along the way. Find more information about Vermont FEED’s action planning process in the newly revised Connecting Classrooms, Cafeterias, Communities: A Guide to Building Integrated Farm to School Programs.

A collection of virtual workshops were held throughout the retreat covering all 3C’s of our Farm to School Model of Change (classroom, cafeteria, and community).  Take a look at the webinar recordings and resources shared from these opportunities:

“I want to reiterate how amazing the retreat was. I’m not sure how, but you all managed to capture the same excitement and inspiration that takes place on the farm, in a virtual environment. It was incredible and I am still reflecting. Thank you so much for including me." 

– Mikaela Perry
FINYS Training Coordinator
and 2020-2021 Coach for High School for Environmental Science