Cultivating Communities through School Gardens

| 9/28/2015 12:57:00 PM

Tags: community gardens, school gardens, sustainable communities, California, Meg Hiesinger,

Grow Your Own 

“What are the ingredients for a healthy life?” I ask this question to young children, college students, women’s groups and other audiences I address. I first assumed that people’s expectations would be physical needs like food and shelter.

Instead, I learned that primary concerns are things like: friends, family, laughter, and spiritual support. The place where I got to know this most vividly is in my work leading Grow Your Own!, The Ecology Center’s school garden support program.

Grow Your Own!

Grow Your Own! was born in 2012 to address a problem: Local teachers and parents were building school gardens that were lying empty from disuse. The mission of GYO! thus became support for school gardens and their leaders through guidance, curriculum, and resources to foster gardens that were at the same time beautiful, educational, and functional.

This grassroots movement has evolved beyond every expectation thanks to hearing local leaders’ needs, and has grown from 3 schools in 2012 to 20 schools in 2014, reaching over 12,000 individuals. Based on a mentorship model, our staff regularly visits each school, offering help and know-how with anything from planning a garden space to teaching a cooking class.

We partner with local high schools to offer a Garden Mentor program where older students teach gardening to younger ones. This year we launched a new website to more widely distribute our lessons and resources.

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