Community Giving Garden

Project Overview

Project Type: Youth Educator
Funds awarded in 2014: $1,978.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: North Central
State: Ohio
Project Manager:
April Hoy
Stratford Ecological Center


Not commodity specific


  • Sustainable Communities: community development

    Proposal abstract:

    Project Abstract
    Stratford’s Community Giving Garden brings to life the concepts of sustainable farming while teaching the importance of giving back to the community. We propose engaging high school students and youth who are attending Stratford’s experiential programs throughout the year in the planning, planting, maintaining, and harvesting of the Community Giving Garden utilizing sustainable gardening practices. Students will gain a new appreciation of farm life and the source of their food from seed to dinner plate. Throughout the experientially educational season, the garden will yield 2,000 pounds of fresh produce for donation to a local food bank, People In Need (PIN).

    Detailed Project Plan and Timeline
    Stratford Ecological Center, an educational farm and nature preserve located on 236 acres in Delaware County in Ohio, has a Community Giving Garden that will be used to teach elementary, middle and high schools students about sustainable gardening Broader concepts and skills that will be taught include: garden planning and layout, variety selection and strategies for successful germination, sustaining soil life, fertility and health through proper us of organic matter and amendments, sustainable methods of managing weeds, insects and diseases, organic matter management, tillage and cultivation strategies, tools and techniques of sustainable vegetable production, resource use and conservation, harvest and post-harvest practices.

    Students will learn why "living" soils are "healthy" soils that can produce quality crops and nutritious foods and what sustainable gardeners do to promote healthy soils.

    Youth to be engaged throughout the year:
    -250 students from Thomas Worthington High School (TWHS)
    -3,560 children and students participating in Stratford’s spring and fall Farm and Field Trips, summer Farm Camp, Small Farmers and Organic Gardening for Kids programs.

    Harvesting and donation of produce to PIN will happen monthly. All activities will be led by Stratford’s Education Coordinator, farmer, Environmental Education and Sustainable Agriculture interns, trained volunteer guides, and visiting volunteer gardeners and farmers.

    The following concepts and gardening activities will take place during the growing season:


    •Concepts: Presentation at TWHS about basics of sustainable gardening, importance of sustainable agriculture and the connection to community service (the “third leg”);
    •Gardening Activities: In Stratford’s greenhouses, seed flats of “greens” (lettuce, spinach, kale, collards) and direct seed cool season crops (crucifers) and start successional plantings of warm-season crops (tomatoes, peppers, etc.) in flats for TWHS’s garden and our garden.


    -  Concepts: Living soils, soil food web, nutrient cycling, plant life cycles (perennials and annuals), organic matter management, the “art of composting,” including sheet or lasagna, static and aerated composting, vermiculture, living mulches, rotation of mulches in situ, all to manage weeds, disease, moisture, and fertility.
    - Gardening Activities: Turning in cover crops, compost (and making compost), planting transplants, and direct seeding cold-hardy crops. Continue successional plantings of cool and warm-season crops;


    •Concepts: Crop rotations, importance of biodiversity, use of beneficial/companion plants, use of beneficial insects, establishing, managing and “engaging” beneficial wildlife habitats with native species.
    •Gardening Activities: TWHS and elementary students will learn to transplant vegetable seedlings of crucifers by hand and utilizing a vegetable transplanter. Elementary students will continue the succession of seed planting for warm-season crops, adding cucurbits, and direct garden, and field seeding of beans, more peas, beets, and carrots. They will also flat tender herbs.


    -Concepts: Preparing warm-season transplants for field/garden planting (hardening off), soil preparation (tillage, compost, minerals, mulches) and seasonal crop fertility maintenance.
    -Gardening Activities: TWHS students transplant their own warm-season transplants in the high school’s garden. Warm-season transplants established in Giving Garden with mulch applied as appropriate (soil temperatures and moisture).


    •Concepts: Managing weeds, insects, and diseases; physical and biological approaches to success.
    •Gardening Activities: Farm Camp students will learn the tools and techniques of mechanical cultivation; apply biological and other “certifiable” organic insect and disease control measures. Students will set-up cages, trellises and other gardening structures and be prepared to apply trickle irrigation as needed; tend warm season crops; transition out Cole crops; plant beet, carrot, beans; turn compost. Students will eat salads harvested daily from
    the garden.


    •Concepts: How organic matter management prepares fields for drought and keeps crops cool; short and longterm strategies for water and moisture conservation; tools and techniques for conserving water and soil moisture; how sustainable farming practices help maintain soil, water, air and habitat quality.
    -Gardening Activities: Tend crops (mindset for maintenance); start fall transplant; direct seeding.


    •Concepts: Water conservation, types and benefits of mulch; strategies and mindsets for late season weed management.
    •Gardening Activities: Transplant and direct seed fall vegetable crops; tend field/garden crops; start winter-hardy seedlings for winter production in greenhouses.


    •Concepts: Putting up the bounty: harvesting, storing, packaging, canning, drying, preserving garden produce – fruits and vegetables; considerations for post-harvest handling and maintaining quality.
    •Gardening Activities: Finish conversion from warm to cool-season crops; cover crop; grind grains, make apple cider and canning; make recipe cards for local food bank to accompany produce from garden.

    •Concepts: Garden planning and design; variety selection, seed sourcing, seed collecting and storage; issues surrounding GMOs.
    •Gardening Activities: TWHS students return. Visualize, measure and map next year’s garden; develop new seed orders; finalize planting for winter greenhouse production.

    Resources Used
    •Stratford Ecological Center – Will provide land, equipment, tools, personnel, volunteers to create a seamless year of vegetable production during and between student visits.
    •People In Need, Inc. – Will be the recipient of the produce generated from this project in addition to being the messenger to their clientele and the broader community on information provided to them on the value of eating local, fresh, sustainably and seasonally.
    •Thomas Worthington High School – Will be season-long participants in this project and their own high school garden, applying sustainable vegetable production practices and sharing these techniques with fellow high school classmates.
    •Numerous elementary and middle schools from seven counties in central Ohio attending Stratford’s programs
    •Olentangy Watershed Alliance – Will provide educational materials to students on the impact of high-input agriculture on the Olentangy watershed and the role sustainable agriculture has in helping to maintain water quality.
    •Livingston Seed Company - Will provide vegetable seeds for this program.
    •Del Co Water Company – Will provide funding for an “edible rain garden” along with interpretive signage and activities to teach students about rainwater collection and use and how water conservation maintains the quality of our water supply.
    •Sustainable Delaware – Will highlight this project on their website to attract greater public participation and volunteerism through the Community Giving Garden.

    •Jeff Dickinson, Stratford Executive Director/Farmer
    •April Hoy, Education Coordinator
    •Stratford’s Environmental Education and Sustainable Agriculture interns
    •Thomas Worthington High School’s Food and Fitness class teachers, along with elementary and middle school
    teachers will continue the sustainable agriculture dialogue with materials provided to them.
    •Guest volunteer gardeners and farmers, willing to share their knowledge with visiting students.

    Content for presentations and experiential programming about sustainable gardening has been developed by Stratford staff, supplemented by Stratford’s library with numerous reprints from

    We will share the project activities as well as the process of creating an organic garden with educators and the community at large, and encourage interested parties to create their own garden using sustainable agriculture practices.

    For the general public, we will:
    •Highlight the project on our website ( with a video.
    •Promote the garden on our Facebook page and invite friends to visit and participate in the work.
    •Ensure that our volunteer Farm and Nature Guides provide tours the garden to visiting parents and children during the growing season. The Guides will engage them in some needed activity in the garden or speak to the various sustainable agriculture concepts that are being utilized in the production of organic produce.
    •Place an article in our local newspaper, the Delaware Gazette.
    •Write an article for Stratford’s newsletter that is emailed to supporters, program participants and friends.
    •Encourage students to bring their family members and friends to see the garden, participate in the work and learn about sustainable organic gardening.
    For educators, we will:
    •Assure that all of the teachers who bring students to Stratford for field trips are aware of the project and encourage them to have a similar project on their own school grounds.
    •Share the project with the “Leave No Child Inside” Collaborative and invite them to share it with their respective agencies and organizations.
    •Train our Environmental Education interns in sustainable agriculture concepts and practices and encourage them to start their own organic gardens at other organizations.

    Student and Community Impact
    Student Impact
    Student participants will:
    •Learn practical organic gardening skills that can be used at home.
    •Gain an appreciation for healthy, living soils, understand the how biodiversity impacts the garden, and understand the importance of healthy food and healthy lifestyles.
    •Understand the cycles of life, the soil food web, and the overall web of life.
    •Promote use of diverse, nutrient-rich vegetables by providing recipe cards for unique crops (such as kale) for distribution by PIN.
    •Learn the value of volunteerism and giving back, as the food they grow will be donated to a local food pantry.

    Student impact will be measured by the number of youth involved.

    Community Impact
    It is important to note the multiplier effect this project will have on our community. Thousands of students will learn about organic gardening and sustainable agriculture; their parents, friends and teachers will be encouraged to join them and learn about sustainable gardening. Their work will provide more than 1,000 pounds of fresh organic produce for People In Need (PIN) food pantry, which will distribute it to low-income residents who often do not have access to fresh organic produce.

    Beyond this direct impact, the community at large will be influenced in the following ways:
    •Recipe cards for PIN clients will information about Stratford’s Giving Garden and will include ideas and tips on organic gardening in small spaces.
    •Extra tomato plants from the garden will be distributed at PIN with care instructions.
    •Set up Facebook access system for visiting groups.
    •The larger public will have access to this project’s outcomes through our website e-newsletters, newspaper articles and presentations by Stratford to other local organizations.

    Community impact will be measured by the pounds of food sent to the food pantry, and the number of families who receive the food.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.