Farm to Early Childhood in New England: New Report Outlines Current Landscape and Opportunities

Hannah Leighton, FINE Director of Research and Evaluation

Two children at a kitchen table with fruit - one is smiling and showing the camera a grape

FINE and the New England Farm to Early Childhood Project Steering Committee are excited to announce the publication of “Farm to Early Childhood in New England: an Ecosystem Assessment.” This illustrated and interactive overview of the farm to early childhood space across the six New England states was designed to help regional interest holders better understand the early childhood sector and to identify the key opportunities for expanding farm to early childhood activity across the six New England states.

 View the Interactive Online Publication

This assessment is part of the Northeast Farm to Early Childhood Project, a two-year collaborative effort of Farm to Institution New England and the Northeast Farm to School Collaborative. The project is funded by a USDA Farm to School Grant. 

The New England Farm to Early Childhood Project is steered by an incredible community of practice who has been instrumental in completing this assessment. See below for a full list of acknowledgements.

Diagram of Farm to Early Childhood interconnected departments including Head Start, Child and Adult Care Food Program, and others
An overview of the Farm to Early Childhood Ecosystem in New England






Mapping the farm to early childhood ecosystem in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont revealed political, economic, and social elements that contribute to sustainable & equitable farm to early childhood  programs. This work identified strategic opportunities to expand these programs in New England. 

This resource is useful for anyone working to expand farm to early childcare work; those just entering this field; and local, regional, and federal decision makers looking to support health, food security, and community wellness for their constituents. 

Researchers interviewed farm to early childcare advocates, nutritionists, program leads, and policy experts, from across all six New England states. Insights from these 30+ experts were synthesized into an illustrated interactive report that provides both a regional overview, and a detailed state-by-state walkthrough.

Key opportunities have been identified within four categories. You can find more detailed recommendations in the report. 

  • Grow statewide and regional coordination to connect partners and projects, and expand opportunities for learning, sharing resources, peer support, and collective impact.
  • Develop scaffolded farm to EC professional development trainings within each state that meet existing EC licensing, certification, and continuing education requirements.
  • Use federal, state, and local policy to build support for farm to EC programs
  • Increase funding streams for farm to EC

 View the Interactive Online Publication

Want to learn more? 

  • April 19, 2023, 3 pm ET Members of the farm to early childcare community of practice join lead author & researcher Hannah Leighton at the Northeast Farm to Institution Summit in a virtual session titled “Farm to Early Childhood across New England: Successes, Opportunities, and Recommendations” on April 19, 2023 at 3 pm ET. Zania Johnson, Heidi Hetzler, Noereem Mena, Cynthia Greene, and Dawn Gordon will share insights and opportunities from their states. Included with F2iSummit registration, sliding scale available.
  • Stay tuned for an upcoming webinar with Farm to EC COP members, researcher Hannah Leighton, and project lead Dana Stevens. Presenters will give an overview of the New England Farm to Early Childhood Project, take a deeper dive into the recommendations and opportunities identified in the ecosystem assessment, and lead a group strategizing session about how to move this work forward in New England. (Sign up for The FINE Print newsletter to make sure you catch the registration link when this webinar is scheduled.)

About Farm to Institution New England

Farm to Institution New England (FINE) is a six-state network of nonprofit, public and private entities working together to transform our food system by increasing the amount of good, local food served in our region’s schools, hospitals, colleges, correctional facilities, and other institutions. The FINE network consists of non-profit organizations, government agencies, institutions, foundations, farms, food distributors, food processors, food service operators and others. More at

About Northeast Farm to School Collaborative

The Northeast Farm to School Collaborative is a collective movement of educators, food providers, and policy advocates working collaboratively to catalyze food system change, starting with the school community. By building connections among classrooms, cafeterias, and communities, we increase student knowledge, improve attitudes toward healthy and local food, and become an important catalyst for rebuilding a more sustainable food system. More at



We are grateful to the following individuals for sharing their knowledge and insight. The people on this list either engaged in virtual interviews, responded to questions via email, or allowed us to join existing meetings to ask specific questions about early childhood in their state. Names are organized by state and then alphabetically. Members of this project's community of practice are noted with "(CoP)."

Angela Cusicanqui, All Our Kin
Debora Brandon, CT DPH
Jen Vinci, CT DPH
Jill Keating Herbst, All Our Kin
Pamela Levasseur, CT Office of Early Childhood
Shannon Raider-Ginsburg, UConn Extension (CoP)
Zania Johnson, Micro2life LLC (CoP)

Ashley Edmondson, Let's Go! (CoP)
Dawn L. Gordon, MCD/ Healthy Kids Healthy Future (CoP)
Marissa Romano, MCD/ Healthy Kids Healthy Future (CoP)
Pam Soucy, Maine Roads to Quality Professional Development Network (CoP)
Renee Page, Healthy Communities of the Capital Area
Stephanie Cesario, (formerly Health Communities of the Capital Area)

Eliza Lawrence, Regional Environmental Council
Irene Sedlacko, Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education (CoP)
Christian Kelly, MA EEC
Rina Zampieron, Mass Audubon (CoP)
Simca Horwitz, Mass Farm to School

Dellie Champagne, Save the Children (CoP)
Elise Bolster, NH Food Bank
Jessica Gorhan, NH Hunger Solutions (former CoP)
Kate Graves, UNH Extension, Health & Well-Being (CoP)
Dr. Kimberly Turner Besbitt, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, University of New Hampshire
MacKenzie Kittery, NH Food Bank, Cooking Matters
Dr. Noereem Mena, University of New Hampshire (CoP)
Stacey Purslow, NH Farm to School

Dr. Alison Tovar, Brown University (CoP)
Heidi Hetzler, University of Rhode Island SNAP-Ed (CoP)
Jessica Patrolia, Rhode Island Department of Education
Stephanie Bush, Farm Fresh Rhode Island

Cynthia Greene, Shelburne Farms/VT Feed (CoP)
Keely Agan, Hunger Free VT (CoP)