Examining Partnerships in a Farm to School Program

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Virginia Tech

This qualitative study examined one school and school system’s Farm to School program in an urban environment. The purpose of this study was to explore the partnerships of an established Farm to School program so that we can better understand the mechanisms that support the work and how to improve upon them. In this case study, eight participants were interviewed, and the data were analyzed for emergent themes related to Farm to School program partnerships and participation. As themes emerged, the results answered the two research questions. In the first research question, “Who are the partners in this Farm to School program?” three major themes addressing this question emerged from the interviews conducted. These themes were school-based partners, community and nonprofit partners, and business partners. All three types of actors that emerged play specific roles that maintain the flow of the school system and Smith Elementary’s Farm to School program. In regards to the second research question on which this study focused, “How do these partners view their collaboration and experiences with each other as partners within this Farm to School program?”, three additional themes emerged. The partners viewed their collaboration and experiences valuing each other and the benefits of the Farm to School program, focusing on social justice and knowledge of how their efforts bettered the community, and by focusing on capacity building as they were looking to improve and sustain Farm to School and the students’ future. Theories of social exchange and socioeconomic embeddedness reinforce Farm to School program success and collaboration. Recommendations include education, staffing, communication, using available resources, and building upon a feasible Farm to School program using the strengths and resources of program partners.

Farm to School, agricultural education, elementary education, cummunity education