Hi, my name is Jamilla Jones, and I'm looking for advice regarding starting a gardening program for young children. I was a teacher and administrator for over 25 years. In addition, I'm a classically trained chef and avid vegetable gardener. Currently, I'm an executive director for a nature organization, but my heart is in growing, teaching, and cooking with children. Has anyone done this without going into conventional education settings? If so, did you start a nonprofit or LLC? Where did you grow? My dream is to have an alternative school focusing on nature, gardening, and stewardship. I don't know how to get started.
This sounds amazing! Can you start with location? Are you in an area that is served by a village/city hall? If there is an existing community garden near you, maybe you can work with the local municipality to establish a program with the park district? If you are near a larger town or city, sometimes there are TIF funds available for local programs to establish a storefront/location.
Thank you for responding. I'm in Massachusetts. I will look into your suggestions. Thanks so much.
Hi Jamilla! I am in Massachusetts, too, and even though I don't have experience creating a youth gardening program outside of a school, your idea sounds incredible and I'd love to support you! The ideas and connections shared here already sound like a great start, and I'm hopeful that there are others out there who have done something similar to your goals. You might check out Highland Youth Garden in Columbus, Ohio https://www.highlandyouthgarden.org/ to generate ideas on how to get started. I'm rooting for you!
Good morning, Jamilla,
I am a founding member of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network. I coordinate our youth programs--Food Warriors and Food N' Flava. I can probably give you some guidance. I develop lessons and gardening activities designed specifically for children of African descent so that they understand the role of agriculture and food from a historical perspective that predates the time of our enslavement to give them a greater appreciation for not only agriculture but the whole of nature and our relationship within the natural world. We also have cooking demonstration that connect them to culturally appropriate foods that have an African origin such as okra, black eyed peas, and rice, yes rice! The youth that I engage with range in age from 5-16. I have a partnership with two Detroit schools and I also have a Saturday community program that operates in conjunction with our Detroit Freedom School Program. Please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, check out our website at www.dbcfsn.org.
Thank you very much, Hanifa. I will reach out soon.
What a beautiful dream. There must be as many approaches to doing this as there are ideas for how! There are so many "curriculum" type resources you can draw from, plus your personal background, you have much of what you need. But the part about the organizational structure, I thought of this organization "Wild Learning" - https://www.wildlearninglincoln.com/. The children of a co-worker attend and love it. I've toured the outside. They have many of the elements you want to include. It's frankly, an amazing organization. They have a great website, including a lengthy resource page. Theirs is one model, but you might find it helpful. All the best!
Thank you so much for your thoughts and suggestions, Shelly. I will look into the curriculum and programming of Wild Lincoln. I will keep you posted.
My name is Marla and I work in St. Louis, Missouri for the Gateway Region YMCA. In my role I support our community garden and nutrition education programming across the region. I would encourage you to connect with your local YMCA to see if they would be interested in partnering on a garden and cooking program for youth! YMCAs are always looking for innovative and meaningful ways to engage community members. We have 11 active community garden sites across our 24 branches in the region and the summer camp season is a great opportunity to get youth involved in those spaces. If you want to chat more, you can email me at email@example.com. Excited to see how your idea continues to grow!
I love your plans and those skills of yours will take you far. There are a number of ways to plan for this. whether it be non profit, LLC, or partnering with another organization, I would encourage you to find people and groups to partner with. This work is hard but it's not sustainable when one individual is doing it.
There are a lot of processes to move thru when beginning programs like this.
On the business side of things, choose the name of your organization and do a search to make sure that name has not been used. You can do this through your state's Secretary of State website. There you can register your name and how you want the organization to be considered.
Then you register with the IRS to enter into that whole system. With a little research, and paying some fees, you can figure out the details of the process. It takes quite a bit of time to complete this entire process (perhaps up to a year) to get documentation and certificates.
You will also need to come up with a plan on how you will interact with schools and programming. In many states, teachers don't have much space in schedules for xtra program time. Being mindful of that and planning with schools for how to incorporate meaningful activities that connect specific grade level content will help support the benefit of programming.
It sounds like your experience can connect you to people and resources to have great success!
Good luck with this! Keep asking questions here and reaching for your dreams.
This is great advice, Jamilla. I would get a small business consultation to help you that has done some work with non-profits.
Thank you for all of this advice. It was so useful. My husband, co-founder, and I have engaged a lawyer. We have an LLC that is connected to my culinary business, so we knew how to do that, but working on a non-profit is something that is new for us.
Thank you Again,
Thank you so much for your reply. It was extremely helpful. I will be emailing you soon. We have two beautiful, beautiful YMCA properties in Wilbraham, Mass., with abundant green space. In Springfield, my hometown, the YMCA's are more urban. Each space has the potential. I'm so happy you pointed out this option out to me. I will be in touch soon.
Some other places to contact:
Ithaca Children's Garden (Ithaca, NY)
Urban Adamah (Berkeley, CA)
Soil Born Farms Urban Agriculture and Education Project (Sacramento, CA)
Thank you for these resources.
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