The Sustainability of School Gardens
Lauren Howe, November 4, 2014
Although my first two days at Terra Madre were characterized by taste workshops (Japanese tea, Mediterranean cheese, and German pastries), school gardens never strayed far from my mind. I recall how the “Gardens According to Slow Food International” panel included a discussion about the need to make garden programs sustainable through a systems and community-based approach. This talk of garden continuity set the stage perfectly for Saturday’s workshop, “The Sustainability of School Gardens” led by my colleague, Andrew Nowak (Director of Slow Food USA’s National School Garden Program). For this workshop, we started at the school/district level and progressed through the community to the national scope:Slow Food Denver (CO): Josh Hendrickson told us about Garden to Cafeteria, Youth Farmers Markets (YFMs), and seedling sales in the Mile High City. Each program emphasizes the importance of fundraising to maintain school gardens, with YFMs alone having generated $100,000 in sales, resulting in $35,000 in profits across 46 schools over the last four years.
Slow Food East End (NY): Judiann Carmack-Fayyaz shared Slow Food East End’s innovative Master Farmer Program for which the chapter raises money and provides $5,000/year stipends to local farmers to provide technical advice to schools. This practical assistance builds skill and capacity within the students and teachers, further strengthening the gardens.
Slow Food Charlotte (NC): Henry Owen explained the Green Teacher Network and its monthly meetings of parents, volunteers, and local organizations who gather to develop quarterly workshops for teachers. These hands-on trainings promote teacher buy-in, enable educators to better engage students in the garden, and even provide them with Continuing Education (CE) credits.
Slow Food Sacramento (CA): Brenda Ruiz’s chapter is busy with organizing and community building around public policy, as well as pushing for green growth and job creation for youth by linking students to chefs from Snail of Approval restaurants for internships and mentor programs.
The National Farm to School Network (Washington D.C.): We learned about the three pillars of the NFTS Network : local procurement, education, and school gardens from Helen Dombalis. The Network has 51 state leads, is working on embedding farm to school into federal and state policy, and hosts the biennial Farm to Cafeteria conference. Joining the network is free and there are already 10,000 members who are accessing the abundance of resources!
Lauren Howe is Manager of Slow Food USA’s National School Garden Program.