This past Friday, several Farm to ECE Coalition Members took the opportunity to visit community resources in person. The first, of hopefully many, Farm to ECE Retreats was planned for September 21, 2018. The region of Eastern Iowa was highlighted. This area was selected for its high involvement in local food work, and also a Farm to ECE Learning Group target region. The hope for the day was to strengthen relationships, identify overlap and gaps in community resource partners, and to gain exposure to local and regional food systems and early childhood settings.
We started at Grow: Johnson County, a hunger-relief and educational farm initiative of Iowa Valley Resource Conservation & Development. They focus on reducing food insecurity and empowering a new wave of local growers. Their business model is based around grant funding, and have made it their mission to not charge for any produce grown onsite. Rather they partner up with community organization that can help distribute produce to members of the public in need.
Next we visited Little Steps & Beyond family child care. Owner and operator, Anita Schuckert, has been involved in the Farm to ECE Learning Group since 2017. She has transformed her backyard with several container gardens. She shared with us things learned over the years and the aspects that she actively engages children in the process.
Lastly, we stopped at North Liberty Community Pantry & Garden. This pantry is an outreach mission of the North Liberty First United Methodist Church. Driven by a few staff and several dedicated volunteers, the pantry serves the community in areas of food access, culinary knowledge, and community garden efforts. Their Growing Together Garden is a 1/5 acre collaborative learning and growing space, used by programs and public alike. (Click on images to expand each).
We ended the day by reflecting on these strong organizations, their missions and core values. As we continue to flesh out the fundamental values of the Farm to ECE Coalition, its helpful to consider success from community organizations in a similar space.