Farm-to-Child Program

Help kids get an early start on healthy food!

Aquaponics at DavisThe Farm-to-Child Program improves children’s access to healthy food in schools and the preschool/childcare environment. We use our expertise in growing food to help parents and teachers learn to garden. We provide technical assistance and workshops to approximately 15 sites, troubleshooting and training on issues such as composting, hen raising, aquaponics, container- and in-ground gardening, and food safety, to name just a few.

To expand the impact beyond the garden, we work with administrators, parents, and TUSD food service and cafeteria staff, improving children’s access to healthy food in the cafeteria. Our work includes: recruiting and training volunteers to help in the garden and cafeteria, and otherwise advocate for the health of their children; working with food service staff to adjust meals to accommodate fresh, local food from the garden and local producers; arranging food demos to generate excitement; etc.

As research shows, kids involved in gardening show an increased preference for fruits and vegetables, advances in scientific achievement, and overall improved attitudes, knowledge, and academic achievement. Adding cafeteria integration helps retain their taste preferences over longer periods. At the same time, food in general takes on deeper meaning for students. These results have been found across the nation, and similar impact has been found by evaluators looking specifically at our program.  Check out the study the University of Arizona’s Abby Lohr conducted, as well as the POSTER summarizing the results.


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Current Workshops

Because we don’t have the resources to handle all the requests we get from schools on a weekly basis to teach workshops, we encourage you first to come to our existing workshops, free and open to the community. Please check out our Garden Team’s workshop page for the schedule, and if you want to know more, contact Melissa (622-0525 ext. 263).

Levels of Support

We offer a variety of levels of support to Tucson schools with a demonstrated interest in gardening. Here they are:

Garden Member

Access to our ongoing series of workshops.
Up to 6 vegetable seed packets/season (2 times/year)
Up to 6 flower/herb seed packets/season (2 times/year)
Starter Plants (when available)
While supplies last, you can get a one-time infusion of compost of up to 1/2 a yard
(1/2 yard = 100 gallons = roughly 2 trash cans = roughly 5 rubbermaid totes)

No cost, but donations on a sliding scale are much appreciated. (The bulk cost to us for the raw materials is $20-25.)
Please fill out a garden membership card when you come for supplies.

School Garden Member

Up to 12 seed packets/season (2 times/year)
Up to 12 flower/herb seed packets/season (2 times/year)
Starter Plants (when available; limited supply)
Various garden supplies at wholesale pricing (i.e. row cover, shade cloth)

Must be a Title I school, Tier I childcare provider, or demonstrate equivalent proof of serving low-income children or youth.
Please fill out a garden membership card when you come for supplies.

Site Design Partner

Up to 12 seed packets/season (2 times/year)
Up to 12 flower/herb seed packets/season (2 times/year)
Starter Plants (when available; limited supply)
Various garden supplies at wholesale pricing (i.e. row cover, shade cloth)
Site Assessment, which is a meeting where one of our staff can help develop a basic site design or troubleshoot problems.

At least 2 staff or parents must attend all 3 of our basic gardening workshops (Soil & Compost, Planting A Healthy Garden, & Site Design).
Please ensure you sign in when attending our workshops and can later tell us which workshops you attended and when.

Demonstration Site

Up to 12 seed packets/season (2 times/year)
Up to 12 flower/herb seed packets/season (2 times/year)
Starter Plants (when available; limited supply)
Various garden supplies at wholesale pricing (i.e. row cover, shade cloth)
Site Assessment, which is a meeting where one of our staff can help develop a basic site design or troubleshoot problems.
Ongoing technical assistance (through phone calls, email, and site visits)
Option to have us teach a workshop at your site
Access to our tool-lending library (after signing lending agreement)
Access to our kitchen equipment-lending library (after signing lending agreement)

School must organize a broad-based garden committee consisting of a core group of staff, but can also include parents, students, and community members.  At least 2 garden committee members have completed our basic school garden trainings and engage in existing ongoing education classes with us, attending 1-2 advanced gardening courses each year.  For us to teach workshops at your site, you must guarantee attendance by at least 10 individuals.

Workshop Packets and Curriculum Resources

We have developed a comprehensive set of packet handouts to accompany most of our workshops. If you take the time to read through these, we guarantee you’ll be set to grow your garden. The three basics are Soil & Compost, Planting A Healthy Garden, and Site Design.

Another area of work several of our schools have been looking into is aquaponics—raising fish in a symbiotic relationship to provide nutrients for also growing plants. For a crash course in this field, check out our Aquaponics in Schools Packet.

If you want help in the classroom, we suggest a number of sites:

Arizona Department of Agriculture – Ag Literacy Curriculum

Arizona’s Department of Agriculture has dedicated a lot of time to ag literacy.  They frequently host workshops, institutes, and have a whole page of curriculum lessons for students K-12.

Project Localize

The Lexicon of Sustainability is all about creating a new generation of sustainability literate citizens who will become our future leaders…in other words, exactly what all you awesome people are doing.  Through Project Localize, selected schools will receive curriculum, video tutorials, a regional food mapping system blueprint, and a whole lot more.  Looks pretty cool, if their video is any indication.

Digital Farm Collective

Digital Farm Collective (DFC) was conceived by a farmer/artist in response to shifting global climate and agricultural trends. DFC’s Seedlings curriculum connects art, agriculture, science, and technology using hands-on activities and creative problem solving inspired by nature, farming and food.  It’s also aligned  to meet National Curriculum Common Core requirements, for what that’s worth in Arizona…

Contact the DFC executive director Kim Larkin through their website or her email.

Dig In!

Dig In! helps kids, teachers, and parents explore a world of possibilities in the garden and on the plate using 10 inquiry-based lessons that engage 5th and 6th graders in growing, harvesting, tasting, and learning about fruits and vegetables.

The Great Garden Detective Adventure is focused on helping 3rd and 4th graders discover which fruits and vegetables are sweetest, crunchiest, and juiciest through a series of investigations and fun experiences connecting the school garden to the classroom, school cafeteria, and home.

CFB Veggie Bingo Game

Our veggie bingo game is a fun activity that doubles as an evaluation tool if you use it as a pre/post activity and then track progress.  It’s geared for 3rd and 4th graders.  Download each piece individually:

Veggie Bingo Evaluation Game.  English Bingo Boards one, twothree, and four.  Veggie Bingo Evaluation Game – Bilingual Version.  Tarjetas de lotería unodostres, y cuatro.

Serving Food in the Cafeteria

In order to serve food in any “food establishment,” like a cafeteria, the food must come from an “approved source.” The county health departments are in charge of making that determination, but due to a lack of resources, the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) recently stepped in and released their own guidelines to help school gardens become approved sources.

You can find those resources on the ADHS website, specifically this page and this page.

In January 2014, ADHS updated their guidelines so that school-made compost and rainwater can be used to grow food for the cafeteria. We have developed a set of guidelines that mirror those required by ADHS. Here they are:

CFB Garden-to-Cafeteria Guidelines – with Citations

CFB Garden-to-Cafeteria Guidelines – Short Version

CFB Water Harvesting Guidelines

CFB Egg Laying Hens at Schools

Once you have gotten your school garden into shape, you must request an inspection from the sanitarian at ADHS before you can begin serving garden food in the cafeteria.  Details for that can be found on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I get seeds?

A. The food bank provides seeds on a donation basis to individuals and schools, as detailed above in our “Levels of Support” section.
B. The Pima County Seed Library a couple years into an exciting project to distribute seeds. They are one of only about 3 libraries in the nation where you can actually check out seeds and have them shipped to the library nearest you. Please check out their website for more info. And also consider saving your seeds to donate back to them.

What should I plant and when? When do I harvest?

Because the temperatures are so extreme in and around Tucson, our planting season does not align with much of the rest of the country. Because of this, we’ve developed a special planting and harvesting guide. For planting info, see our Planting Guide for Tucson. If you’re interested in planning seasonal menus, see our Guide on Harvesting Times.

Where can I get compost or potting soil?

By the bag:

There are plenty of bagged composts that can be purchased at Home Depot.  Our favorite is Kellogg’s Organic Soil “Amend”, which costs about $4 per bag (2 cubic feet).

By the bag or yard:

Our all-around favorite compost in terms of quality is Tank’s Green Stuff.  It can, at times, be bought by the bag at various Ace Hardware stores around town.  You can also purchase larger amounts directly from them.  We recommend contacting them directly to find out the best way to purchase it.

By the yard:

Compost cats, from the UofA, produces compost a massive scale.  They sell a lot of it to business around town, but occasionally have some left over to sell or even donate to schools.

Tanque Verde Farms sells high quality finished horse manure.  They’re located on the northeast side of town, but also offer delivery.  You can reach Alex at 520-399-5556 to inquire about prices and delivery.

Will you come teach our kids a lesson on gardening?

We receive this request a lot, and while we would love to spend all our time doing this, we’ve found our best use of time is to train teachers, parents, and childcare providers on how to grow gardens themselves alongside their kids. That said, we have compiled quite a bit of curriculum that may be of some use to you. (See section above.)

Contact Information

Need to get a hold of us? Here’s our info:

Nick Henry – – 520-882-3305

Rosalva Fuentes – – 520-304-4867

Claudio Rodriguez – – 520-784-4669


Blair, Dorothy. The Child in the Garden: An Evaluative Review of the Benefits of School Gardening. (On fruit and vegetable preference: p. 24-25, scientific achievement: 22-23, knowledge and attitude, p. 22, cafeteria: p. 25, importance of food, p. 29.)

Florence, Michelle D., et al. Diet Quality and Academic Performance. (On academic performance related to not just hunger and malnutrition, but overall quality of diet.)

Joshi Anupama, et al. Do Farm to School Programs Make a Difference? On increased f/v consumption: pg 233, 236. On increased student knowledge: pg. 237. On children improving dietary behavior outside of school: pg. 236. Improved social skills, behavior, self-esteem, etc.: page 237.