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Involving the family and community


  • Finding local support
  • Establishing a Garden Group
  • Maintaining support and interest
  • Selecting publicity strategies

What help can the community give?
“Look for people who can contribute any of the four W's - Wealth, Wisdom, Work or Weight (that is, influence).”
(Food Works Organization, 2004)

School gardens are much more successful when the community is interested and involved. And it is a good idea to involve them right from the start in planning and discussing the garden. This will build commitment, spread the workload, help you to avoid mistakes, and stimulate interest in the school’s activities.

People may need convincing. Make your aims and principles clear to everyone from the very beginning. Above all, people should be able to see clearly that the garden is intended to benefit the children and the school as a whole - physically, educationally and psychologically.


Here are some community elements that might be interested in the school garden. Which of them could be called on in your community? What could they contribute?

Parents and families Parents and families will become interested in school gardens if they can see the value for their children. Individual parents may act as volunteers, helping with garden work. Families can be a market for school produce. They can help with children’s “garden homework”, visit the garden and participate in talks, demonstrations, food fairs, celebrations or presentations.

Garden work can even be taken home, with families’ agreement and help. For example, if the school does not have much space, children can learn about gardening at school but actually create their own gardens at home. Or they can plant copycat gardens at home, following the model of the school garden.

Make time to introduce the garden to as many families as possible. Invite them to visit and get children to take them round. Give them opportunities to discuss the garden and make suggestions. Listen to them and make use of their expertise and experience.

What individual volunteers can do

Organize field days, a garden clean-up day.
Build a garden shed, a fence, a wall.
Demonstrate gardening techniques, food preparation.
Provide transport, seeds, tools, recipes.
Help to cook, dig, weed, clear bushes.
Talk to the children about what they are doing in the garden.

Joint efforts

Changing attitudes
“In Kenya, manual work is likened to punishment. But this stigma is changing because our school has made a success of the garden. The children love the garden. They eat the food we produce and are visibly healthier. Parents shake us by the hand because they can see the difference. The garden has given the school a name. The District Education Officer brings visitors to see it.”
(A. Choday, personal communication, 2003)

Some parents might think their children should not get their hands dirty. It is best to deal with this attitude quietly, in the long term, just by giving status to gardening work and letting it be seen. Participate in the garden yourself, bring in well-known local people to endorse it, make the school known for its garden, and get the children to enjoy what they do and be proud of it.

Some parents cannot participate because they simply have too much to do, whether they are busy executives or overworked farmers. Get them to “invest” in the garden in very small ways - for example, donating a few seeds or some household rubbish for the compost heap. A contribution of any sort is a commitment.

The community Your local community, taken as a whole, certainly knows as much about gardening as you do! Looking at the human resources in your area will generally reveal a considerable pool of know-how. (Cederstrom, 2002)

In northern Mexico a school garden project invited successful local gardeners to act as trainers and educators for the school garden. In Bangladesh a school garden project appointed a village resident to manage the garden, and compensated her with a percentage of the proceeds.
(Cederstrom, 2002)

It may be possible to collaborate with community groups involved in other garden projects. For example, in some places:

One hopes that the community can learn something from the school about growing good food, organic approaches or market gardening. If children take their learning home, everyone benefits. But be cautious about appearing to “instruct”. Regard the community as a source of expertise, and recognize local practices that have stood the test of time.

School staff In the most successful school gardens, all the school staff are interested and lend a hand. Both teaching and non-teaching staff can contribute.

Where food is scarce, all school staff will be happy to have a share of the food produced. However, you may want to establish some ground rules - for example, that those who contribute most should have the largest share.

The garden can be an education in equity as well as in agriculture.

The local food industry

Farmers, market gardens and garden centres are often glad to give advice, information and demonstrations on horticultural techniques, marketing, storing and conserving food; to contribute seeds or lend tools; or to allow children to visit and observe. If the school meals service uses local produce, contact the producers, invite them to inspect your garden and hope for a return invitation. Local shops or markets can provide outlets for selling produce, and advise on sales and marketing. Local vendors may be glad to sell garden foods as snacks.

The school meals service If there is a school feeding programme, the school meals service should be involved in discussing what foods can be grown to improve the children’s diet. There may be national nutrition guidelines or standards for school meals provided by the Ministry of Education or the Ministry of Health. If so, consult them.

School cooks should be consulted about what foods are easy to cook and what is needed to improve school meals. They are usually experts on what children are willing to eat - often a problem when you are trying to change dietary habits. They can also provide peel, old fruit or bones for the compost heap. If they have a food-handler’s license, they can demonstrate food hygiene and food preparation to children and families. Try to include them in any training available.

Other public-sector services Local agricultural extension workers, farmer field schools or environmental agencies can give technical information and advice, and possibly training courses on specific subjects. Try to get the interest of the health service, which can advise on food values, children’s nutrition needs and nutritional guidelines for school meals. It is in their interest that children are well fed and healthy! The local council or the water authorities may help to build a well, install running water, advise on irrigation systems or help with rainwater harvesting.

NGOs, aid agencies, sponsors, charities, church groups

The media and publicity outlets This includes local newspapers and radio. It also means places where posters can be displayed or talks can be given - for example, the teachers’ centre, the local clinic, the market, the cinema, local groups. Are there regular events (e.g. a science fair, a sports event, a college gradu ation day) where the school garden’s successes can have a high profile?

“The primary schools in the region have a competition for best garden and for best garden plot. The prizes are awarded at the graduation day of our local university. The children go up to collect the prizes. They wear their best clothes and get very excited. It's a big event,”
(C. Ssekyewa, personal communication, 2003)

Community support

These family and community contacts are set out in the table below. Use it to brainstorm what your own community has to offer.

How can the community be involved?Expert advice/ collaboration, information, interviews and demonstrationsFunding, sponsorship prizes, raising statusHelp, facilities, supplies, outlets, equipment, publicityReached through articles, homework, demonstrations, food fairs, guided tours
Community groups
Parents and families 
The community, the general public
School staff
Local food industry (e.g. cooks, farmers, shops, food services, vendors)
School meals service 
Public sector services (agriculture, health, environment, local council and water authorities, etc.)
NGOs, aid agencies, charities, church groups
Local media and publicity outlets 


What kind of group can bring people together to support the garden? This depends on local communications, the school’s relationship with the community, how peole prefer to work (e.g. in groups or one-to-one), what groups already exist (e.g. parent-teacher association, school council) and how well they work, and the garden leader’s own personal preferences.

Here are some of the possibilities. Which would work best in your situation?

Once you have found community support, the secret is to hold on to it. Garden supporters need motivating as much as students and teachers (and garden managers). Take some tips from our section on motivation (Part 12).


Make your garden “visible” - give it a little publicity. This spreads the word about good gardening and good nutrition in the community, fosters a sense of pride, and shows that the school is active and cares. Gardens lend themselves particularly well to publicity because:

Don’t make grand claims about what you plan to do, but do not hide what you are doing.

Who should be told?

Don’t do all the work yourself! A lot of publicity work can be undertaken by children and helpers. Children especially should be involved in promoting the garden.

Use this checklist to decide which “visibility strategies” might work in your situation.


Garden identity
Get pupils to choose a name for the garden and display it.
Adopt a simple logo for your garden, or have a competition for one. Teach children to draw it. Put it on the poster, on your agendas for meetings, on school books, on children’s homework, on food packages, on writing paper. Display it at garden shows.
Try to make sure the garden looks good from every angle and is not hidden away in a corner.
Records and displays
Make sure there are photos or drawings of all important garden events.
Give someone the job of putting up a new picture/poster/news item about the garden every month in the school or in well-visited local places.
Display the Garden Poster in the school and public places, with an appeal for volunteers.
Get the local newspaper/radio to run items on the garden and garden events (e.g. results of garden competitions), with pictures.

How much money have we raised?
Show funds raised for the school garden on a “fund thermometer”.
Keep a Garden File or Yearbook to document the story of the garden. It can be shown to visitors and sponsors as well as to children and school staff. Include:
 -some background about the school and the
 -school grounds, the children and their diet;
 -the story of the garden - how it was established
 -and how the community participated;
 -what the garden produces and how it has developed;
 -children’s writing;
 -plenty of drawings and photographs.
Invite the public to some garden events - e.g. demonstrations of preparing garden food.
Encourage visitors. Display a weatherproof garden map showing people where to go and a garden calendar showing activities and crops.
Invite prominent local people to visit the garden, and publicize the event.
Get nurses/doctors from the clinic to endorse particular garden products as good for health.
Send home food samples, specially wrapped, with descriptive labels written by children.
Ask parents to contribute something small (seeds? a bucket? a plant?), so they feel involved.
Talk to some good gardeners near the school. Explain the garden project, invite them to see the garden site and say you will be grateful for their advice throughout the year.

Remember - pupils can do a lot of the publicity work

Everyone learns best by teaching!
For instance, they can:


Outputs:  List of possible community contacts and sponsors
Garden support group
Ideas for raising awareness in the community
Records of meetings

  • Get people to help with organizing the meeting.
  • Find a comfortable setting (the garden, if possible).
  • Meet regularly but not too often.
  • Have small meetings.
  • Include children and make sure they have a real role.
  • Sit in a circle.
  • Have a flip chart or blackboard so that ideas, decisions, etc. can be seen by all.
  • Organize refreshments (from the garden, if possible).
  • Have something about the garden on display to look at.
  • Keep a short record of decisions taken and actions agreed. Read it out at the end.
  • Set up networks - get each regular attendee to keep in touch with one or two others.
  • Follow up the meeting with thanks and a notification of the next meeting.


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