The truth about starting a Seed to Table Gardening Program at a public school is being brought to you by the superintendent that started it at this Midwest school.
Thank you, and welcome back for the conclusion from our first post “How gardening class is a powerful, underutilized tool for public schools. One school is challenging traditional school as we know it, and pioneering the way for kids.” I’m excited to share some useful information when considering starting a gardening program at an elementary school from retired Superintendent, Jeff Herzberg.
Useful and shocking information to motivate you when considering starting a seed to table gardening program at an elementary school
- How did the idea of the Seed to Table Program/Manager come about? Why?
In our effort to try and provide as many “hands on” and “real world” learning opportunities as possible, I visited The Muse school in Calabasas, California. They had a seed-to-table program and it was amazing what students were doing, at even a young age. Also, the applications to classroom learning were huge so I did some additional research and presented my idea to the Board.
- Who made the decision to add the Seed to Table Manager as a paid position?
The Board of Education ultimately made the decision to create the position, at my recommendation.
- What hopes did you, and interested parties, have for the Seed to Table/Gardening Program?
Ultimately we hoped that students would benefit from “doing” work in the garden and applying the lessons to their core content classes…as well as the opposite as well…lessons from their core content classes would support their work in the garden. We also hoped students would begin to eat a healthy diet of vegetables due to the fact that they were raising the food from scratch. I also thought this might be a way to set our school apart from the norm and be a destination for students and families because of the unique approach to learning.
- How long did the planning process take to get the budget calculated, approved and find someone to hire?
A couple of months to make sure we could fit the budget into our school’s short and long-term plan. It then took a couple of months to advertise the positions, accept applications, interview and hire the successful candidate.
- After seeing the Seed to Table Gardening Program implemented, what were the benefits of providing it to the students, staff, and community?
We have seen all of our original vision come true. Students are “doing” learning, they are learning core content more deeply because they’re applying it weekly, and they’ve begun to eat fresh vegetables at a higher rate than they did before. We have also seen students develop confidence from the many opportunities provided in the program from public speaking to taking risks to sharing their learning with government officials and other important people.
- At what cost does having the program come with? Were there things the district had to sacrifice? If so, what?
The district was able to fund the program due to the operational sharing dollars provided by the state. Due to sharing the Superintendent position, originally with Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency, and now with West Bend Mallard CSD, additional funds were available for the program. I would not say there are any sacrifices due to the incredible learning opportunities provided by the Seed to Table Manager. The Manager has also secured thousands of dollars in grant funding for additional opportunities for students.
- How much does it cost the district?
Current salary and benefits, as well as misc purchases, would have to be determined by the current administration.
- How can the school try to offset the cost of a Seed to Table Manager?
In Iowa school districts can take advantage of the Operational Sharing incentives to invest additional resources for the program. Grant funding can also support the position as well as offering professional development for other schools, selling the vegetables, and donations from community resources. A district ultimately has to make a decision about what is most important for their students, as there is always a finite budget. In my estimation, this program and all the applications is necessary for Gilmore City-Bradgate schools.
- What are the negative aspects of the Seed to Table Gardening Program?
I can’t think of one negative aspect of the program.
- Any other thoughts you would like to share about the Seed to Table Gardening Program (positive and/or negative)?
As we delve further and further into the “back to the basics” curriculum momentum in our society, we must make sure that opportunities like the Seed to Table program exist. Students are actually doing learning, they’re applying learning to real world applications, they’re gaining skills that are unable to be replicated in a core content classroom and they’re also having fun!
- Next steps…What should people do if they want to see a program like this at their public school?
First of all they must be sure that they want this program for the long haul. This is not something you start one year and then move on. Secondly, they need to be brave and take a risk. There will be naysayers who do not want to see students leaving the building or having fun, but the positive benefits far outweigh the negative. Thirdly, they need to do the research that shows the benefits of gardening for students. There is a great deal of research and this is a legitimate program for schools. And finally, contact Kelsey Wigans or Jeff Herzberg for more information!
Comment with what you need more information about while starting your own gardening program at an elementary school. Follow along for posts like this one, and others with practical gardening tips for families, beekeeping, tips for raising a family on a budget, do it yourself projects, cooking, raising livestock, event planning and highlighting young entrepreneurs subscribe to the “Dirty Fingernail Club,” follow us on Facebook and Pinterest