Starting and Sustaining a School Garden
School gardens offer fun and interactive opportunities for youth to learn and experience how food is produced. Lessons learned in the garden can connect to and enhance curriculum in science, math, nutrition, language arts, and more. School gardens also offer opportunities for physical activity and make beautiful additions to the school landscape.
How the City Supports School Gardens
The City of Minneapolis partners with Minneapolis Public Schools both formally and informally in support of school gardens and healthy food for students. The Minneapolis Public Schools Farm to School Coordinator is a member of the Homegrown Minneapolis Food Council and partners with City staff on various farm to school-related initiatives. School gardens are also supported through Minneapolis ordinances and the work of the Homegrown Minneapolis Food Council.
Policies Related to School Gardens
Minneapolis Public Schools
- Gardens on School Property – establishes how and when school premises may be used for gardening by the school programs and others.
- Definitions: Gardens – lays out the definitions for words or terms used in Minneapolis Public Schools garden policy (Policy 7000) and its attendant regulations.
- Application and Approval Process – establishes the responsibility for implementation of the District’s Environmental Health and Safety Programs.
City of Minneapolis
- Minneapolis Urban Agriculture Policy Plan – recommends continued partnership with schools and parks to develop opportunities for gardening and urban agriculture
- Minneapolis Zoning Code (Title 20, Chapter 535.280) – Please note the following zoning ordinance pertaining to raised garden beds:
Raised planting beds, not exceeding three (3) feet in height. In a front or corner side yard raised planting beds shall not be closer than five (5) feet to a front or corner side property line. Raised planting beds shall be constructed of wood, brick, masonry, landscape timbers, metal, ceramic, or synthetic lumber and shall be compatible with the principal structure and adjacent residential properties. Raised planting beds constructed of wood shall be structurally sound and free of rot. In addition, prefabricated raised planting beds shall be permitted. Raised planting beds shall not be constructed of wire, chicken wire, rope, cable, railroad ties, utility poles, tires, plumbing fixtures or any other similar materials.
Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board
Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board Urban Agriculture Activity Plan – recommends exploring the continued and expanded use of park property for gardening and urban agriculture growing, education, and training.
Useful Guides to Get Started
- Minnesota School Gardens: a Guide to Gardening and Plant Science
- Creating and Growing Edible Schoolyards
- Starting and Maintaining a School Garden
- Minnesota School Garden & Farm to Cafeteria Safety Manual
- 2014-15 Minneapolis Public Schools Garden Survey Summary
Lists of individual grant opportunities can be found here:
Need more specific assistance? There are plenty of local organizations at the ready to lend their support!
- Beez Kneez offers an annual beekeeper training program called Camp Beez Kneez.
- Farm to School – University of Minnesota Extension provides a wide array of resources, for educators, food service professionals, parents, and community members. Contact the Minnesota State Lead with questions.
- Gardening Matters is a local nonprofit working on community gardens, but which also offers start-up information relevant to school gardens, such as how to gain community support for garden sustainability and how to do soil testing.
- Hennepin County Master Recycler/Composter Program is a program in which volunteer master recyclers/composters assist school gardens in areas such as designing a waste reduction plan and creating educational resources.
- Jeffers Foundation offers information about best practices of successful school gardens in Minnesota.
- Metro Blooms partners with local organizations to promote environmentally sound gardening and landscaping practices.
- Midwest Food Connection offers school lessons about natural foods and sustainable agriculture.
- Minneapolis Public Schools - Nutrition Services operates the Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) Farm to School Program. MPS Farm to School supports school gardens and offers food education programming in collaboration with many local and national partners.
- Minnesota Landscape Arboretum offers a variety of services, from assisting in the design process of a successful school garden, to offering workshops for teachers, to providing children’s garden curricula with standards-based science activities.
- Minnesota Schoolyard Garden Coalition gives voice to school garden interests and strives to give every child a great gardening experience. They provide inventory and resource overview as well as organize conferences and trainings on school garden programs.
- MPCA - SEEK Program shares a variety of resources for environmental educators, including many relating specifically to gardens. Sign up for the monthly newsletter to receive updates about upcoming grant opportunities.
- Pollinate Minnesota is a honey bee education and advocacy organization that is working for a healthy Minnesota for pollinators and people. Pollinate Minnesota teaches immersive education classes, partners with community spaces to establish education hives, and works in the community on pollinator advocacy initiatives.
- Project Sweetie Pie offers training programs for youth in horticulture entrepreneurship.
- SPARK-Y Youth Action Labs provides youth education programs focused on urban agriculture systems including: aquaponics, vermicomposting, algae cultivation, and mushroom cultivation.
- University of Minnesota - Master Gardener Program is a program through which volunteer master gardeners provide free services to the community, including teaching classes/workshops, providing demonstrations of horticulture techniques in school gardens, and answering individual inquiries through the Ask a Master Gardener service.
- Youth Farm offers four eight-week youth farm programming sessions per year. Their Youth Development Curriculum offers age-appropriate and increasingly challenging learning opportunities for youth ages 9-24.
Something We’ve Missed?
If you offer school garden services and want to be included on this page, please let us know! Contact Tamara Downs Schwei at Tamara.DownsSchwei@minneapolismn.gov.
Last updated Jul 20, 2016