LOCAL FOODS: Childcare Center Fruit & Vegetable Gardening Series

This series of eight resource publications released by the NC Cooperative Extension is available on the Local Food Webportal. NLI worked in collaboration with the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) and NC Cooperative Extension to produce the Childcare Center Production Garden Series which covers creating a childcare garden, growing and preparing fruits and vegetables in both warm and cool seasons, and composting techniques.

Early childhood educators have an important opportunity to help create positive environments that connect with young children’s senses, allowing them to plant, grow, harvest, and ultimately prepare healthy eating experiences. By incorporating a designated production garden in the outdoor learning environment, childcare centers can inspire lifelong healthy eating habits and can become models for the families they serve.

The Production Gardens publications were inspired and informed by the hard work and impressive results achieved at the eight Wake County Childcare centers participating in POD (Preventing Obesity by Design).

See below for detailed descriptions of each publication and downloadable pdfs of the series.

Children and teacher participate in managing the production garden.

Primary pathway offers opportunity for vigorous play.

A pre-harvest day in the early childcare garden.

Production gardens line the parking lot fence.

Children investigate the vermicompost bin.

Raised bed production gardens adjoin the building.

Children harvest sweet potatoes.

Tire planters line the pathway.

1. Growing and Cooking Fruits and Vegetables at Childcare Centers

This publication summarizes the benefits of fruit and vegetable gardening with children. It includes age-appropriate activities for childcare providers to engage young children in using fresh produce from a production garden for cooking and eating. This is the first of eight publications about childcare center production gardens.

2. Creating Childcare Center Production Gardens

This publication focuses on developing fruit and vegetable production gardens in the Outdoor Learning Environment (OLE) of childcare centers. Included are basic garden design and layout to help childcare centers get started in year-round gardening activities. This is the second of eight publications about childcare center production gardens.

3. Growing Warm-Season Fruits and Vegetables in Childcare Production Gardens

This publication focuses on easy-to-grow, child-friendly, warm-season fruits and vegetables suitable for childcare center gardening. This is the third of eight publications about childcare center production gardens.

4. Growing Cool-Season Vegetables in Childcare Production Gardens

This publication focuses on easy-to-grow, child-friendly, cool season vegetables suitable for childcare center gardening. This is the fourth of eight publications about childcare center production gardens.

5. Snacking and Cooking with Warm-Season Produce from Childcare Production Gardens

This publication includes simple recipes that childcare center cooks and educators can use to engage children in snacking and cooking with fresh warm-season fruits and vegetables from on-site production gardens and elsewhere. This is the fifth of eight publications about childcare center production gardens.

6. Snacking and Cooking with Cool-Season Produce from Childcare Production Gardens

This publication includes simple recipes that childcare center cooks and educators can use to engage children in snacking and cooking with fresh cool-season vegetables from on-site production gardens and elsewhere. This is the sixth of eight publications about childcare center production gardens.

7. Composting in Childcare Production Gardens

This publication is a how-to guide for starting a garden-related standard compost bin in a childcare center Outdoor Learning Environment (OLE). Included is guidance on design, construction, and management of compost bins as well as curriculum connections. This is the seventh of eight publications about childcare center production gardens.

8. Vermicomposting in Childcare Production Gardens

This publication is a how-to guide for starting a garden-related vermicomposting bin in a childcare center Outdoor Learning Environment (OLE) or indoors. Included is guidance on design, construction, and management of vermicomposting bins as well as curriculum connections. This is the eighth of eight publications about childcare center production gardens.