Go on a tour of 9 campus gardens

If the idea of a campus garden is new to you and your institution, some sound advice applies:

Start early and start small. January is the time to begin planning, solicit donations for seeds and other materials, and enlist help from community gardening organizations, local garden club members or master gardeners, and even nearby colleges where agriculture students can lend advice or even a hand. Don’t feel pressured to produce a large harvest the first year, advises ASAP’s Growing Minds Farm to School program in Asheville, N.C. And choose cool season vegetables (lettuce, chard, radishes, carrots, kale, beets or potatoes), which can be seeded early, to start.

Cooperation is key to a successful campus garden. It can also be the greatest challenge. “It just takes one teacher or principal invested in making it happen,” says Sara Gunderson of the nonprofit Denver Urban Gardens, which helps schools and other institutions establish and maintain gardens. “Often, our role is selling the school on the benefits. It’s an easy sell if the school sees how it can be used in the curriculum.”

Sodexo USA’s Caitlin McClanahan agrees. McClanahan serves as sustainability manager and is one of the liaisons between Berea (KY) College’s dining services and the school’s agriculture and natural resources program. She says that working successfully with other campus departments “hinges on good communication. We like to try to plan as best we can what we will buy [from the campus gardens]. Trial and error also plays a part. We’ve figured out things that don’t sell well, so they can adjust what they produce.”

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