Growing School Gardens: An insiders guide to the Farm to School movement

Grease is no longer the word.  These days it’s sustainable.  People are going back to their roots, moving on from an era of processed food and “super sizing” to a more wholesome way of life.  Healthy eating is climbing the food pyramid so to speak, as people are becoming more concerned with where, and who their food comes from.  However, sustainability is still limited to mostly restaurant and home cooking.   With issues such as childhood obesity still plaguing the country, a more widespread understanding of sustainable living has become more a necessity then a lifestyle choice.   Thus poses the problem how do we create continuity between healthy eating both in and out of the classroom?

New Jersey Farm to School NetworkThe “Growing School Gardens” community on provides the seeds needed for the adoption of sustainability in schools to grow.  In their new community,, a social networking and continuing education site for professionals in the education field, and the New Jersey Farm to School Network team up to create a place for “educators, gardeners, parents, and community volunteers to come together to share information and resources on how to start and maintain a school garden, and integrate it into the curriculum and the life of a school” ( Its goal is to make sustainability a community wide effort in order to “help children understand where their food comes from and how their food choices impact their bodies, the environment, and their communities at large” (

Contributing to the community is Dorothy Mullen, a pioneer of the Farm to School Movement, and author of the Guide to Starting a School Garden.  Dorothy is not only an organic gardener, but she has successfully implemented a garden-based curriculum for grades K-5 at Riverside Elementary School in Princeton NJ.  She brings fresh ideas to the table, providing lesson plans, guides, and articles rich in information (and nutrients).

Aside from traditional chat-based communication, the community takes a more “hands on” approach with a web based seminar series.  The hour-long sessions will cover a variety of topics from planning to plating your school garden.   Whether you are a green thumb or just starting out, this informative series will give you the skills you need to turn a budding idea into thriving garden that would give Mr. McGregor a run for his money.

The first webinar in the series will air live on Monday, January 21, 2013 at 4pm / Eastern Time.  Presenters Beth Feehan, Director of the NJ Farm to School Network, and Dorothy Mullen, Founder of the Princeton School Garden Program, will discuss “Winter Planning for the Spring School Garden.”  You can pre-register for the live session at

To learn more about “Growing School Gardens” go to

Christine Van Arsdalen is a born and raised Jersey Girl; native to central and Costal NJ. As the author of the blog the Dexterous Diner, Christine chronicles her efforts as she indulges her foodie side on her very small budget which she likes to call “champagne dining on a beer budget”. She grew up being yelled at by an old Italian woman in the kitchen who was surprisingly not her mother. Her love of food grew from a combination of cooking in a restaurant and fond memories of creating scrumptious meals from scratch with her father. Today she travels around the state of New Jersey and beyond searching for new twists on her old favorites; foods that bring you back to your childhood in a modern and sophisticated way. She loves unexpected and creative combinations, both in the food she eats and cooks. Though her palate has become more refined, she is still excited by a grilled cheese sandwich; that, and a great cup of coffee.