Born out of both personal and community need in 2015, the Evans Early Childhood Center (EECC) in Fort Morgan, Colorado, has developed into a flourishing campus, founded by the wife and husband team of Rosie and Brian Evans. The EECC is a pioneer in Colorado in offering Farm to Early Childhood education and is teaching nutrition and outdoor education to children very early in their lives.
Rosie and Brian were both teachers in the Fort Morgan School District, but after the birth of their daughter Emma, they could not find quality childcare options for her in the community. So, the two quit their teaching jobs and started a childcare center in their home for 12 children.
Rosie took a business development class at Morgan Community College, developed a business plan, and won a “Shark Tank”-type competition for the best business plan in the class. With the $10,000 prize, she and Brian developed a childcare center outside of their home.
The city of Fort Morgan granted the Evans one acre of land to start their center, and the couple built a new facility on the land.
“It was really a creative partnership in the community that allowed us to build the center from the ground up,” Rosie says.
Now, the center serves 150 children aged 6 weeks to 12 years old, and operates both the Child and Adult Care Food Program and Summer Food Service Program. EECC has also led the way in offering the new non-congregate program option available in rural areas this year.
“Our rural community enjoys the flexibility of the non-congregate option,” Rosie added. “Some of our families live across the street and others live 10-15 miles away. So, being able to meet their diverse family needs helps us extend our reach.”
EECC is committed to the components of Farm to Early Childhood Education – procuring local foods, providing nutrition education, and hosting onsite gardening.
Their multicultural gardens are a beautiful feature of the center. Here, they grow plants that are used in different cultural styles of cooking. Children actively participate in planting, cultivating, and harvesting the gardens. They grow tomatoes, cilantro, tomatillos, okra, onions, radishes and so much more.
The center’s outdoor playgrounds and spaces were developed by professional landscape designers with research-based ways of encouraging physical activity. For example, a curvy path promotes more activity than a straight one.
“We’re helping to curb childhood obesity,” said Rosie. “Our kids are so healthy and spend upwards of 4-6 hours outside each day.”
Forging the way in Colorado, EECC hosted a Farm to Early Childhood Summit in September for 75 participants across the state.