I think the biggest success is the community effort. It really has been a positive aspect both for food service and for the district. And I think that people realize that we’re attempting to do the right thing.

Community Garden Links School with Local Residents

From Barbara Nissel’s perspective, the shared efforts of the school and community effort are key aspects to ensuring the success of Great Valley School District’s Farm to School program. As Food Service Supervisor for the past 24 years, Nissel shares with us how each group’s dedicated and valued work is helping this project thrive.

A one-acre garden, located by Markley Elementary School, is the source of produce that is served as part of the district’s school meal programs. Teachers incorporate gardening concepts into the science curriculum and students assume responsibility for growing seedlings in the classroom, and then transplanting them into the garden when ready.  

The local community contributes to maintaining the garden. With continuous assistance from the senior citizen center next door, volunteers to help weed the garden, build benches and birdhouses, and share their knowledge of gardening can be found throughout the year. Staff from a local corporate center even stop by during their lunch break to help tend the garden.   

Retired teachers contribute by running a Farmer’s Market with free taste testing of produce from the garden for the middle and high school children.  

Nissel admits that even with the extra help, the program still faces some challenges. “Here at Great Valley, we (the school foodservice program) are self-supporting. We pay all of our own expenses.” Since most grants are only for developing new gardens, Nissel worries about sustaining the garden through the years. Fortunately, the district was able to receive a grant not only from Project PA, but also from a very supportive, local corporation. Currently, there are new plans for expanding, growing, and improving in the next five years. She plans to continue seeking community involvement and effort from all willing, including students, teachers, parents, siblings, girl scouts, boy scouts, and local farmers, saying “The garden is never locked.  There’s a huge banner on it that says ‘This is a Community Garden, Welcome.”

 

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Barbara highlights how her Farm to School Program is educational.

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What are the benefits of having a community garden?

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Importance of a garden committee, networking, and a garden coordinator.

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Great Valley School District :: A banner invites the community to take part. Great Valley School District :: Community members erect a fence to protect the garden from foraging wildlife. Great Valley School District :: Young gardeners are given tips for planting seedlings. Great Valley School District :: Snake gourds grow in the foreground while green beans begin their climb on the fence behind.
Great Valley School District :: Great Valley School District :: Fresh cucumber from the garden ready to be served.

Promising Practices