Arkansas Farm to School Groundbreakers


It’s difficult not to compare ourselves to one another.  Some people appear to always succeed effortlessly, while others seem to struggle to overcome the beginning barriers.  An important fact to consider is that while some Farm to School programs are more advanced than others, everybody started somewhere.  Three graduate students from the Clinton School of Public Service are working on their practicum project with the Access to Healthy Foods Research Group at Arkansas Children’s Research Institute to create profiles of people and projects working to advance farm to school in Arkansas.  The “Groundbreakers” are a select group of Arkansas Farm to School Participating Partners with established farm to school practices.  The practicum team has been traveling around the state of Arkansas to different sites to learn the stories these Groundbreakers.  The interviews are being converted into a one-page visual profile which includes their reported best practices, lessons learned, challenges faced, resources they would need for expansion, and more.  An additional video component to the profiles is in the works.

Clinton School Practicum Team

Pictured: Joshua DeBruyn, Nicole Hellthaler, Amy Stewart, MPS Candidates

The insight gained by the practicum team will have benefits beyond their studies.  The Access to Healthy Foods Research Group will utilize the Groundbreakers’ feedback to determine the type of support needed by other farm to school partners.  “The idea of the whole project is to provide inspiration to others around the state who might be looking at farm to school and increase peer-to-peer sharing,” says Amy Stewart.  When people see themselves in someone, the information they provide feels more valuable.  The profiles will communicate the various ways that real people have become involved in farm to school.  “We’re trying to hit this wide array of opportunities so people understand [the many ways to participate]," adds Nicole Hellthaler.  There are various involvement strategies and ideally, their stories will inspire others to try out some of the Groundbreakers’ ideas. 

Arkansas Farm to School Program Director, Emily English, explains that she believes farm to school would be more successful if the schools matched the farms.  Not all schools or all farmers are doing the same thing or even on the same level, but there’s something for everyone, no matter their capacity.  Starting small is the key to success in most aspects of life.  Get started with farm to school however you can and discover that the barriers you once faced are now doors on which opportunity may knock.

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