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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

School Gardens are Community Gardens

On the ACGA list serv someone from San Diego inquired about the possibility of having a community garden on school property. Part of the inquiry:
"San Diego is an extremely challenging environment for starting community gardens.
Currently the City charges a minimum of $5000.00 to permit a garden so we are always looking for other alternatives.  One is putting community gardens on school property and combining it with the school garden. This has the added advantage of providing additional manpower to care for the garden and provide educational programs at the garden.  Many schools here have gardens but frequently they go unused and neglected because there is no school staff to support the garden."

I wanted to share my response......

We have the opposite situation here in NYC in one way but much the same situation in another. Many schools do not have space for a garden but there are community gardens nearby ( a couple of blocks) so we connect schools and students to the nearby community gardens. We use spaces in the gardens to bring classes out to plant, weed, water, harvest and teach lessons about pollinators, compost. 
In our Learn It Grow It Eat It Program we use the community garden to teach about the environmental connections to food. Of course we don't have year round gardening here as you do in San Diego and the school year -Sept to June does not match with the garden season here March- November so we do have to plan for Summer in the gardens. We have been able to hire students in the summer to maintain the gardens as a way to bridge this gap.
In some cases the community gardeners help with watering, etc. This arrangement works for us here. I guess the arrangement you create will have to be different to work in your local situation.It is important that everyone knows what their role is and everyone has to communicate and be part of decision making.
If you want to do some reading, I recommend,
Digging Deeper: Integrating Youth Gardens Into Schools & Communities
by Joseph Kiefer and Martin Kemple
I reviewed the book in the 1999 ACGA Community Greening Review  which contained a number of articles that are helpful to those who are starting or managing school gardens
The authors do a great job of showing how a School Garden can become a strong integral part of a community - a Community Garden.

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