Every School Should Have a Farm to Feed Its Students

Our vision for Schoolyard Farms was, and still is, to build farms on every schoolyard that can feed their cafeterias. Unlike Edible Schoolyard and FoodCorps—two admirable organizations that help schools build and maintain school gardens with the support of grant funding and donations—Schoolyard Farms is using a social enterprise model.


I have always loved working with my hands. It is only now, after five years of farming that I realize I chose to farm as a way to work with my hands every day.

It started in San Francisco, where I worked as an apprentice at Little City Gardens and quickly fell in love with the meditative repetition of working the soil, planting, weeding, repeating. I also fell in love with doing work with a purpose, nourishing others and myself. After eight years in San Francisco, I left to work on rural farms in Oregon and abroad. Those experiences inspired me to make my way as a farmer. After a yearlong apprenticeship at Zenger Farm in Portland, Oregon, I jumped at the chance to start an urban farm with another apprentice, Justin Davidson.

When we first visited the potential site at Candy Lane Elementary in Milwaukie, we found three-quarters of an acre of the schoolyard that had already been cultivated by farmers, along with a high-tunnel, greenhouse, a shed, and 33 raised beds. It was too good to be true! As we started formulating our vision, it became clear that this could be so much more than an urban farm. We could market the produce we grow back to the school cafeteria—building upon the farm-to-institution movement—and we could educate the school children about where food comes from and how to grow it, increasing their positive attitudes about fruits and vegetables and their likelihood of making healthy eating choices. Obesity rates are at all-time high and yet kids are going hungry; there’s never been a greater need for an organization that can provide fresh produce to kids and encourage them to think positively about fruits and vegetables. A land-use agreement was signed that gave us free use of the land and water in exchange for educational services. And that’s how Schoolyard Farms was born in the early months of 2012.

Our vision for Schoolyard Farms was, and still is, to build farms on every schoolyard that can feed their cafeterias. Unlike Edible Schoolyard and FoodCorps—two admirable organizations that help schools build and maintain school gardens with the support of grant funding and donations—Schoolyard Farms is using a social enterprise model. This will help us generate profit by marketing the produce and hosting fee-for-service programs like a summer camp. We are currently performing a pilot at Candy Lane Elementary, which cultivates a large portion of the schoolyard so we can grow enough food to sell back to the cafeteria and to CSA members, generating revenue to support the school farm. The modern approach we are using is designed to build sustainable school farms, which can be replicated at other schools.

In the last two years, building our little nonprofit with a huge vision from the ground up has been both extremely trying and rewarding. We have accomplished so much on a shoestring budget. Since March of 2012, we have harvested more than 3,000 pounds of produce and sold it to 25 Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) members, SNAP recipients, farmers’ markets and Head Start in Clackamas County. We have also engaged more than 300 students in weekly garden-based education; piloted a farm-based summer camp and after-school cooking classes; built partnerships with like-minded organizations, including Green Corps and Clackamas County Soil and Water Conservation District; and recruited community leaders to serve on our Board of Directors. Still, all of those accomplishments have not come without their trials.

Starting a nonprofit from scratch involves a lot more than you might think. In addition to all the systems that need to be developed to start any business, nonprofits need to build a Board of Directors, write bylaws, go through the 501(c)(3) application process, and build community involvement and buy-in. You need to complete these steps before you can receive any major grant or foundation funding. After two years, we have started and completed many of these steps, but building community involvement and buy-in is a slow process. When we inherited this site, some of the neighbors felt strongly that we shouldn’t be there; some didn’t see the need or the benefit of a school farm and others were put off after the previous farmers left the farm mid-season without removing their crops, blighting the neighborhood with a fallow, overgrown field. Building trust within a community takes time and perseverance. I’m pleased to say we have gained the trust of many of the neighbors and built synergistic relationships with teachers, students, and parents.

We have laid the groundwork for a model that can expand to every schoolyard. You can help us achieve this vision by contributing to our Donation page . We are raising funds for needed infrastructure at our Candy Lane farm and to pay for our 501(c)(3) filing fees. With these funds, we can grow into a sustainable organization that can help build farms on every schoolyard and provide fresh produce for cafeterias.

This project is part of GOOD's series Push for Good—our guide to crowdsourcing creative progress.

via Real Time with Bill Maher / YouTube and The Late Late Show with James Corden / YouTube

A controversial editorial on America's obesity epidemic and healthcare by comedian Bill Maher on his HBO show "Real Time" inspired a thoughtful, and funny, response by James Cordon. It also made for a great debate about healthcare that Americans are avoiding.

At the end of the September 6th episode of "Real Time, " Maher turned to the camera for his usual editorial and discussed how obesity is a huge part of the healthcare debate that no one is having.

"At Next Thursday's debate, one of the candidates has to say, 'The problem with our healthcare system is Americans eat shit and too much of it.' All the candidates will mention their health plans but no one will bring up the key factor: the citizens don't lift a finger to help," Maher said sternly.

Keep Reading Show less

There is no shortage of proposals from the, um, what's the word for it… huge, group of Democratic presidential candidates this year. But one may stand out from the pack as being not just bold but also necessary; during a CNN town hall about climate change Andrew Yang proposed a "green amendment" to the constitution.

Keep Reading Show less
Me Too Kit

The creator of the Me Too kit — an at home rape kit that has yet to hit the market — has come under fire as sexual assault advocates argue the kit is dangerous and misleading for women.

The kit is marketed as "the first ever at home kit for commercial use," according to the company's website. "Your experience. Your kit. Your story. Your life. Your choice. Every survivor has a story, every survivor has a voice." Customers will soon be able order one of the DIY kits in order to collect evidence "within the confines of the survivor's chosen place of safety" after an assault.

"With MeToo Kit, we are able to collect DNA samples and other tissues, which upon testing can provide the necessary time-sensitive evidence required in a court of law to identify a sexual predator's involvement with sexual assault," according to the website.

Keep Reading Show less

Villagers rejoice as they receive the first vaccines ever delivered via drone in the Congo

The area's topography makes transporting medicines a treacherous task.

Photo by Henry Sempangi Senyule

When we discuss barriers to healthcare in the developed world, affordability is commonly the biggest concern. But for some in the developing world, physical distance and topography can be the difference between life and death.

Widjifake, a hard-to-reach village in northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with a population of 6,500, struggles with having consistent access to healthcare supplies due to the Congo River and its winding tributaries.

It can take up to three hours for vehicles carrying supplies to reach the village.

Keep Reading Show less
via Keith Boykin / Twitter

Fox News and President Trump seem like they may be headed for a breakup. "Fox is a lot different than it used to be," Trump told reporters in August after one of the network's polls found him trailing for Democrats in the 2020 election.

"There's something going on at Fox, I'll tell you right now. And I'm not happy with it," he continued.

Some Fox anchors have hit back at the president over his criticisms. "Well, first of all, Mr. President, we don't work for you," Neil Cavuto said on the air. "I don't work for you. My job is to cover you, not fawn over you or rip you, just report on you."

Keep Reading Show less