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Time to Think School Gardens!

It’s that time of year to start planning your garden! A garden at school provides an interdisciplinary outdoor classroom where most subjects can be taught. School gardens expose children to how our food grows and create lifelong lessons in healthy eating, caring for the environment, and can even teach business and restaurant skills.

What are Garden-to-Cafeteria and Youth Farmers’ Market programs?

Garden-to-Cafeteria: “An opportunity for students to grow fresh vegetables in their school gardens with the aim of supplying some of their harvest to the school cafeterias to be used at lunch service.”
Click here for information about Denver Public School’s Garden to Cafeteria Program.

Youth Farmers’ Market: “A YFM is a single-vendor farmers’ market on or near school property that is run by the youth of that school. It is appropriately titled a “Youth Farmers’ Market” because often many of the youth selling the produce have grown the produce in the school garden.” Click here for the Denver Urban Gardens Youth Farmers’ Market Handbook.

Check out our Garden-to-Cafeteria and Youth Farmers’ Market resources here:

-Denver Public Schools Garden to Cafeteria (GTC) program: Protocols

-Denver School Garden Coalition: Operating Manual

-USDA Good Agricultural Practices, Good Handling Practices audit verification checklist

-Denver Youth Farmers’ Market Coalition Volunteer Contract

-Youth Farmers’ Market Handbook

-Sample Youth Farmers’ Market Order Form 2012

And here are some great books on the subject to purchase:

-Farm to Table & Beyond developed by Columbia University’s Teachers College

-The Growing Classroom developed by the Life Lab Science Program

Tips from the 2012 Garden To Cafeteria & Youth Farmers’ Market Workshop:

-Make sure that if you are not a school staff member, you let the school garden be the school’s project. That way the school will sustain the garden after you have moved on. Provide the framework for the project and then leave the rest for the school to cultivate, says Michael Buchenau of Denver Urban Gardens.

-Develop many relationships and partnerships between your community and your school for the best results. (Krista Roberts of Slow Food Denver)

-Safety first! Install safety protocols in all your school garden, garden-to-cafeteria, and youth farmers’ market programs.

-Partner with passionate teachers to get the garden into the curriculum, says Kristin Marharg, Denver Urban Gardens volunteer.

-If you are thinking of doing garden-to-cafeteria, get to know your cafeteria manager well, says Sam Robinson, Slow Food Denver Garden Leader.

-One major school garden struggle is keeping up with the plots over the summer months when students are not in school. There are a couple of solutions to this problem:
1) Make your school garden part of a community one. Allow community members to rent out plots, then ask them to all pick weeks to weed and water for the school plots as a part of their membership.
2) Get a student group to take ownership over the plots and create a summer schedule to water and weed.

Best of luck with your school gardens this year!

Garden to Cafeteria and Youth Farmers’ Market Resources from:

Slow Food Denver and Denver Urban Gardens

Garden To Cafeteria & Youth Farmers’ Market Workshop

Check out these links for more information:

Denver Urban Gardens’ School Garden and Nutrition Curriculum:

Slow Food Denver’s Seed To Table School Food Program:


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