Before attending the seminar “Farm in School” at the 2013 NOFA Winter Conference, I assumed that only fancy private schools could afford school gardens. I figured that, in a time where arts and physical education were being cut from budgets school gardens were a last priority.
At this event I learned that yes, school greenhouses can cost upwards of $60,000 but they can also be as “cheap” as $7,000. I also learned that for schools just starting out and unwilling to use thousands of dollars of school budgeting for a new project there are alternatives to greenhouses.
One alternative is outdoor seed beds. Creating your own low tunnels or row covers with remay or plastic mimics a cost efficient greenhouse effect. For example, this overlay creates an environment for seeds similar to 500 miles south of wherever the garden is planted.
Another option I didn’t know about before attending the conference was the Lowes Toolbox for Education Grant which has given over $25 million to 5,000 schools in only six years for projects like school gardens and greenhouses.
This seminar taught me and educators throughout the state that “we don’t have it in our budget” is no longer an excuse for why every school shouldn’t have a school garden or greenhouse. These gardens and the experiences students gain from them are invaluable and well worth the school budgeting. No matter how big or how small.
Guest blogger: Ally Gravina