Urban gardens are unique places. They represent special challenges and exciting opportunities, and we have been impressed with the approach offered by a number of outstanding programs nation-wide. For best practices, check out our short list, below. See a fantastic program missing? We didn’t mean to neglect you. Get in touch, and let us know what you’re doing!
The Food Project in Boston has built a national model of engaging young people in personal and social change through sustainable agriculture. We are especially impressed with the way that they pull together agriculture, enterprise and service to create a rigorous, practical and integrated experience! It’s an exemplary model we can all learn from!
What can we say about the Green Corps, a program of the Cleveland Botanic Garden? In a word, we are fans. In addition to cultivating nearly 3.5 acres of land in five urban Cleveland neighborhoods, using sustainable and unusual garden practices (check out the lasagna layers), young people develop important interpersonal skills with peers and adults like communication, conflict resolution, and cooperation. Through the summer, they are employed, and complete a curriculum focusing on gardening and ecology, life skills, and sustainability.
Chicago Botanic Garden’s Green Youth Farm program offers students the opportunity to learn all aspects of organic farming — from planting seeds and starts, to managing a hive of bees, from cooking with the food they grow to selling it at farmstands and markets (and to the Garden Café, where the chef incorporates the fresh organic produce into many menu items available to Chicago Botanic Garden visitors).
Friends of Burlington Gardens and the Vermont Community Garden Network are dedicated to creating, enhancing and preserving community gardens for all. They—along with a host of local partners, ranging from non-profit organizations, schools, businesses, and neighborhood associations—work in a highly synergistic way to promote a diversity of small, vibrant school and community gardens in the greater Burlington area, as well as throughout Vermont. Projects include the Healthy City Youth Farm, based at Hunt Middle School, and support for a series of small neighborhood gardens in unusual places, such as green belts, throughout the city.
The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum’s summer Urban Children Garden outreach program serves younger gardeners—about 200 children ranging from 5-9 years of age at several urban garden sites in the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. They meet for one 2-hour session each week to learn from a staff that includes Arboretum instructors, community volunteers and teen-age garden program graduates who serve as mentors for the participants. Sessions include three learning stations: in the garden, science and nutrition, and garden play/art.
If you’re looking for a model of youth leadership, the Massachusetts Avenue Project proudly hosts the Growing Green Program, a youth development and urban agriculture program about increasing healthy food access and revitalizing the Buffalo, NY community through urban farming, healthy nutrition, environmental stewardship and social enterprise.
Rochester Roots is simply an extraordinary program – we’re proud of it as a long term, upstate NY program that has made a significant difference in the lives of young people. Rochester Roots develops self-reliance by providing the education and tools that help low-income people obtain nutritious, locally grown food, and through the development and marketing of urban produce and products.
Toward the eastern border of New York State is the Green Teen program. The Green Teen Community Gardening Program works year-round with Beacon and Poughkeepsie youth, ages 7-21. They learn about food, farming, entrepreneurship, and health through hands-on experiences. Participants grow plants and vegetables in their classrooms, on farms, and in community gardens. During the school year, Green Teen holds local programs both during and after school.
While we have not worked directly with Urban Sprouts, we are excited about their garden-based education programs in underserved neighborhoods and under-resourced schools San Francisco, CA. Through partnerships with middle and high schools, youth, and their families, Urban Sprouts works to build eco-literacy, equity, wellness, and community. Their programs are rooted in theory and research, field-tested, and reaping some impressive results.