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OSU Extension

College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Farm to School

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Did you know that agriculture is Ohio's number 1 industry?!
And we're teaching kids in school all about ag?!

There's no getting around it --- if you eat, wear clothes, heat or cool your home, take medication, you name it, the agriculture industry affects you in many ways! AND we just celebrated National Ag Day, which has occured on March 22 each year since 1973.

There's a lot to learn, know, and grow -- and Tim McDermott talked recently with Chris Weatherholtz from Columbus City Schools about how they are increasing our kids' knowledge about the ag industry, and truly helping kids learn by gardening. Children at numerous Columbus City School buildings are learning in the classroom and in their very own garden at school. They learn about growing in soil or water, and not only inside, but outdoors.              girl kneeling in gardenboy with plant pot

As Chris, the Columbus City Schools (CCS) Farm to School curriculum coordinator, told Tim, this is true experiential learning with kids inside the classroom and outside in the garden. CCS is connecting kids with soil and plants – and some insight about how they can have a high-tech job in the future in the ag industry.

You CAN Try This at Home!
Check out these virtual webinars to learn some of the same things your kids are learning at school! Learn how to get started growing your own fresh, healthy produce with Tim McDermott's Spring Garden Planning Virtual Event.

Seed Starting in 4 Minutes: Also check out this great video that details a seed starting kit used in our collaboration with Columbus City Schools. This is not a standalone kit you can purchase all-in-one, because we used some grant funding to get us started. However, you can use whatever materials you have for seed starting. Good grow lights will maximize your chances of success.

We have free fact sheets available on Ohioline to learn more about topics related the benefits of fresh fruits and veggies from the garden, food safety, and the ag industry!

The Ohio Farm to School program is very active, etc. across the state, and there are many resources provided by and for Farm to School in the Classroom efforts. Activities and lessons abound for all grade levels, whether you want to focus on some seasonal events or integrate lessons on nutrition, health, science, food, or careers throughout the year.

OSU Extension's Farm to School program provides resources to help schools procure and serve locally produced food. The program also helps students understand where their food comes from, and how their food choices affect their health, environment and community. We reach key audiences through partnerships with the Ohio departments of Agriculture, Education and Health, as well as through Ohio Farm Bureau, the American Dairy Association and other agencies, trade groups and philanthropic organizations.

Gardening gets kids more interested in where food comes from, more interested in trying new fruits and veggies, and more interested in the world around them. Gardening and preparing to garden are great ways to teach kids about science, math, and lots of other things.

kid group in gardenThe National Farm to School Network "is an information, advocacy and networking hub for communities working to bring local food sourcing and food and agriculture education into school systems and early care and education environments." Check out how to connect with others interested in this topic, learn more about the programs you can bring to your own school system and community, and get started today!

Research has been conducted for years on gardening with students. Among other, the North American Association for Environmental Education has published research about how school gardens impact students. Learn more in Enhancing Science Knowledge Through School Gardens, which studied the effects of school gardens in a trial with low-income elementary schools.

There are also farm-to-school efforts that revolve around getting good food on the table for school students. The Ohio Farm to School Initiative is part of a USDA national network and encompasses many local, state and regional partners. The initiative provides youth, pre-K through college, with access to nutritious meals, while supporting local farmers and communities. This program is intended to provide children with fresh, locally grown or raised food, and to educate them about many aspects of agriculture and their community. Check out this article about Ohio's efforts: Farm to School program brings local produce to cafeterias.

dirty handsAction for Healthy Kids, a national nonprofit "that brings together dedicated volunteers and partners to make schools healthier places where kids thrive," provides information about how to transform school space into a garden and some of the benefits.

Workforce development also is a hallmark of Extension efforts, because we believe people need to be experts in both their chosen subject matter area as well as how to be "good citizens" in the workplace and become/remain relevant in one’s chosen field of work. The programs of OSU Extension not only help individuals acquire the skills they need in their current jobs, but those they will need in the future positions to which they aspire.

There are many ways agriculture impacts everyone. Here's just one look at 5 Ways Agriculture Impacts Our Lives

If you want to see if your children's school has a garden and is studying ag in the classroom, connect with Chris Weatherholtz, Columbus City Schools Farm to School curriculum coordinator, at

Carol Smathers, Extension field specialist focusing on youth nutrition and wellness, works with our statewide Farm to School efforts.

Those at the high school or college level can learn more about careers in the ag industry via the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences' Career Development Office.

Empower connections by providing awareness, knowledge, and opportunities to engage with people and resources related to career development in Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

high-tech ag ex photoshigh-tech ag ex photo sheet

Kids interested in growing their own flowers or vegetables at home can get started with one of our 4-H projects. For example, the Grow Your Own Vegetables project focuses on activities that work kids through identifying what vegetables they like to eat and then planning and designing their garden, to growing and harvesting.

And after that, Growing with the Seasons helps kids that their garden to the next level with easy-to-implement intensive gardening methods that use available space and the entire gardening season.

For those interested in flowers, How Does Your Garden Grow? is a beginning-level project that guides youth with limited or no experience in flower gardening through several activities that teach decision-making, flower garden preparation, and hands-on learning.