School gardens provide exciting opportunities for students to learn first-hand about local food and agriculture. As part of Farm to School programming, gardens can enhance classroom learning, and in some cases, even produce food for school meals or snacks.
The following steps and resources should help you start and maintain a successful garden.
Learn How School Gardens Support Farm to School
See Starting and Maintaining a School Garden by the National Farm to School Network that describes the benefits of school gardens, as well as some basic steps to get started.
Collaborate with Others
School teachers, administrators and custodians, as well as parents, community members, and Cornell Cooperative Extension professionals all have important roles to play in developing and maintaining a successful school garden. Bringing together stakeholders with different perspectives and expertise helps ensure broad support.
Explore Opportunities and Plan a Garden
- Many local offices of Cornell Cooperative Extension work with Master Gardeners, volunteers with extensive training, who may be willing to help in planning a garden.
- For examples of creative ways to get school gardens started and managed, refer to Minnesota School Gardens: A Guide to Gardening and Plant Science by Minnesota’s Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture in the Classroom Program.
- A Step-by-Step School Garden Guide by Grow to Learn NYC is a useful planning resource, with checklists to help you build community support, create a shared vision, establish roles and responsibilities, determine needed supplies and equipment, and design and maintain the garden.
- School Garden Crops: Top Ten Vegetables to Harvest During the School Year by University of Minnesota Extension can help in selecting vegetables that will mature while school is in session.
- The Cornell Garden Based Learning website has a wealth of information about gardening that includes lesson and activity plans, growing guides, troubleshooting tips and basic planning guidelines.
- Healthy Gardens, Healthy Youth People’s Garden School Pilot Project, a four-state Extension partnership, is helping create vegetable and fruit gardens at 54 elementary schools across the country, including 15 schools in New York State.
- The NY Agriculture in the Classroom website lists programs, resources, and lessons to help educators, students and their communities learn about and engage with agriculture and food systems.