School Gardens & Farm-based Education

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Students in elementary school through high school are learning about how food grows and are engaged in growing their own. A school garden is a fantastic and complete teaching tool that allows educators to use hands-on experiences to teach everything from math and science to art and reading. In fact, there isn’t anything that can’t be taught from a garden, including some important things about patience and nurturing, caring for our world and ourselves, and understanding life cycles. Students will begin to make their own connections and learn skills that can have life-long benefits. Plus, gardening can be fun and is a great physical activity. For students, being outside, planting seeds and watching them grow, and then harvesting their own food can be very fulfilling.

A school garden can be any size and even grow with the students. It is often a focal point for parents, teachers and students to cooperate whether it is small or large. It should be flexible and help meet the precise needs of the school community. Educators know that it can also promote opportunities for interdisciplinary lessons, good nutrition and exercise and instill a positive work ethic. It gives kids a chance to contribute positively to their environment.

In this section, learn about:

General & Start-up Resources

Starting & Maintaining a School GardenNFSN Starting & Maintaining a School Garden Factsheet
National Farm to School Network
School gardens are an integral part of farm to school programs and offer a multitude of educational opportunities. This fact sheet offers steps and considerations for starting a school garden, including: collaboration, goals and design, funding, planting, maintaining, supplies, curriculum and benefits. 

School Gardens: Using Gardens to Grow Healthy Habits in Cafeterias, Classrooms, and Communities
USDA Farm to School
This factsheet from USDA covers garden space, using school garden produce in the cafeteria, gardens as outdoor classrooms, food safety in the garden, staffing and funding, summer meals, early childhood education, etc.

School Garden Checklist
Let's Move - America's Move to Raise a Healthier Generation of Kids

Starting a School Garden Program


Garden to Cafeteria Resources

Bellingham Garden to Cafeteria ToolkitGarden to Cafeteria cover

Slow Food USA, in partnership with Whole Kids Foundation, has developed a toolkit to help school district food services safely bring school garden produce onto the lunch line! The toolkit builds off the successes and safety protocols of five school districts across the United States to provide templates and a step-by-step process to help District Food Services develop their own protocols. 

In partnership with Common Threads in Whatcom County, Bellingham Public Schools in Washington is one of three school districts across the country currently participating in a Garden to Cafeteria pilot project supported by Slow Food USA and the Whole Kids Foundation. The pilot aims to develop and test protocol to allow garden grown produce to be regularly and safely enjoyed by kids as part of their school lunch program. 

Download the Whole Kids Foundation & Slow Food USA national Garden to Cafeteria Toolkit here. Also download the toolkit's Protocols and Policies from:

  • Austin Independent School District
  • Chicago Public Schools
  • Denver Public Schools
  • San Diego Unified School District

Serving Food Grown in School Gardens
A sample policy from Portland Public Schools in Portland, OR

Using Garden Produce in the Cafeteria
A sample from Denver Public Schools

South Whidbey School Farms Chartwell's Food & Garden Safety Protocols
The Fresh Food for Lunch program of the South Whidbey School District provides school farm and garden grown vegetables to the school cafeterias, managed by Chartwells. Download the most recent Chartwells approved and updated SWSD Food and Garden Safety protocol.

Garden Sustainability & Management

How to Start and Sustain a School Garden
Victory Gardens San Diego
Includes sections on financially sustaining your gardening program, community partnerships, volunteers, joint use, curriculum and outdoor class management

Gardens for Learning: Creating & Sustaining Your School Garden
California School Garden Network
Includes sections on outdoor classroom management, curriculum development, working with volunteers, and maintaining and sustaining your garden through outreach, support team development, funding, summer maintanenance, working with administrators, and more.

School Garden Coordinator Resources
WSU Clark County Extension
Includes sections on funding, garden budgeting worksheets, sustaining your garden, and garden lessons and activities.

Eat Smart... It's In The Garden TOOLKIT
South Carolina Department of Agriculture developed this toolkit in partnership with Eat Smart Move More SC, a regional nonprofit promoting healthy eating and active living as the pillars of healthy lifestyles in healthy communities.  The toolkit walks through garden planning and resource management; what, when and how ideas; student and community involvement; long-term sustainability; plus many other narratives and links to resources.


Quilcene 5 & 6th grade school garden students grinding wheat with bicycle powered grinder - Photo Candice Cosler


Quilcene students making pizza from wheat they threshed, winnowed & ground with bicycle powered grinder. - Photo Norma Bridges

School Gardens in School Wellness Policies

School districts can support and ensure such rich school garden experience by specifying school garden activities in their School Wellness Policy: