Garden Mosaics

2001 Annual Report for ENE99-049

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 1999: $116,635.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2002
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $35,968.00
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Gretchen Ferenz
Cornell Cooperative Extenstion--NYC
Marianne Krasny
Cornell University

Garden Mosaics


Although the Garden Mosaics activities originally were envisioned for only one summer (2000), we were able to supplement the SARE grant with National Science Foundation (NSF) funds, allowing us to continue to engage youth in participatory research in community gardens during summer 2001. Eight NSF- and SARE-funded undergraduate and graduate students led youth groups documenting ethnic gardening practices in five cities (Baltimore, Allentown, New York City, Rochester, and Buffalo), and one city (Philadelphia) continued the program without additional support. We also developed a Garden Mosaics web site, which includes guidelines for educators working with youth as well as results from some of the youth projects . The URL is

Objectives/Performance Targets

Twelve Cooperative Extension educators and ten educators from non-profit organizations from six cities will participate in a three-day workshop, through which they will develop an enhanced understanding of urban agricultural ecosystems and sustainable agricultural principles as applied in urban community gardens, along with the skills to conduct participatory research with youth in community gardens, including interviewing, mapping, and measuring plant growth.

Under the guidance of the educators who participate in the three-day workshop, 70 youth ages 10 to17 from 4-H clubs and other youth groups will conduct seven local Garden Mosaics projects, through which they will develop an understanding of urban agroecosystems and sustainable agricultural principles as applied in urban community gardens, develop the skills to conduct participatory research, and conduct participatory research designed to document sustainable vegetable-growing practices of ethnic minorities, recent immigrants, and others in urban community gardens.

Through conference presentations, local garden tours, and the project web site and educator’s guide, 5500 educators, scientists, gardeners, and youth will develop an understanding of urban agricultural ecosystems and sustainable agricultural principles as applied in urban community gardens, the economic, social, and environmental importance of community gardens in cities, how to conduct participatory research in community gardens, sustainable agricultural practices in community gardens documented by participants in this project; and how to conduct local Garden Mosaics projects.


We held a workshop to train the eight Cornell fellows who implemented the program during summer 2001, during which participants gained hands-on experience conducting participatory mapping and soils protocols drawn from Participatory Rural Appraisal. We also conducted an end-of-the-project focus group, during which Cornell fellows shared the outcomes of their summer Garden Mosaics projects.

Approximately 40 youth participated in Garden Mosaics projects in the six cities during summer 2000. In New York City, youth from Mary Mitchell Community Center worked in a community garden in the Bronx, where they started their own garden plots and conducted participatory research to determine planting practices, garden history, and soil characteristics, and to understand the garden as an ecosystem. A second group of youth from the Crown Heights Youth Collective conducted participatory research with gardeners in Brooklyn in partnership with the Brooklyn Botanic Garden community outreach program. The youth from both New York City sites met and shared project results during an end-of -summer garden celebration.

In Baltimore and Buffalo, youth continued work in gardens they started last year at community centers, and helped develop inventories of community gardens in the city. In Rochester, youth worked at existing school gardens and were paired with an elder gardener at the elder’s home garden. In Allentown, the youth conducted participatory research with seniors and worked on their own garden plot at Casa Guadelupe Community Center. In Philadelphia, the youth worked at the Aspen Farms community garden.

We gave Garden Mosaics presentations at conferences of the American Community Gardening Association (Salt Lake City, UT) and Ecological Society of America (Madison, WI), reaching a total of approximately 120 educators. We posted instructions for how to conduct Garden Mosaics projects on our website in June 2001.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

We have collated results from the first year of the project, which were included in an M.S. thesis (Doyle, R. 2001, Opportunities for learning and engagement: approaches from Participatory and Rapid Rural Appraisal in environmental education) and have recently been submitted for publication to Environmental Education Research.

Garden Mosaics educators cited a number of positive outcomes from participation in the program, including enhanced professional development (educators at five sites), enhanced professional networks (four sites), increased knowledge of ethnic crops and gardening practices (three sites), increased skill in participatory research (three sites), increased ability to work with diverse youth (three sites), personally rewarding experience (three sites), and enhanced gardening skills (two sites).

Youth at six sites enhanced their academic skills and knowledge about the importance of gardening; other youth outcomes included learning from elders (five sites), enhanced gardening skills (five sites), learning from different people (three sites), and enhanced understanding of research (two sites). Outcomes for gardeners included appreciation for youth listening to their stories (five sites), interaction with youth and others (four sites), and exchanging knowledge with educators (three sites).

Through our interviews and focus groups with educators, we have significantly enhanced our understanding of how to conduct youth-led participatory research in urban community gardens. These insights have been incorporated into our web site, which also serves as a program manual. Additionally, our experience from the SARE-funded program was incorporated into an NSF Informal Science Education grant, which has received favorable reviews. We are currently awaiting final word on funding for the NSF Garden Mosaics program.

A second graduate student conducted a study of the contributions of community gardens to Latino neighborhoods in New York City (Saldivar-Tanaka, L. 2001, Culturing neighborhood open space, civic agriculture, and community development: the case of Latino community gardens in New York City). Her results indicate that gardens provide safe open spaces for growing food and social and cultural activities in communities that are not served by public parks and for residents who feel unsafe in public parks. We will be submitting her results to Agriculture and Human Values in December.

Garden Mosaics was chosen to be featured as an exemplary program in a book about public scholarship, to be published in 2002 with support from the Kettering and Kellogg Foundations. Additionally, as a result of her work with Garden Mosaics and similar outreach efforts, Dr. Krasny was chosen as the recipient of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Promotion of Cultural Diversity Inaugural Award. She has donated the $1000 award to professional development of Cornell Cooperative Extension-NYC community educators working on Garden Mosaics and other projects serving minority audiences.