School garden fundraising ideas

Tours and plant and produce sales can raise school garden operating funds while providing educational experiences for students.

Its mid-summer and we are in the thick of prime garden tour time! Garden tours can be wonderfully educational, inspirational and a fun way to raise funds. Typically, fundraising is my least favorite activity associated with school gardens. However, I enjoy working to organize school garden tours, plant and produce sales to raise funds and provide meaningful educational experiences for students.

Summer is a popular tour time as gardens are often at their zenith in terms of flowering and fruiting. Fall Garden Tours have their own high points, such as fall crops, crisp air and autumn colors. Summertime can be a less than optimal time for a school garden tour, as school is out for summer vacation, and it can be difficult to get either teachers, students or parents to participate. Additionally, some schools do not have active gardens in the summer due to the absence of students and teachers.

Notable exceptions include schools with summer programming, and those schools that have mastered summer garden maintenance. A summer school garden tour can be a great way to get school staff and students back together to touch base during the summer hiatus.

Regardless of when you choose to hold a school garden tour, it is an excellent way to showcase all the cool things going on in the garden to people who may not normally have a chance to experience it. Tours are also a great opportunity for students to lead tours, talk about something they are knowledgeable (and hopefully passionate) about and practice public speaking skills. This is also a great time to emphasize any academic work or projects that are linked to the garden. All of these activities can stimulate participants to show their appreciation and support. Funds can be raised by charging a tour admission fee, or by providing a staffed container for donations. A Fall School Garden Tour can also coincide with sales of pumpkins, apples and spring blooming bulbs to increase your fund raising efforts. For a good example of a Michigan School Garden Tour, visit this link for an article with great pictures about the Dexter School Garden Tour.

A plant sale is also a great vehicle for fundraising and education. Students can gain experience in seed germination, propagation and long range planning when determining the start date to make sure the seedlings will be big enough by the date of the sale. Houseplants propagated by stem cuttings are a great educational project if you have access to a greenhouse. Plant sales can also be a great opportunity for students to learn about salesmanship and profit, and again, to showcase the students’ efforts to the community while raising funds.

A youth farm stand can achieve many goals in addition to fundraising. Youth farm stands at the school increases community access to fresh produce and encourages consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables by youth and adults. They also teach business skills to students, and provide a valuable commodity to their community.

I would always encourage you to tap into your school’s Parent Teacher Organization to assist in any of the above efforts. A school 4-H garden club can also be an asset when it comes to generating enthusiasm and funds.

Michigan State University Extension has great resources to help you carry out any of the above educational and fund raising activities, and you can contact Kristine Hahn at 248-802-4590 for assistance. 

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