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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What Does Growing Minds Offer?

ASAP’s Growing Minds Farm to School program offers farm to school and farm to preschool resources, as well as training and technical assistance to schools and preschools in the Southern Appalachians. Farm to school and farm to preschool includes school gardens, local food cooking, farm field trips or farmer visits to the classroom, and local food in the cafeteria. Our Growing Minds team is available for consulting outside our service area.

General Farm to School

Farm to School Monthly and Farm to Preschool Monthly e-newsletters – Our monthly e-newsletters include information about grant opportunities, trainings, resources, and tips for implementing farm to school and farm to preschool. 

Lesson Plans, Activities, and Recipes – Save or print free lesson plans, themed resources lists, virtual farm tour videos, and recipes related to school gardens, farms, and local food. 

Training – We work with teachers and child nutrition staff understand how to use the school garden, cook in the classroom, incorporate and promote local food in the cafeteria, and use farm field trips and farmer visits as instructional tools.

Lending library – The Growing Minds’ lending library, in ASAP’s office, is full of children’s literature and curricula for preschools and elementary schools. Twice a year we also offer mini-grants of up to $100 to purchase farm to school children’s literature for your classroom or school library. 

This Week in the Garden newsletter – Created for every week of the school year, this newsletter features farm to school recipes, children’s books, and activity ideas. We have both This Week in the Garden (K-2) and This Week in the Garden: Preschool Edition.

PTO and School Board Presentations – We can conduct presentations on a wide variety of farm to school topics at PTO / PTA and school board meetings around Western North Carolina.

School Gardens

Free seeds for school gardens – Stop by ASAP’s office for a selection of seeds that grow well during the school year. Seeds are available for preK-12 public and private schools in the Appalachian Grown region. 

Funding for school gardens – Twice a year we offer school garden mini-grants of up to $100.

Farm Field Trips

Farm field trip mini-grants – Hands-on local food and farm experiences are a big part of farm to school. We offer $200 farm field trip mini-grants to schools in our region ($100 for the farmer, $100 to cover travel and materials). We also offer mini-grants to support farmer visits to the classroom. 

Local Food in the Cafeteria

Sourcing and labeling local food – In addition to resources for teachers and schools, Growing Minds works with School Nutrition Directors who are interested in increasing local purchasing for school cafeterias or childcare settings.  

Cooking in the Classroom and Local Food Taste Tests

Farm to school cooking resources – To make cooking in the classroom and taste tests in the cafeteria possible, we offer cooking stipends, taste test mini-grants, training resources, and recipes

Get Local @ School Materials

Free promotional materials Materials include our Get Local @ School calendars (local harvest of the month calendars), Get Local @ School book marks, “I tried local _____” stickers, Get Local @ School recipe cards, and menu templates featuring local food and recipes. All formats feature local products that are affordable for schools and families and help to create positive food environments at your school.

Publications

Growing Minds Farm to Preschool Toolkit The Toolkit contains all of our preschool resources including lesson plans, “This Week in the Garden: Preschool Edition” activity guides, and “Farm to School Goes Home” parent handouts. It also includes sourcing guidance, tips for cooking and gardening with young children, and Reach for the Stars with Farm to Preschool: Aligning Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale (ECERS-R) and Infant/Toddler Rating Scale (ITERS-R) with Farm to Preschool. The Toolkit can be downloaded for free or is available for purchase here.

Growing Minds @ Market ([email protected]) Manual– This manual is full of local food and farm based children’s activities perfect for the tailgate market setting, community events, and even classrooms! The manual can be downloaded for free here.

View additional Growing Minds & ASAP publications here

Special Projects

In addition to the resources we provide above for all educators in our region, Growing Minds engages in more in-depth special projects. Our current projects include:

Growing Minds @ University ([email protected])  – This project focuses on integrating local food activities and farm to school methods into the training of future education, nutrition, and healthcare professionals. In collaboration with Appalachian State University, Lenoir-Rhyne University, and Western Carolina University, we have made local food and farm to school training part of their Dietetic Internship programs.

Growing Minds @ Community College ([email protected]) – This project focuses on integrating local food activities and farm to preschool methods into the training of future early childhood educators. This project began with a pilot project in partnership with Blue Ridge Community College, and is now expanding to community colleges throughout North Carolina. Sign up to receive [email protected] resources. 

Consulting 

Our team of consultants brings an in-depth knowledge of local food systems, experience in creating and implementing programs, and a proven ability to successfully manage and evaluate projects of all sizes. We would be happy to speak with you directly about how ASAP can help you build your local food economy and implement a farm to school project.