Meet the 2021 Michigan Grow More Award Recipients

We are excited to announce 7 early care and education sites as recipients of the first-ever Michigan Grow More Award.

Michigan Grow More Award, presented by the Michigan Farm to Early Care and Education Network. Child waters tomoatoes, spinach, and lemon seedings.

The Michigan Grow More Award is intended to acknowledge early care and education providers and farmers and food producers doing extraordinary work in farm to early care and education.

Farm to early care and education (farm to ECE) in Michigan includes local food sourcing, nutrition education, and gardening for children ages 0-5 in early care and education settings. Children, families, early care and education providers, and farmers all benefit from farm to ECE.

We accepted statewide nominations for early care and education providers in the following areas:

  • Procurement: purchasing or obtaining food grown or produced locally
  • Gardening: planting, growing, and harvesting of fruits, vegetables, and edible plants
  • Nutrition and agricultural education: educational opportunities related to food, nutrition, and agriculture that help children learn about how food grows and where it comes from

Farmers and/or food producers who grow or provide one or more varieties of local crops/products for an early care and education and those who work with ECE providers to offer education opportunities on their farms or via virtual field trips were also eligible for nomination.

Thank you to all of those who submitted nominations. And a big thank you to the early care and education providers and farmers who are leading the way in farm to early care and education!

As a part of October’s Farm to School Month celebrations, we are excited to announce the inaugural recipients of this award! Let us introduce you to them:

Across All Areas: Procurement, Gardening, and Nutrition and Agricultural Education

Baxter Community Center Child Development Center

Baxter Community Center Child Development Center was nominated across all three core elements of farm to ECE. In their multiple nominations, it was shared that Baxter Community Center Child Development Center has on-site raised bed gardens and a greenhouse used for growing fresh produce that is served in meals and snacks and used for nutrition education. Children plant seeds indoors in the winter with staff and watch them grow into plants, and also “help pick produce such as collard greens, watermelons, cucumbers, and peppers to deliver to Grandma Dee [onsite cook] who whips up healthy dishes to serve.” A source of pride in one nomination was that “we aim to represent the cultural backgrounds of our students in the food we serve and the lessons that we provide,” noting the children are more willing to try new foods when they can connect to the food sources.

Gardening

Cassie’s Daycare (Cassie Dulock)

A family child care provider, Cassie was nominated for her gardening with the children in her care and work to add a greenhouse at her site, which supplements meals and snacks with a variety of fruits, vegetables, and herbs. It was shared that “through gardening she is able to teach children math, science, health, and nutrition,” among other valuable lessons.

Catching the Dream

A brand-new bilingual and multicultural partner of the Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative located in Springfield, Michigan, Catching the Dream partnered with the Eastern Michigan University Center for Health Disparities Innovations and Studies on a grant from the Association of State Public Health Nutritionists and dug right in implementing their plan. With several onsite garden beds, children “are able to learn hands-on about gardening and also make healthy snacks inside the classroom.”

It’s All About Your Child (Gail Tiller)

Gail Tiller is a family based child care provider and owner of It’s All About Your Child. Her site houses a substantial garden with a variety of fruits, vegetables, and herbs supplementing meals and snacks for the children in her care. Equally as important, the children participate in the garden activities and structured learning around different aspect of gardening, including planning, planting, and harvesting. In addition, Gail has been able to use the parcel of land next to her child care to “extensively grow her garden to something of wonder for both her students and their families.”

Meme’s Daycare

Meme’s Daycare was nominated for her exemplary follow through on a suggestion to start a garden after sharing she wanted to improve vegetable consumption among “her kids.” With the help of her staff and family, she installed raised beds. Not only were the children really excited, they “loved watching the plants grow.” Her first year success has led to plans for next year as well.

Procurement

YWCA Kalamazoo Children’s Center

The YWCA Kalamazoo Children’s Center has a history of providing access to healthy, affordable, locally produced food, as well as promoting nutritional awareness and health outcomes. Their nomination shared multiple ways in which the Center has gone above and beyond to procure food from local sources, highlighting the different local farms and food producers the YWCA works with for sourcing. The food director LynAnn VanDyk “goes the extra mile to provide meals that meet the special dietary needs for not only children at the center but also the staff.” Fruits and vegetables are obtained from local farms through ValleyHub, Kalamazoo Valley Community College’s food hub, VanDyk drives 30 minutes to pick up fresh fruits from Schultz Fruitridge farms in Mattawan, and she also went out of her way to establish a relationship with Field and Fire, a bakery in Grand Rapids. Teacher April Schmidt was also applauded for her efforts in spearheading an edible garden, with raised beds and a play area filled with plants. Notably, the center also offers fresh produce to families and connects them with boxes of fresh produce as it is available.

Nutrition and Agricultural Education

Little Daisy Daycare

Little Daisy Daycare offers traditional nutrition education experiences such as planting and caring for a garden, with the children harvesting and selling the produce at a roadside stand. As shared in the nomination, “this experience allows the children to learn more about fruits and vegetables, how things grow, responsibility for other living things, entrepreneurship and how to work hard for a goal.” The proceeds from their market can be used to purchase a new item for the play area or for a summer party. Little Daisy Daycare also incubates and hatches eggs each year, and offers other agricultural learning experiences with “touch a tractor”, walks through local corn fields, and experiences with other farm animals such as goats and feeder calves.


In 2021, we did not receive nominations for farmers and food producers who are eligible for this award. If you know anyone who fits the criteria for this award, keep them in mind to nominate next year!


This award, created by the Michigan Farm to Early Care and Education Network, will be offered in future years to honor and acknowledge early care and education providers and farmers/food producers who support farm to ECE with their work.

About the Michigan Farm to Early Care and Education (ECE) Network

The Michigan Farm to Early Care and Education Network collaborates so children ages birth to 5 can grow, choose, and eat nutritious local food in early care and education settings.

The Michigan Farm to ECE Network exists to:

  • improve access to healthy food,
  • increase nutritional awareness and health outcomes, and
  • support ECE providers as they work to improve children’s learning environments.

Learn more at mifarmtoecenetwork.org

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