About ASAP

Growing Minds is a program of Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project. ASAP’s mission is to help local farms thrive, link farmers to markets and supporters, and build healthy communities through connections to local food.

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About Growing Minds and Farm to School

ASAP’s Growing Minds Farm to School Program was one of the first in the country, getting its start in 2002 at Hazelwood Elementary in Haywood County. Growing Minds (GM) now works with schools in 60 Appalachian Grown counties, helping them to provide farm to school experiences to their students. And as the GM program has grown, so has farm to school grown nationally – there are now farm to school programs in all 50 states in more than 42,000* schools! 

What exactly IS farm to school? ASAP defines farm to school as giving children opportunities to learn about local food and farms in the classroom, cafeteria, and community and includes one or more of the following: edible school gardens, farm field trips, classroom cooking with local food, or locally grown food served or provided via taste test in the cafeteria. It also includes preschool and university / community college settings (not just K-12).

Why farm to preschool? Early childhood is a critical stage of child development. Attitudes toward foods that are shaped at this time in life are strong determinants of later eating behaviors. Many preschool-aged children suffer from high rates of obesity and low consumption of, and access to, fruits and vegetables. It is imperative to establish healthy habits early on. Many preschoolers consume the majority of their daily nutrients in child care, and more than any other age group, they rely on parents and caregivers to shape their food and activity environments. Farm to preschool programming is an ideal way to establish healthy patterns in our youngest citizens and connect them to the food they eat, simultaneously supporting local food systems.

In order for farm to school and farm to preschool programs to thrive, there needs to be support and resources. That’s the role that GM plays. We provide training for teachers, school nutrition staff, parents, community members, and farmers/ag professionals. Looking for resources? The GM website is chock full of lesson plans, recipes, a searchable database of local food and farm children’s literature and lots more! GM also provides seeds for school gardens, mini-grants (dependent on funding), and lots of promotional materials. Here is a full accounting of GM offerings.

The GM team currently co-facilitates the North Carolina Farm to Preschool Network, serves on the National Farm to School Network Farm to Early Childhood Education work group, and serves on the Farm to School Coalition of North Carolina Steering Committee. ASAP also served as the Southeast Regional Lead for the National Farm to School Network from 2007 to 2016.

We hope you take time to browse our website and that you find useful resources. Please let us know what you liked, what you didn’t, what you couldn’t find or needed…we depend on your feedback! And most importantly, we appreciate your interest in farm to school and would love to hear what you’re doing!

Happy Farm to School-ing!

The Growing Minds Team


*Estimated based on data from the USDA Farm to School Census for the 2013-2014 school year.