Funding School Garden Work

Identifying sustainable funding streams is a crucial element to ensure the success of school garden support organizations. We define sustainable funding as consistent, substantial and/or from permanent budget lines. Funding models and funding sources vary greatly. The following resources provide an overview and examples of different funding models and sources that SGSOs rely upon.

Key Elements Related to Funding SGSOs

Relationship Building

Building relationships with a diversity of stakeholders can lead to new funding sources, shares the value of your work in your community, and helps your organization move from one funding stream to another!

Diverse Funding Streams

SGSOs rely heavily on grant and foundation funding, but there can be more fiscal resiliency in organizations with diverse funding streams. Successful SGSOs sustain funding by diversifying their funding with sources such as earned income or school district funding.

Focus on Mission, With Flexible Elements

SGSOs with sustainable funding often have a core mission, with flexibility about what elements and programs achieve that mission. This flexibility opens up SGSOs to new and different programming over time, allowing organizations to shift around or seek different sources of funding while still succeeding in fulfilling their core mission.

Funding Chart

Funding Sources & Innovative Funding Models

Non-profit organizations are the most common type of SGSO, and grants are the most common funding sources of SGSOs. A list of school garden grant searching resources can be found at www.lifelab.org/grant-searching. Most ‘school garden’ grants are  in the range of $500-$2,000 and limit the use of funds to  purchasing materials and resources. 

 

However, SGSOs often require larger, longer term grants to fund staff and larger programmatic elements. These grants can establish and launch programming and staffing but do not usually provide long term sustainability. Grant searching, applying and reporting often becomes a major task for organizations that rely primarily on grant funding.

Some schools and districts fund garden programs including staff. The most commonly funded positions are: science coordinators, environmental literacy specialists, agriculture instructors, career technical education, and school food service positions.

 

 

The USDA has encouraged school food services to use their foodservice dollars for garden-based nutrition education. The guidance provided by the USDA can be found here: 

 
In California, the Local Control Funding Formulas (LCFF) directs districts to create a Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) based on community input. A handful of districts such as Ventura USD, Pittsburg USD, Calaveras USD and others have created their three year LCAPs to include garden-based education programming. View the funding tab on this www.cde.ca.gov farm to school page.

 

View Mill City Grows and Alachua District SGSO Snapshots at the bottom of this page to learn about their district funded programming.
 

This is a broad category of funding ranging from special tax measures to identifying municipal funding streams that can support school gardening efforts.

 

Municipal Funding and Partnerships Water conservation efforts in Las Vegas  provided cash incentives for schools that removed lawns and replace them with water saving gardens. In Santa Cruz County the local waste hauler funded composting education programs in local schools. Health departments have supported garden-enhanced nutrition education with grants and provided nutrition education programming. Think about your community’s needs or programming and how  school garden programs may align with their goals. There may be funding or partnerships to explore.

 

Sweetened Beverage Taxes can  fundschool gardening efforts. When Berkeley Public School’s Garden and Cooking Program, lost funds when The Network for a Healthy California shifted their focus they worked with the city of Berkeley Public Health to pass Healthy Berkeley legislation. The sweetened beverage tax funds, among other things, part of the School Garden and Cooking Program. This idea wasn’t a new one, in 2010, the District of Columbia passed the DC Healthy Schools Act which funds, among other things, school garden grants and support services

 

Parcel Taxes and Bonds In 2003, 2006, & 2011 the City of San Francisco, CA passed bond measures (Measure A) for enhancing school sites. As part of Proposition A green schoolyard development funding was included. Overall $14 million was provided to 82 school sites to create or enhance their schoolyard spaces, many of which included gardens. 

 

In 2015 the City of Santa Cruz, CA passed a parcel tax for education and within the tax measure there are funds for part time garden science teachers at each of their 4 elementary schools. See the case study snapshot below for more information.

 

State Legislation One of the most well known state garden legislation is from Oregon. This legislation funds the efforts of the Oregon Farm to School & School Garden Program which provides grants for school garden education efforts along with Oregon grown food procurement. Learn about this legislation at the Oregon State website and at Ecotrust – Supporting Farm to School Programming in Oregon.

Many SGSOs, especially non-profits, solicit support from individual donors. If you have a supportive and well-resourced community, or a few large donors, a reliance on individuals for funding your program is an option. Annual appeals (year-end asks) and hosting benefit events, and crowdfunding are just some of the ways SGSOs solicit funds from individuals.

 

View our webinar on Crowdfunding

Some academic institutions such as universities and cooperative extensions fund garden-based programming.

 

The University of Texas at Austin is an example, this university finds grants to support school gardening and conduct research.

 

University and extension typically fund their own staff or place interns at school garden sites rather than provide funds directly to schools to support school gardening/nutrition education efforts. In some states Master Gardener programs provide school garden support or grants. See these model programs for inspiration or connect with your local Master Gardeners. San Diego Master GardenersCobb County Master Gardeners

 

The University of Arizona’s Community & School Garden Program places over 50  interns per semester in local educational gardens. This program is one of the most well developed university/school district models in the nation.

 

The University of California has created a toolkit for school districts, SGSOs, and universities that discusses three models for engaging university students in local school gardens.

Plant sales, produce stands and other types of garden-based mirco-enterprise can raise program funds. See a great collection of garden-based youth enterprise projects on the Whole Kids Foundation Youth Entrepreneurs Program.   

 

Some SGSOs operate as mission-driven businesses and offer fee for service programs, charging school directly. The examples are organizations that offer fee for service programming

Ready to Grow Gardens is an organization offering fee for serve programs.

 

View The Organic Gardener and Partridge Creek Farm SGSO Snapshots at the bottom of this page to learn about their earned income efforts.

 

View our webinar on School and Community Farm Stands

Partnering with or requesting funds from corporations in your area or from corporate grant programs is another strategy that non-profits and some schools rely upon. Many corporations have employee match programs where their employee’s donations are matched by the corporation. Some SGSOs partner with corporate volunteer programs that pay their staff to engage in service events hosted by charitable organizations. These partnership events sometimes include cash gifts in addition to the helping hands.

 

See lists of corporations and businesses that support some of these larger, well established SGSOs

 

 

Green Our Planet, based in Las Vegas is situated in a city that is home to many corporate hubs.

 

 

Big Green, the largest SGSO in the nation with programs in various metropolitan areas relies upon corporate and individual giving. See an example of funding partners in the Chicago area.

 

 

 

Another one of the nation’s largest SGSOs Outteach lists their corporate partners here and shares what it means to partner with them here.

SGSO FUNDING MODEL CASE STUDY SNAPSHOTS

The following “snapshots” were created as part of the 2021 SGSO Leadership Institute by Leah Sokolofski-Burnstein of The Organic Gardener – Northbrook, IL &
Kelli Brew Alachua County Public Schools – North Central Florida

Mt Diablo USD
Mt Diablo Unified School District

Large Suburban District  ~50 East San Francisco Bay Area  –  17 School Gardens serving 6,100 Students. –  Grants, Foundations and Some District Funding = $240,000 Budget for School Garden Programming  –  10 Garden Educators, 1 Program Director  –   Started in 2015 with USDA Farm to School Grant

 

Nuggets of Wisdom:
    • Nimble, multi-pronged approach to both funding and programming allows for managing the shifting stream of funds for a sustainable and flexible garden program. 

    • CTE (Career and Technical Training Grant: Some of this district funding was allocated to the school garden program, where garden educators were able to link their lessons to career exposure – from horticulturists to entomologists, to farmers, health care workers and truck drivers. 

    • Good story-telling: Tamara is constantly renewing and creating relationships with funders to insure stability for the school gardens. She identifies good story-telling as crucial to connecting funders to the aspect of school gardens benefits the specific funder wants to support  –  be it student wellness and community health, social-emotional well-being, core academics, food access, etc..

 
The Organic Gardener
The Organic Gardener, Ltd. - A Fee for Service Model

Chicago, IL Area  –  Urban/Suburban  –  20 School Sites  –  $100,000 School Garden Program Budget  –  4 Part-time Staff  –  Since 2005

 

  • The Organic Gardener uses a Fee for Service model for its Learning Gardens Program.

  • The Organic Gardener is able to keep costs low for schools because many overhead costs are shouldered by the residential and corporate edible garden business.

  • Relationship building is key! Often schools work with The Organic Gardener because a community member is familiar with the residential edible garden side of the business.

  • Pearls of Wisdom: Leah Sokolofski Burstein, Learning Gardens Manager, tells us: By tailoring the garden design and programming to each schools’ needs and desires, we are able to serve a wide range of schools and to create sustainable school gardens that establish meaningful connections for students. Not having to fit into a one-size fits all model is one of our greatest assets. Each of our school garden programs is a reflection of the school community.

  • www.theorganicgardener.net/schools/

Alachua County Farm to School
Alachua County Public Schools Farm to School to Work Hub

16 School Gardens  –  1,100 Students active in gardens  –  8,000 students participating in meal program  –   $92,000 Garden Program Budge.  –  1.5 Full Time Employees  –  Alachua, Florida  –  Since 2014

  • DISTRICT FUNDING: Fully integrated into the school system through  learning goals and school meals.

    • Farm to School coordinator manages school gardens (.5 FTE) and is funded directly by Food and Nutrition Services. FNS funds completely fund equipment, supplies and plants to grow produce for school meals. 

    • The Exceptional Student Education Department’s Transition Program shares a campus with the Farm to School Hub where students, 16-22,  learn to raise seedlings and build and install garden beds for district gardens as part of their job and life skills  program. The food grown at their large (half-acre) garden and at the district gardens is served in taste tests as part of the district’s nutrition education program and in school meals. 

  • UNIVERSITY/COOPERATIVE EXTENSION: Robust collaboration with UF/Coopeative Extension through their SNAP-Ed funding as well as land-grant university expertise in regional growing. 

    • SNAP-Ed funding through the University of Florida’s Family Nutrition Program contributes to funding half of the half-acre Farm to School Hub production as well as a full-time extension horticulturist who assists students at the farm, advises on school gardens where the majority of students are eligible for free and reduced lunch, and assists on field trips for students at these schools who are visiting the Hub. 

    • Collaboration with extension Master Gardener program and professional  horticulturists have assisted us in garden planning as well as troubleshooting garden and orchard challenges.

    farm2schoolalachua.com/category/school-gardens/

Mill City Grows
Mill City Grows - Lowell, MA

Strong School District Food & Nutrition Services Integration  –  4 Support 14 School Gardens in an Urban Setting  –  5,000 Students Served  –   $300,000 Budget from Foundation/Grants, District Funding, Produce Sales  –  Since 2013

  • Fourteen of 22 Lowell District schools are served by Mill City Grows. 
  • 4 staff include:
    ○ Lead Educator
    ○ Farm to School Manager
    ○ Two FoodCorp members
  • SUCCESS NUGGET:

    ○ District integration: Mill City Grows is a great example of being integrated into the school system. Jessica describes the district Food and Nutrition Department as MCG’s greatest ally, sharing goals of building a healthy food culture that supports and integrates school gardens.

    ○ Relationship building: Jessica’s advice to funding is to not assume that you know what other people want. Developing a relationship where you can ask the question, or be asked, and find ways to respond to both parties’ interest or need is key. Once you can identify a common goal, the funding will come because you are already working together. Example: Garden pivoting from teaching focus to production focus during early weeks of pandemic. Produce was sent home in bags to families along with their curbside school meals.

 
Partridge Creek Farm - Ishpeming, Michigan

Rural area serving 5 School/Community Gardens and 2 school gardens, 200 students.  –  $150,000 Budget.  –  Since 2013

  • School Garden Support Staff: 1 paid part-time, 1 unpaid part-time volunteer, 1 FTE that supports School Garden at 25% of their time, 2 full time summer interns. Programming runs 1/ week for 1-2 hours depending on program

  • The Nuggets of Wisdom:

    • Partridge Creek Farm has a successful for-profit, high impact alternative revenue stream. Through their Compost Program and Raised Bed Program, they have two revenue streams of unrestricted funds. 

    • Utilizing a subcontractor, their Compost Program collects food waste from local sources, decomposes it using a vermicompost process on rented land, and sells the finished vermicompost product.

    • The Raised Bed Program, named the Resiliency Garden Bed Project, makes use of a high-quality local resource (wood) and utilizes interns and volunteers to build and sell garden beds locally.

    • Partridge Creek Farm also partners with Northern Michigan University to engage 8 interns for 13 weeks over the summer to grow and give-away food. In addition, the interns run projects such as: conducting GIS and water and soil analysis, marketing and media support, and coordinating and implementing community volunteer days and a summer farm-to-school camp.

    • Pearls of Wisdom: May Tsupros, Director of People and Partnerships, tells us: Every SGSO should seek out a mission-aligned revenue stream and invest in a good development person early on.”

https://www.partridgecreekfarm.org/

Yes on Measure P
Santa Cruz City Schools Educational Parcel Tax

A city parcel tax that provides funds for various educational purposes. Includes 8 years of funding Life Lab Garden Science Specialists at each of the city’s 4 elementary schools in a suburban school district.

Santa Cruz City Elementary School District Small Class Size and Academic Achievement Act. To protect the quality of education in local elementary schools, attract and retain highly qualified teachers, continue science programs, arts and music instruction, maintain smaller class sizes, provide library services and prevent existing school funding from expiring, the shall Santa Cruz City Elementary School District shall renew its $105 parcel tax for a period of 8 years without raising the tax rate, including an exemption for senior citizens, independent citizen oversight, and all funds staying local to benefit Santa Cruz elementary schools. Accordingly, moneys raised under this Measure shall be authorized to be used for the following purposes in accordance with priorities established by the Board and to the extent of available funds:

(a) Protecting small class sizes; 

(b) Funding elementary school science instruction; 

(c) Supporting early literacy instruction programs for elementary students and pre-kindergarten programs; 

(d) Retaining credentialed librarians, library assistants, teachers and other employees; and  (e) Providing arts education, teachers and supplies, including music, performing and visual arts. No parcel tax funds will be spent on administrative salaries.

 

Read more details about the 2015 Santa Cruz Elementary School District (Measure P) on BallotPedia

These parcel tax measures are supported in part through the efforts of the Santa Cruz Education Fun