Local Food Network’s Farm to Pre-School Program

Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network launched its new Farm-to-Preschool program, Nourishing Connection, in Weakley County this month. The goal of the program is to nourish the connections children have with healthy produce, gardens and farms by providing hands-on agricultural and nutrition education experiences through hanging and onsite gardens.

Nourishing Connection programming includes:
~ training teachers to access and implement Farm to Preschool curricula,
~ conducting educational outreach to parents and educators,
~ planting different crops three times per year.

All of the materials and programming are provided at no cost to the programs involved thanks to funding from Tennessee Ag in the Classroom and support from the Weakley County Farm Bureau Women’s group and Weakley County Coop.

(From left to right) The LFN Nourishing Connection Farm-to-Preschool Program got a jumpstart with generous resources, time and donations from the following partners: Paul Wilson: Weakley Farmers Co-Op Manager, Keith Fowler: Vice-Chairman of Tennessee Farmers Cooperative State Board, Linda Fowler: Weakley County Farm Bureau Women’s President, Terri Brundige: Weakley County Farm Bureau Women, and Ben Moore: President of the Weakley Country Farm Bureau Board

“Weakley County Farm Bureau Women are excited about our new partnership with the Northwest Tennessee Food Network,” stated Linda Fowler, Weakley County Farm Bureau Women President. “Ag-in-the-Classroom is an important program for our grass roots organization. Today less that than 2 percent of the U.S. population is involved in production agriculture, and our farm families across the country realize how important it is for children to know where their food and fiber comes from. Last year our county’s Farm Bureau Woman’s group, through the leadership of board member Terri Brundige, placed 7 Hanging Gardens in child care centers throughout Weakley County. It was a wonderful way to teach young children that food comes from the farm and not the grocery store. Weakley County Farm Bureau Woman appreciate the opportunity to assist the NWTN Local Food Network as they enlarge the Hanging Garden Project. I know the young children in our community will enjoy planting and harvesting their gardens as they learn how food grows.”

This year 12 Weakley County child care centers have hanging gardens and 8 were provided with additional bunk feeders donated by the Weakley County Coop. These bunk feeders will provide space to grow more food and introduce children to additional plants.

“Now more than ever these kids need this type of program, and it is a privilege for Weakley Farmers Coop to be involved,” stated Paul Wilson, Weakley County Farmers Coop Manager. “This is what we do in the community – we help make things grow, so hopefully this is just the start of something much bigger.”

Participating Weakley County Early Childhood programs include: Christian Wee Learn (Martin), Gingerbread Junction (Dresden), Main Street Munchkins (Dresden), Pierce’s Pooh Bears (Gleason), Stepping Stones & Ben’s Club House (Martin), Early Head Start (Martin), Weakley County Head Start (Dresden), Sharon School (Sharon), Meme’s Day Care (Martin), Margaret Perry Children’s Center Rooms 3 and 4 (Martin), Cuddles and Crayons (Dresden) and the Pumpkin Patch 3 (Martin).

Additional community support was provided by Ashley Thomas, a rising senior and Graphic Design & Marketing major at UTM who helped design the program’s logo. “I took on this project I thought this would help me to give back to the Martin community that has been so welcoming to me while I have been attending school.”

Logo designed by Ashley Thomas, rising senior at the University of Tennessee at Martin

The mission of the Northwest Tennessee Local Food Network is to serve as a catalyst for a thriving and equitable local food system that is accessible to ALL. The LFN envisions a sustainable regional food system that utilizes locally grown and produced foods to promote healthy individuals, equitable communities and thriving local economies. For more information, please visit: nwtnlfn.org/nourishing-connection/ or Facebook@NWTNLFN.