Food, Farming & Sustainability

Online Conference for Farmers & Teachers

A Whole Systems Approach to Farm and School Education for the Future of Food Security


The need for environmental education at all levels and places of education is apparent and relevant at this time in history. We can address the fear of global warming and climate change by empowerment through education. Youth of all ages are craving a way to be part of healing solutions. Farm-to-school programs are a perfect way to bring joy and hope to this education. Let us show you how.

Are you interested in adding a farm component to your school program or an educational component to your small farm enterprise? Do you need some practical experience with a developed and tested curriculum? Join us for a conference web series that will leave you confident on how to get started with plenty of take-aways and information to make it happen. Whether you have acres of green space or none at all, we have program ideas that can work for you.

This web series invites teachers and small farmers interested in developing farm-to-school, or school-to-farm partnerships to explore topics on sustainability, environmental stewardship, and restorative farming with a variety of experts from the field. Viewers will learn why a whole systems approach to farm education is mutually beneficial to students, teachers, and farmers while supporting public health and food security in our communities.

Supporting Farm and School Partnerships Since 2002

Good Shepherd Montessori School (GSMS), our conference host, has been partnering with local small farmers for over twenty years to include farm-to-school and school-to-farm education for all students as part of its core curriculum. GSMS is located on 6 acres of property in South Bend's urban core and is home to a robust urban farm that will serve as the proof of concept model and provide a host of reproducible landscape and curriculum ideas. GSMS offers a scaffolded farm education program that starts with introducing primary-aged children (ages 3–6 years) to nature and culminates with junior high students running a farm business based on the principles of permaculture. GSMS has prioritized hands-on pedagogy and a mission-driven focus on stewardship and care for the environment.

Thank you to our conference sponsors

Coming in September


Using the Lean System to Setup Up a No-Waste Farm-to-School Program

Ben Hartman, author of The Lean Farm, will discuss how to run an efficient farm-to-school program using methods from the lean system. Lean is a production approach, focused on eliminating waste, that originated in Japan but is now used globally in all types of industries. Ben will explain why there is enormous opportunity in selling food to schools, and he will offer tips on hosting school groups at your farm, with examples from his own small farm.

Ben Hartman, who is the author of The Lean Farm and the 2016 receipient of the Shingo Institute’s Prestigious Research and Professional Publication Award. He and his wife Rachel make a living on farming ½ acre of production.

Ben Hartman | Clay Bottom Farm

Lessons Learned from 25 Years of Farm and School Education

Theri will share her story and passion for farm and school partnerships. Her history includes 20 years of sharing her 10 acre rural farm with students of all ages. While she has partnered with GSMS since their inception in 2002, her recent move to the school landscape includes creating an urban agriculture learning center for the GSMS community, beginner farmers and farm to school training.

Theri Niemier is the Farm Manager and Regenerative Farming Education Specialist at Good Shepherd Montessori School (GSMS). Theri founded Bertrand Farm in 1996 and has been teaching and farming in the local community for over 25 years. Theri is a certified Permaculture Designer and a Master Canner. She is the recipient of the 2019 conservation educator of the year in St. Joseph County.

Theri Niemier | Good Shepherd Montessori School

Breakout Sessions

In addition to the listed sessions there will be a host of agriculture professionals, farm to school teachers, and farmer lead presentations. All sessions include handouts and curriculum resources.

A Small-Plot, High-Productivity System for Growing and Selling Food to Schools

Ben explains a “lean” approach to setting up a farm-to-school garden plot. He describes how to time plantings so that your food is ready to harvest during the school year (Sept—May), and explains in detail how to grow the five best crops for schools. He also shares ideas for summer camps. This workshop will be practical, with concrete ideas that participants can take home and start using right away.
Ben Hartman | Educator, author of “The Lean Farm” and small farmer in Goshen, IN

Using Perennial Producation for Edible School Yards

Theri introduces the idea of using perennial food production design as a low to no maintenance production system for school yards. Bring an overhead of your school landscape to get some design ideas. Takeaway resources will help you get started on an edible landscape design right away.
Theri Neimier | Educator, farmer, and author of “Food, Farming and Sustainability; A curriculum for home, school, and farm”

Soil Health 101

Jamie shares the role of soil as it relates to environmental health and healing. This crash course is at the heart of regenerative agriculture and earth stewardship education. Jamie will provide ideas and resources for improving soil and creating natural fertility systems on your farm.
Jamie Perry | Urban Soil Health Specialist, Indiana Association of Soil & Water Conservation District

Growing Knowledge

Discover the education resources available to you! Learn about educational tools, lesson plans, and curriculum that you can use alongside your school farms, gardens, and more.
Ally Pudlo | Environmental Education Coordinator, St. Joseph County Soil and Water Conservation District

Connections for Class and Field

Feeling overwhelmed with where to start? Come learn what resources and options are available for your farm to school project. From conservation planning to technical and financial assistance we will pull together useful information to help get you on your way!
Deb Knepp & Sarah Longennecker | District Conservationist, USDA | County Conservationist, St Joseph County


Every farm and school should be composting to create sustainable fertility systems. Experience a number of composting systems that are easily incorporated into the school landscape or small farm. We will demonstrate small and large systems for indoor and outdoor use. We will also share some exciting curriculum ideas to go along with this.


Every classroom has the ability to be a farm, no greenspace needed. Let us teach you how to grow and sell microgreens.

Farm Tours

Good Shepherd Montessori School Urban Farm

Tour our urban farm at Good Shepherd Montessori School when you arrive on Wednesday. We present multiple scales of farming possibilities for student learning; from a microgreens light garden farm to a working profitable urban farm landscape.We are excited to share our whole systems approach with you. Our urban farm is in its fifth year of production and is managed by Theri Niemier who will be your tour guide.

Saint Mary's College Farm

Saint Mary's College sustainable farm implements a holistic approach to food security through education, spirituality, and service. The farm is in its second year of management with local small farmer, Matthew Insley, at the helm. Matt will feature a tour of the farm's resource cycling programs in which they convert free "waste" resources into valuable assets.