ACGA E-Newsletter Excerpts - Spotlight on Youth

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Spotlight on Gardening and Youth Education: Southeastern Horticultural Society - August 2010
Spotlight on Gardening and Youth Education: The Sustainable Food Center and Marathon Kids - September 2010
Spotlight on Gardening and Youth Education: TEDx Talk - October 2010
Spotlight on Gardening and Youth Education: Holyoke Connections Program - Garden Club - November 2010
Spotlight on Gardening and Youth Education: Growing Local: Strengthening Communities through Partnerships and Collaboration - December 2010
Spotlight on Youth Gardening: City Beets - February 2011
Spotlight on Youth Gardening: Faith Community Garden - March 2011

August 2010

Spotlight on Gardening and Youth Education: Southeastern Horticultural Society

"Spotlight on Gardening and Youth Education" is a new feature in the ACGA e-Newsletter.  Each month, we will do an email interview with someone who is working with youth in their community gardening project.   This month we feature garden projects from the Southeastern Horticultural Society in Atlanta, focusing on two new gardens, a Community Learning Garden started last year in an Atlanta neighborhood, and a school garden started this spring at the school next to the community garden.

Q. During community garden tours at the ACGA Annual Conference, we visited two community gardens that your organization has started recently.  Could you tell us about these gardens?


Children from summer camp planting with the youth crewThe Edgewood Community Learning Garden started growing on June 20, 2009.  After Kate Chura, the Executive Director of the Southeastern Horticultural Society (SHS) received a grant from Fiskars Project Orange Thumb, SHS worked with the Edgewood neighborhood to identify a good location for installing a new community garden that would focus on educational activities for local school children and community members.  In one day, over 200 volunteers transformed this lot, previously home to old building foundations and debris. Volunteers from the neighborhood and beyond worked hard to install 10 raised beds, plant vegetables, perennials, and native trees and shrubs in this corner lot.


Edible school yardIn order to connect the garden and the community, the Southeastern Horticultural Society (SHS) hired a Community Environmental Educator, Kyla Zaro-Moore to work with Whitefoord Elementary, Coan Middle School, local Scout troops, and others, offering active learning experiences in the garden and beyond.  

On the heels of the initial installation, Ms Chura secured a grant from WaterWorks that provided funding to build a shade structure that included a rain water harvesting system. The next exciting development was the expansion of the community Learning Garden to include a partnership with Coan Middle School to start a garden on the half acre field behind the school, which shares a fence with the Edgewood Community Learning Garden. Months later, Whitefoord Elementary received a grant to start their own little garden, and the garden projects continue to grow.

This Summer marked the Gardens first full year. SHS embarked on a Summer Garden Apprenticeship program that was a great success. A team of 14-21 year olds from the neighborhood received training in urban agriculture techniques and food systems theory.  Program participants learned  about sustainable gardening practices, cooked food from the garden, sold produce, and visited several other sites throughout the summer.

By partnering with local schools, churches, after school programs and businesses, SHS is helping this garden thrive, grow, and serve the community.  In one year, the corner of Hardee and Mayson has turned from a place that people avoided to one where neighbors congregate, kids play, and food grows.

The Southeastern Horticultural Society will be starting a new Community Learning Garden in the nearby East Lake neighborhood this fall, with its own full time Community Environmental Educator.

From  Also read more at]


Q. You had teens working in the gardens this summer though your Summer Garden Apprenticeship Program.  What do you think the teens liked best about this experience?

At the end of the program the Edgewood Farm Crew had a chance to reflect on their favorite parts about the summer.  They really enjoyed being a team and getting to know one another, as well as learning new skills in the garden.  They loved cooking with the food that they grew, and particularly appreciated being able to pass on their gardening and cooking skills to the groups of younger children who came to the garden each week with their summer camps.

Making pizza dough



At the market



Q. How will the school garden project be integrated into the school day now that school is opening for the new school year?


The Coan Middle School Edible School Yard will be an integral part of the school year for three classes specifically about the garden taught by an educator hired through a Schools in Communities grant.  Additionally, SHS employee Kyla Zaro-Moore will lead a weekly after school program for the middle school at the Edible Schoolyard, as well programs during and after school for Whitefoord Elementary at the Edgewood Community Learning Garden and at Whitefoord‘s own little garden.


Q. You were our tour guide for the bicycle tour, and you also attended conference events.  Could you tell us one thing you liked best about the conference?


I loved getting together with folks from out of state to learn from others experiences, and I also had a great time showing off my city on the bike tour.  Of course, the party at the Metro Atlanta Urban Farm was the highlight of the weekend. 


Q.  If you could share one bit of advice with others starting similar projects, what would it be?


Take the time to develop community support for projects, and be continually responsive to feedback about your project.  Develop good partnerships to create a network of support so that you can share responsibility for different aspects of the project.  



September 2010

Spotlight on Gardening and Youth Education: The Sustainable Food Center and Marathon Kids

"Spotlight on Gardening and Youth Education" is a new feature in the ACGA e-Newsletter.  Each month, we will do an email interview with someone who is working with youth in their community gardening project.   If you are interested in having your organization‘s youth projects featured, please email

This month we talked to ACGA Board member Susan Leibrock about a new collaboration between the Sustainable Food Center and Marathon Kids to bring healthful cooking, community gardening and physical activity to children and parents in elementary schools in the Austin, Texas area.  Susan provided a recent article from co-worker Andrew Smiley from the Edible Austin newsletter on the project and answered our questions.  

Over recent years, the city of Austin has been building a vibrant culture around local food, with connections to sustainable agriculture, community gardening, and healthy eating.  Susan is the Community Relations Director with the Sustainable Food Center in Austin.

From the "Edible Austin" newsletter:

Teaching Balance
By Andrew W. Smiley, Sustainable Food Center

A  diagram of the body’s energy balance equation—what the National Institutes of Health defines as the system of receiving and expending energy—would resemble a seesaw. The intake of calories and nutrients would be on one end of the seesaw, and the expenditure of energy through physical activity on the other. Even a very young child can understand the requirements for balance with this basic principle: both sides must be equivalent. This concept is the spirit of a new partnership between Sustainable Food Center (SFC) and the Marathon Kids running and walking program.

Through a collaboration that began with the 2010–2011 school year, SFC (through its Sprouting Healthy Communities initiative) and Marathon Kids are seeking to leverage participation among Austin-area students, parents and community members in healthful food and physical activity programs. At selected schools, students dine on locally grown foods in school cafeterias, grow their own fruits and vegetables in school gardens, meet local farmers and even complete a 26.2-mile marathon (over the course of the school year).

The new program builds on many of the components of SFC’s Sprouting Healthy Kids middle-school pilot project, which featured local foods in school cafeterias, healthful food and food-systems lessons, and hands-on gardening and cooking activities. As the three-year pilot came to a close this year, SFC identified the most effective elements and applied them to the elementary grades. SFC also expanded its work into the Sprouting Healthy Communities initiative, which provides community gardening, healthful cooking and local food access opportunities to parents at their local schools and in surrounding neighborhoods. Marathon Kids will add the physical activity variable to the seesaw equation via walking and running activities for both students and adults.

At the core of the partnership is the involvement of parents, school faculty and community members in program leadership roles. Initial community-organizing work started last school year with very positive feedback. Parents at several schools have enthusiastically expressed interest in helping to coordinate SFC’s The Happy Kitchen (La Cocina Alegre) cooking classes, organize community food gardens and lead community walking clubs, with efforts directed primarily at East and Northeast Austin, where access to healthful food is most limited and the greatest risk of diet-related health problems exists.

Marathon Kids and SFC joined forces through a mutual understanding of the importance of energy balance. Other partners, such as the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation and the St. David’s Foundation, have also encouraged the collaborative effort, and have provided start-up funding to support the promotion of a healthy, balanced lifestyle. 

Q. You‘ve noted that parents provided positive feedback last spring as you were organizing the project.  What do you think makes this project attractive to parents?

I think that parents, particularly in low-income communities, see the activities SFC and Marathon Kids are offering as fun and positive - and frankly, not the type of thing they‘re going to get elsewhere. Underserved communities are typically situated in the middle of food deserts, where kids and their families do not have access to fresh, healthy, locally grown food - so this project offers an alternative that parents can find hope in.

Q. How did your group come up with the idea of the see-saw as a symbol of balance?

 Andrew Smiley, our Farm Direct Projects Director on staff, is very visual, and imagined a school playground where children were able to play outside, full of energy from the nutrient-rich food they had consumed, and expending that energy in physical activities vs. in front of a TV or video game all afternoon. 

It really is a cycle, and we need more balance, especially in communities where the environment is not built for success - meaning, sidewalks, bike lanes, trails and safe playgrounds.

Q. It will be great to watch for more news as the school year continues.  Where can readers learn more about this project?

Sustainable Food Center,
Marathon Kids,

Or subscribe to the Edible Austin email newsletter at

October 2010

Spotlight on Gardening and Youth Education: TEDx Talk

"Spotlight on Gardening and Youth Education" is a new feature in the ACGA e-Newsletter.  This month, Picture of a chickenenjoy a video from the recent Asheville, NC TEDxNextGeneration conference of 11-year-old Birke Baehr speaking about "What‘s Wrong With Our Food System? And How Can We Make A Difference?"

Next month‘s spotlight will highlight classroom-based projects about food and gardening for winter months.  If you or your organization has a year-round food and gardening themed program, please email with your "off-season" project ideas.

November 2010

Spotlight on Gardening and Youth Education: Holyoke Connections Program - Garden Club

"Spotlight on Gardening and Youth Education" is a new feature in the ACGA e-Newsletter.    If you or your organization has a food and gardening themed youth program, please email about your project.

Six Plant Parts 

 Holyoke Connections Program - Garden ClubHolyoke Connections Program - Garden Club

Winter session for the Garden Club in the Holyoke Connections Program requires creative adaptations of garden activities which engage the students and connect to growing plants.

The “Six Plant Parts” project meets this need. Each week, students look forward to learning about the next plant part and exploring with all their senses and with multiple learning styles.  Students have the opportunity to taste new foods and bring some of their creations home to their families.  Each week of the project includes: 

  • Something to eat from the weekly theme;
  • Hands-on science;
  • A craft, song or skit;
  • Brainstorming, estimating and making charts to organize information about plants. 

Some highlights:


Week 1 begins with “Happy Roots Day!”  Students make potato pancakes, make potato block prints, and plant potato sprouts for next spring.

Week 2 brings “Happy Stems Day!” and students enjoy celery snacks while seeing how the stem of a carnation carries water and food coloring to the flower, transforming a white carnation to red.    

Week 3 brings “Happy Leaves Day” and a delicious taco made of multi-colored leaves.  Students do taste tests and create a chart describing and rating the tastes of the many different leaves we eat.

Week 4 brings “Happy Flowers Day” and the realization that broccoli and cauliflower are flowers that we eat, but also nasturtiums, calendula, violets, pansies, chives and more.   

In Week 5, with “Happy Fruit Day,” students eat and dissect fruit and gather seeds.   Students count how many seeds come out of each fruit and make a chart. Students compare different sized seeds and notice how fruitsthat produce many seeds produce very small seeds and that fruits that produce few seeds produce larger seeds.   They also dry and save the seeds to plant in the spring.

And in Week 6, “Happy Seeds Day” brings the cycle around to the beginning.  Students use seeds to start sprouts, which will be used in the following week’s “Six Plant Part Salad.”  The craft for the week is a mosaic made from seeds.  Students also dry seeds to save for the spring, and anticipating spring, they make estimates and charts to predict how many seeds will come from the plants these seeds will produce.  

In Week 7, “Six Plant Part Day” brings together the six plant parts in presentations to family. The Six Plant Parts Salad includes foods from each of the six parts of the plant.

Studies have shown that it takes over ten exposures to a new food before children will readily eat it. The Six Plant Parts series provides one way to expose students to the fruits and vegetables that will help them stay healthy and well.  At the same time, it engages students in science, math and arts to enhance after-school learning.   

Read more about the project at

The Holyoke Connections Program is an award-winning after-school program in the city of Holyoke, Massachusetts, and is part of the network of 21st Century Learning Centers.  Students in the Connections Program can choose from a variety of enrichment clubs, including the Garden Club.  Read more about the program at

The project was designed by School Sprouts Educational Gardens along with the Holyoke Connections Program.   Read more about School Sprouts and gardening and education ideas at

Thank you to Karen Guillette, The CONNECTIONS Program, Holyoke Public Schools, Jorge L. Castellano, Director of After School and Out of School Time Programs;  and Hope Guardenier, Director, School Sprouts Educational Gardens.

December 2010

Spotlight on Gardening and Youth Education: Growing Local: Strengthening Communities through Partnerships and Collaboration

"Spotlight on Gardening and Youth Education" is a new feature in the ACGA e-Newsletter.    If you or your organization has a food and gardening themed youth program, please email about your project.

Growing Local: Strengthening Communities through Partnerships and Collaboration

by Melissa Hamilton

View Video:

As a student in the Masters program in Bioregional Planning & Community Design at the University of Idaho (UI), during the summer of 2010, Melissa Hamilton worked with local leaders in the community of Priest River, Idaho, who had identified a need for a community garden.  Salid Party

Many local organizations partnered with the new community garden project such as the West Bonner County Library and the UI Extension Bonner County Office. The Library had a plot in the garden and youth programs were provided to the community throughout the summer. There was a group of dedicated young adults, ages ranging from 11-14 that worked hard in the garden. The youth involvement in the garden was important and the programs always included a little work, an educational component, a little fun, and some veggie sampling.  Mike Bauer, Extension Educator with UI Bonner County Extension, provided support throughout the summer and traveled to the garden to assist with questions. Three Master gardeners in the area helped install the drip line irrigation system creating an easy and maintenance free garden experience for the plot holders.

In reflection on my summer internship experience, the last two days I was living in Priest River were my most memorable.... 

 I had four young adults visit the garden to have salad parties. I have NEVER seen kids more excited about a salad in my life. Those two afternoons of picking, cutting, and arranging fresh veggies into a bowl was the highlight of my summer and it is in those moments I realized that what I did is IMPORTANT. Watching four teenage girls devour fresh veggies, fighting over who was going to get the yellow pear tomatoes, and watching the dressing drip down their chin will be an image I will remember.

Awaking the youth’s tastes buds to enjoy and seek fresh food is a critical step in the process towards building an increasing demand for local and organic food.  Building enthusiasm around this demand is essential in strengthening the health and resilience of communities across the nation.  Community gardens are a wonderful asset to both urban and rural communities providing a multi-generational space, therefore increasing the social capital and connectedness in communities. 

About the program: The Masters program in Bioregional Planning & Community Design at the University of Idaho (UI) partners students and rural Idaho communities through the Building Sustainable Communities Initiative (BSCI). Students engage in community development through coursework, studio, Service-Learning projects and internship projects.  BSCI is an innovative “CommUniversity” partnership and all Idaho communities are welcome as partners.

February 2011

Spotlight on Youth Gardening: City Beets

This month, for the "Spotlight on Youth Gardening," we interview Kasey Henneman, from City Beets in Dayton, Ohio.  If you have a youth gardening program you would like to have highlighted in the e-newsletter, you can email

City Beets City Beets

What is City Beets? 

City BeetsCity Beets, a gardening and nutrition program of Five Rivers MetroParks, is in its fourth year of serving an economically and racially diverse group of teens ages 12-16. MetroParks (a county-wide park system operating 25 parks year-round) staff operate this summer youth program. Each teen earns a stipend while learning sustainable gardening methods in an on-site community garden plot. Partnering with OSU Extension, City Beets provides a hands-on understanding of nutrition through lessons as well as in-class cooking workshops. The teens sell their produce at our local farmers market and donate to our local food bank. City Beets also focuses on service-based field trips in our community, including The House of Bread, a local community kitchen that provides a nutritional hot lunch to the area‘s underserved population. City Beets teaches youth how to grow, eat, and appreciate food.

The City Beets program aims to put Dayton youth back into their food system, empowering them to adopt positive lifestyle behaviors and become advocates for nutrition, exercise, community and the environment.

Are there any challenges or benefits of gardening in public parks? 

There are many benefits to City Beets gardening in a public park...

City BeetsThe kids see Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark and know they are actually a part of this beautiful park and not just observers. It’s a really important level of engagement that’s often difficult to establish between teenagers and parks. In addition to increased gardening knowledge, we hope the City Beets develop a feeling of ownership of these MetroParks at an early age, which they’ll maintain through adulthood. This translates into future land stewardship and financial or volunteer support, a trait we hope will be passed on to the next generation.

Another benefit of gardening in the park is using the facility. The Sustainable Garden Classroom (including City Beets, Youth Garden Club, and educational demonstration plots) is a small portion of the approximately five-acre Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark Community Garden. The gardening area is ideal: big open space, water spigots, and surrounded by prairie and woodland areas, as well as 200 community garden plots.  The kids are among other gardeners, but also “away from it all” in a park.

Five Rivers MetroParks is a Montgomery County, Ohio, park district, supported by a property tax levy in the county.  Our park system includes community gardens at two of our parks: Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark and Possum Creek MetroPark.  Both are fairly large gardens (130 plots at Possum Creek, 200 plots at Wegerzyn, plots approximately 30’x30’).  Staff of the MetroPark in which they are housed prepare and maintain the gardens (maintain = mowing, cover-cropping, adding soil amendments, winterizing, etc – NOT weeding for lazy gardenersJ), arrange all the garden registration/rental, keep in contact with gardeners, pay water bills, and take and address complaints.  While staff find these community gardens fulfilling (they offer us a unique connection with park visitors), they are also, as all community gardeners know, a lot of work to maintain.

Do you have any advice for others who want to establish youth gardening programs in local parks?

One of the challenges we hope to address in the coming growing season is to have established community gardeners share their experience with City Beets teens.  This has been a challenge, in part because the time spent working in the garden is so tightly scheduled.  This interaction may happen more organically in a neighborhood community garden setting.  We have very enthusiastic park staff who collaborate well with us – and are willing to help us with some garden prep as necessary; depending on park staff availability and interest, this may vary.

March 2011

Spotlight on Youth Gardening: Faith Community Garden

This month, for the "Spotlight on Youth Gardening," we interview Erin Salva , from Faith Community Garden in Gambier, Ohio.  If you have a youth gardening program you would like to have highlighted in the e-newsletter, you can email

Faith Community Garden Faith Community Garden

What is Faith Community Garden?

Faith Community GardenFaith Community Garden is an ecumenical project designed to teach young and old about the health and nutritional benefits of growing your own food. Faith Community garden manages a larger community plot that grows organic fresh produce for Hot Meals.  Hot Meals serves a hot nutritious meal every night of the week to people in our community.  Faith Gardens also offer free individual garden plots for community members to grow their own food.  For the past two years we have also sponsored a children‘s garden for the local pre-school and head start children.  One year we grew a pizza garden and the next we designed a circular sunflower garden.  

What do pre-schoolers learn through gardening?

The garden is a great learning lab !  Children learn that dirt makes food with a little help from small hands, seeds, sun and rain....

We have taken bean and sunflower sprouts from the classroom to the garden and watched them grow.  The children have explored the health of the soil by looking for worms who create healthier soil by digging holes to aerate the soil. We have also sampled various foods picked directly from the gardens and voted on our favorite veggies.

What are some of the gardening programs you have held for adults and families?

We have held workshops on composting, companion planting, natural ways to manage garden pests, food preservation and canning.

How old were you when you started gardening?

I  was probably 4 or 5 when I started gardening. We started with the snap dragons along the house we moved to when I was about four. My Italian uncle, who I think was in his 80‘s, would walk 2 miles up Bucks Hill Road to turn our small garden plot using a garden spade.  Among other things, we planted onions.  I have a vivid picture of Uncle Angelo pulling the ripe onions, peeling them like an apple and eating them whole.  He lived to be around 96 yrs. old.  A combination of daily exercise, dandelion wine and onions may have contributed to his longevity.