How to Plan a Student-Centered Farmer Visit to Your School

A guide for schools to plan and host student-centered visits from local farmers.


The state of California grows the most fruits and vegetables in the country, and many of our state’s public school students come from families who contribute to the agricultural economy. Connecting our youth to local agriculture creates opportunities for nutrition education and community building. Through our Fresh from California campaign, the Center for Ecoliteracy facilitated 11 farmer visits to public schools in California in 2022. We learned a lot from our school and farmer partners. This guide was developed to share those insights and help schools plan and host successful visits from local fruit and vegetable farmers. 

When planning visits, we encourage you to prioritize farms owned and operated by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) farmers. Featuring BIPOC farmers can benefit farmers from historically marginalized backgrounds while featuring agricultural leaders that reflect the diversity of California’s students. 

Many smaller BIPOC farmers are not connected with school districts due to procurement systems that often require a lot of paperwork and administrative overhead. These systems might not be supportive of small businesses and the fresher, smaller yields of produce that local farms provide. Building direct farm-to-school relationships and finding innovative ways to purchase from the small farms in your region can benefit farmers and students alike. To get started, review these micro-purchase procedures to discover ways that your district can begin purchasing directly from farmers.

This guide is designed for all school personnel to use, including administrators, educators, and school nutrition professionals. Farmer visits can be an exciting event for the entire school community. Use this guide as a starting point and share your plans with other departments in your district early in the process.

Coordinating with Farmers

Build Relationships. The first step is building relationships! To build and maintain relationships with local fruit and vegetable farmers: 

  • Reach Out: Consider existing connections to local farmers that you or your district may have. Does your district currently purchase produce from a local farmer? Do any of your students have family members that are farmers? Identify these connections first, and reach out!

  • Meet Your Farmers: Try visiting a local farmers market. Meet and introduce yourself to local farmers and ask if they would sell produce to your district.

  • Focus on Community: Are there farmers in your area who reflect the diversity of your students? Find local farmers in your area with the Community Alliance with Family Farmer’s California Farm Directory.

  • Stay in Touch: Ask your farmer about the easiest way to stay in touch with them. Farmers are often in the field and may not check emails regularly. While coordinating farmer visits, text messages or phone calls may be preferred.

Schedule. Schools and farms both have strict calendars to meet their goals. Consider the following when building your schedule:

  • Lead Time: How much lead time is necessary to plan a farmer visit? We advise at least one month, and potentially six to eight weeks, if you want to include making a purchase of fruits or vegetables from a new farmer. Consider all of the stakeholders involved in making the event happen.

  • Seasonality: Something important to consider is the growing season. Spring and summer can be very busy for farmers due to planting and production. Many farmers might be more available during the winter. Are you planning on having a taste test activity during your farmer visit? Keep in mind the active growing season for your area and the type of produce that your farmer grows. Many local farmers markets have region-specific seasonality charts on their websites. For inspiration, check out California Grown’s Eat the Season Calendar.

Hosting the Visit

Prepare Students. To support student engagement in the farmer visit, get them thinking about their connections to food and farmers. Consider prompting students with questions:

  • What are the students’ personal experiences or connections with food, agriculture, land stewardship, and climate change?

  • What do students want to learn more about from the farmer?

  • What connections can be made to what students are studying in class?

  • Are there any connections to current events, seasons, or celebrations?

Prepare the Farmer. Share questions or topics you would like them to speak to during their visit. Consider prompting the farmer with questions:

  • What do they grow on their farm?

  • What makes their farm unique?

  • Where are their crops sold? Are any products made with them, such as jams, dried fruits, or teas?

  • How did they get into farming?

Provide a Hands-on Activity. Deepen students' learning experience with a hands-on activity during the visit. Consider:

  • Taste Tests: Prepare a small sample of the fresh fruit or vegetable for each student. Encourage students to try the new item with an open mind and be positive. “Savoring California: A Comparative Tasting of California Fruits and Vegetables” provides guidance and handouts for a taste test. Use this Taste Test Poster with stickers to collect class feedback.

  • Seasonal Wheel: Students can learn about locally-grown produce and create a seasonal circle to share with their families in this Seasonal, Local Food lesson from Nourish.

  • Seed Sort: Gather a variety of different seeds. Create a mix of seeds for each group of students. Share a list of names and images of the plant for each seed included in the mix. Students can attempt to identify as many of the seeds as possible using the list and images as clues.

  • Culinary Activity: The farmer may be able to share ingredients ahead of time to make a salad or other recipe. You could also consider partnering with a culinary class that could incorporate the produce into a lesson.

  • Plant Seedlings: Use potting soil and recycled containers (water bottles, yogurt tubs, etc.) with a hole poked in the bottom for drainage. Students can plant a seed or seedling and care for it at home. Good seed options include lettuce, mustards, arugula, radish, cilantro, and marigolds. Good seedling options include herbs, lettuces, flowers, and tomatoes.

  • Harvest of the Month: Harvest of the Month has a range of free resources for educators to use to teach students about local produce. Learn more on the California Harvest of the Month website.

  • Center for Ecoliteracy Resources: Additional hands-on lessons for extending student learning include Nourishing Students and Abundant California.

Download a Farmer Visit Planning Template