Do We Really Need Another School Garden Website?

Do We Really Need Another School Garden Website?

The School Garden Resource Center began in 2012 in response to countless questions we would receive at Common Ground from teachers, parents and community members trying to start gardens at local schools:

I want to build a garden, where do I start?

How can I support the teachers in going outside?

What do I do in the summer?

Are we allowed to eat our harvested vegetables in the cafeteria?

We knew that people needed this support but to be honest, we weren’t sure where to start. Should we print a guide for schools? Create lists of resources? Hold a tool swap?  Yes, all great ideas- but what we decided to do first was to offer our time and intense support to a smaller number of schools, to be available to answer questions as they came up. Most importantly, our goal was to support the creation of sustainable garden programs. We wanted schools to integrate these garden programs into school culture and not end up with empty weedy unused garden beds.

I soon learned that building a school garden is easy. Really, you just show up one Saturday and pound together some boards and haul some soil. It’s actually pretty fun: using power tools and getting all dirty! At the end of the day, there’s a garden!  But we aren’t building gardens, we are building garden programs. We are rallying a community around caring for the garden, we are facilitating its use and enjoyment by children and we are growing food year after year. That is hard work!

The face to face model taught us a lot. Most importantly, it taught us that every school garden program is different and that each has its own special needs and challenges. As we added a few more schools each year, I began to realize that the best advice I could offer came in the form of a story of someone else’s garden. I say, “go visit Columbus, or Barnard or Clinton Avenue—they are doing amazing work!”

And over the years, as 3 schools became 15, I learned that while face to face conversations may help schools create sustainable programs that this model is not exactly sustainable for us, or for any support organization. We cannot be everywhere, nor should we be.  Because at the end of the day it is you- the amazing people doing school garden work- who are the experts. It is you who has figured out how to get a class of kindergarteners around a 4 ft. bed, who has developed amazing compost programs, lead engaging after-school programming, held tasting events with kale and butternut squash, It is you teaching in your garden every day and coming up with systems and ideas, leading meetings and organizing harvest festivals.

Our best resource is you.

This website is designed to connect people to one another. It is not a replacement for great face to face meetings and workshops, but it will help us all find the right person to meet and garden to visit. It is a place to share your favorite lesson or activity, to tell your story in a garden profile and blog post, to post your favorite resource. It is a place to comment on lessons you've taught, find events and learn from others who are also digging in the dirt with the children of Connecticut.

So while this is in fact just a website,  I hope it will soon demonstrate the breadth of the school garden movement in our state. We are a community. A community of gardeners, of educators, of learners, of nurturers. And by working together, we will continue to affect change in the way our children eat and learn and connect to their schoolyard.