Don’t miss out on school garden resources

Many school garden grants are open now, so plan ahead for a bountiful spring.

Skyline Camp's educational gardens.
Skyline Camp's educational gardens.

As you rake the straggling leaves in your yard and savor the last tomatoes of the year, planning next year’s school garden is likely not the first thing on your mind. Rightfully so! If you follow the school garden article series – the last one was all about how to put your garden to bed and let it rest over the winter. 

This article was written to shift that mindset and share that you will have more access to resources if your school garden team starts planning for next year now. While it may feel premature to mentally skip over the upcoming winter and start envisioning what you’ll be planting in the spring and what you’ll need for a successful garden – that’s exactly what we recommend that you do. This is because the majority of school garden grants are open right now, and into the early winter of 2016. This requires you and your school garden team to be planning for 2016’s garden. 

This seemingly odd timing is due to grant cycles. Funders need time to accept applications, review and vet proposals that they would like to fund. Many school garden grantors receive hundreds of applications and need a healthy window of time to properly review them. In Michigan, the ideal time to receive your garden grant money is in the spring, as you begin building, expanding or preparing your garden. In order to distribute grant moneys to align with spring activities, funders need to receive proposals in the early winter. 

Many grants have deadlines from late October to early January. A digestible list of garden grants is shared monthly in the Michigan School Garden Newsletter, which is shared through the MI Farm to School email list. If you are interested in receiving Farm to School and school garden information, you can sign up for that list here, under the heading “Link to Local Food”. 

If you are interested in doing further research on available grants, try Garden ABCs, America in Bloom or Kids Gardening, which keep an extensive (although not comprehensive) list of garden grant opportunities.

Despite the busy season, planning your school garden ahead can result in numerous benefits. You may be able to incorporate more participatory planning with students, thread themes of the garden into lesson plans throughout the winter, build garden stakeholder support and garner more resources for the collective garden vision. You might even consider working with your school food service director to plan how to serve garden produce in your school food programs

Michigan State University Extension supports the development and sustainability of school garden projects throughout the state and expanded learning opportunities for Michigan’s youth.

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