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June 22, 2013 / Rick Swann

Volunteer School Garden Coordinators

I had to write this up for Slow Food Seattle where I co-chair the School Garden Committee and thought I’d post it here as well.


It would be great if every school had a paid school garden coordinator, but if that were a prerequisite for a school garden the majority of school gardens would disappear in this country.  Sometimes the garden coordinator is a teacher, but I feel like that puts too much burden on someone who already has a lot going on. Also, when that teacher leaves the school, the garden program might disappear with her.


Every garden should have a garden coordinator, though. There needs to be a person or a team of people who are in charge of the garden and its day-to-day decisions. While a paid garden coordinator might do that as well as be a garden educator, a volunteer school garden coordinator probably won’t be coordinating the garden and teaching in it, too. That’s asking too much of a volunteer.


Volunteer school garden coordinators ensure that:

ü  There is a schedule of garden use by classes and after-school classes;

ü  There is a year round maintenance schedule of tasks that need doing and identify who will do them, including signing up volunteers to care for the garden during summer vacation;

ü  Volunteers are connected for work parties and with classrooms for garden activities;

ü  That work parties get publicized and organized ahead of time;

ü  That there is an annual garden budget and that fundraising events and grant applications to fund the garden occur;

ü  Garden activities are publicized to the school community and beyond;

ü  Oversee supplies and tools;

ü  School-wide garden celebrations occur each year.

ü  The garden needs of teachers (supplies, volunteers, etc.) are being met by checking in with them on a regular basis.


It is also important to point out that the garden coordinator is responsible to ensure things on the list above occur; my hope is that they make them occur by having other volunteers do the bulk of the work. The more parents and other members of the school community that get involved with the garden over the course of the year, the healthier the garden program will be.


The best model for a volunteer school garden coordinator that I have seen is one that makes it a PTA position that needs to be filled every year much like book fair coordinator, classroom liaison, school auction chair, etc. Set up a notebook with all the tasks and a description of how they are done, and the job can easily be passed on year-to-year. Also, figure out the minimum amount of money the garden needs every year for seeds, new tools, etc. and make that a part of the annual PTA budget.


A further note, get the teachers to form a garden committee that examines how the garden can be linked to curriculum and have the PTA garden coordinator attend those meetings.


Finally, I do realize that not all schools have a thriving PTA or much of a PTA budget. For schools like that I suggest looking for a local non-profit or business to help you with volunteers or paid help. Try non-profits like food banks (the school garden could provide them with fresh produce), environmental, food or sustainability groups. A number of businesses encourage their workers to volunteer in the community. Tap into them. Also, post your volunteer job descriptions on the web at places like


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