School gardens are an important farm to school activity. When school gardens are used as an educational tool, children have a hands-on opportunity to learn about how vegetables and fruits grow. This increases children’s interest in the fresh produce offered in the school cafeteria. Some schools start gardens before they begin buying from local farmers and ranchers. In other schools, gardens follow the local sourcing. Either way, children benefit from getting their hands in the dirt!
Check out the resources below to get started or ramp up your school garden efforts.
Slow Food Denver’s Seed To Table School Food Program creates meaningful relationships between young people and food in order to transform the school food system. By placing an emphasis on hands-on experiences, community interaction, and the pleasures of the table, SFD-STT projects help to strengthen the food communities of tomorrow by engaging youth today.
The Garden to Cafeteria program is a unique opportunity for Denver Public School students to grow fresh fruits and vegetables in their school gardens with the aim of supplying some of their harvest to the school cafeterias to be used at lunch service.
To learn how to create a Garden to Cafeteria program at your school, see the Denver School Garden Coalition Operating Manual.
The Oregon Department of Education provides instructions and resources for getting started, curriculum and food safety.
A comprehensive collection of school garden resources, from gardening basics to herb and vegetable gardening, to growing apples, composting and educational materials.
Newly released two page “Getting Started” guidance from the National Farm to School Network.
The DPS Garden to Cafeteria Program began at the start of the 2010-11 school year. These food safety protocols provide direction to ensure students and teachers harvest and handle vegetables in compliance with federal and state guidelines.
Creating and Growing Edible Schoolyards (June 2011)
This newly released manual from Minnesota is a step by step guide to developing and implementing school gardens. It also includes helpful resources and identifies garden grant opportunities.
This manual from Bon Appetit is based on experiences of setting up and running school gardens all over the world. It is for anyone interested in starting or improving a school garden. The manual provides all the steps of planning a garden, from deciding the purpose of the garden, to planning and preparing the site, to growing, harvesting, and processing the produce. It also includes produce fact sheets, nutrition fact sheets, and horticultural notes that cover a wide variety of topics from companion planting to mulching to pest management.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service has a wealth of resources, including this publication on season extension techniques and sources for equipment, supplies, and further information.
The Growe Foundation focuses on experiential learning opportunities for children, their families and communities around healthy eating and caring for the environment. Their Garden to Table program provides elementary schools in Boulder Valley School District with the resources and support to build vegetable gardens and create hands-on learning experiences for students through growing, preparing and eating healthy food. K-5 curriculum materials are available for any school to use.
Find great ideas for activities, how-to’s, and program tools on the Cornell University extension blog.
CSGN’s mission is to create and sustain California school gardens to enhance academic achievement, a healthy lifestyle, environmental stewardship and community and social development.
KidsGardening has been a leading resource for school and youth gardening since 1982 providing garden grants, research and curriculum. They create opportunities for kids to learn through the garden, engaging their natural curiosity and wonder by providing inspiration, know-how, networking opportunities, and additional educational resources.
This is a forum for parents, educators and community members who are seeking guidance, resources, fundraising, networking and teaching to start, support and maintain school learning gardens. This is a comprehensive website that should be your first stop for all things about school gardens.
The World War II museum is promoting history literacy through this project. The site has some great information, including how Victory Gardens grew up all across the U.S. to help prevent a food shortage. Especially useful are the videos by a master gardener that teach kids gardening basics, curriculum materials, recipes, and fun garden activities.
School Gardens vs. Summer Vacation
At most schools, summer vacation inconveniently coincides with the peak growing season, creating a challenge for school garden coordinators. Do you avoid planting things that will require care through the summer? Or do you build a program that incorporates summer activities and volunteers? Dorothy Mullen and Beth Feehan outline the possibilities and provide successful examples for a variety of garden situations.
Gardens at Home
One of the great benefits of school gardens is the interest and enthusiasm it generates from students. This naturally leads to gardening at home. There are many wonderful resources for home gardens, but we are partial to those that specifically include children. Check out some of our favorites.
A young camper named Max pointed us to this terrific resource for home gardening with children. There are many resources about gardening basics, vegetable gardens, flower gardens, and even gardening projects (like making container gardens and herbariums).
Rodale’s Organic Life
Learn how to start a family garden and get tips for novice gardeners. This site includes advice about flowers, vegetables, fruits and herbs that are kid-easy and fun.
Gardening Know How
Here’s a laid back approach to gardening with kids – read the pointers first to set yourself up for success even with the smallest of hands. Included are kid-friendly fun explanations about what is happening with those plants plus links to gardening activities (games and projects), kids garden crafts, and tips on how to get kids to eat more vegetables.
Gardeners wishing to grow beautiful flowers or lush vegetables need helpful creatures burrowing in their soil. Earthworms provide important services as they live beneath the soil surface. Not only do these annelids work to break up the soil and make it lighter, but they also help make soil richer. Enriched soil helps plants grow more energetically. Explore these outdoor home improvement helpers to learn how they benefit growing areas. Learn more here.