School Gardens

There are Farm to school programs throughout the state, facilitated by the Delaware Farm to School Advisory Board.  These programs create and encourage connections between schools (K-12) and local farms and food production, and aim to serve healthy meals in cafeterias, improve nutrition, support local farmers, and provide opportunities for education in agriculture, health and nutrition.

Each Farm to School (FTS) program is unique to its community and region, but an important component of many programs is a school garden.

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Healthy Foods for Healthy Kids (HFHK), led by Thianda Manzara, works with Delaware schools to start vegetable gardening programs that are integrated into the science curriculum and that operate during the academic year.   The students participate during the school day, but may also participate before and after school, and during the summer while school is out of session.  To support and further enhance their garden projects, schools have formed committees and clubs, developed lessons and programming, and engaged the school and larger community in the ongoing maintenance of, and harvest from, the garden.

UD Cooperative Extension can connect you to the resources that you need to start a school garden; potential funding, websites, publications, sources for plants and supplies, our Master Gardener and Master Food Educator Volunteers that can serve as ongoing resources for your school garden and its participants.

nemours spring 2010 4Here are some helpful tips to start and maintain a successful school garden:

  • start small and get organized;
  • recruit teachers, parents, students, and community members to become your garden “committee” to work together to acquire funding, design the garden, generate enthusiasm and participation in the garden, outline the objectives of the garden, and help sustain the garden;
  • call in the experts- Cooperative Extension is here to help!  We can visit your school and meet with administration, as well as interested teachers, students, and parents to re-emphasize the commitment (financial, physical, and emotional) a garden requires to flourish.  We can calm your fears and answer your questions; your school is not alone in this very exciting (and at times, overwhelming) venture.  We can help you evaluate the proposed site for the garden; is it suitable for growing food, and if not, are there alternatives?  We can evaluate site characteristics such as adequate sunlight, access to water, soil health, accessibility, and safety;
  • let us help you to determine what plants you can grow, and the best way to grow them; cool (fall and spring) versus warm (summer) season vegetable crops, small fruits, and/or annual and perennial ornamental plants are all options for a school garden.

Copy of IMG_3445Delaware’s FTS program encourages and supports school gardens and the many opportunities they present to their communities.  When properly implemented a school garden has the potential to engage the community from the beginning; include school administration and teachers, food service staff, parents and students, and local organizations in your garden planning process.  Think about the dynamic way in which a school garden can enhance your community and the school campus.  The garden’s harvest can support the curriculum, classroom activities, specialized programs such as culinary arts and home economics, and the school cafeteria, improving diet and nutrition and connecting youth to agriculture.  The garden connects students to food production, to nature, and gets them outside, in the garden and in the soil, moving.  It provides an outdoor classroom for topics such as agriculture, nutrition, science, math, art, and more.  It is a visually pleasing space that improves the aesthetics of the campus.  And, it can be a way of giving back to the community; in your garden, plant-a-row for the hungry and donate to the Food Bank of Delaware.  Your school garden is just that, your garden; but, remember we are here to help you achieve success.

Helpful Publications