Huffington Post: Rise, Fall & Rise of New York City’s School Gardens

Every now and again, you stumble upon what is simply a great story. Daniel Bowman Simon’s Rise and Fall of School Gardens in New York’s Past Can Guide Us Into the Future traces New York City’s early community gardens, such as the 1902 Children’s School Farm in DeWitt Clinton Park on 54th St. and 12th Ave. in Manhattan, which was planted as much for the civic virtues and love of nature it would instill in its young gardeners as it was for its vegetables and flowers.

A couple of years after its inception, there would be a whole School Farm movement, with an astonishing 80 plots in New York. In 1931, there were 302 school gardens, which accounted for 65 acres.

Over time, the gardens vanished. In most cases, their land was redeveloped. Simon notes that we need to take heed and not let that happen again. He cites some wonderful trends regarding the current uptick in school gardens – namely First Lady Michelle Obama‘s White House Garden and other programs that I’ve written about here, the new school garden at P.S. 29 in Brooklyn that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and celebrity chef Rachael Ray helped promote, and the work of the Children & Nature Movement.

Do yourself a favor and read the article. The graphics are wonderful. And the story turns out to be the writer’s testimony in the recent public hearing held by the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, which very recently completed a set of community garden rules designed to strengthen protection for gardens.

White House Photo: Samantha Appleton

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4 Responses to Huffington Post: Rise, Fall & Rise of New York City’s School Gardens

  1. Great post. This is also in line with the urban-garden, ECO-Roof movement in NYC generating impetus in rooftop gardens. This quote is right on the mark re: Children’s School Farm ” planted 1902 as much for the civic virtues and love of nature it would instill in its young gardeners as it was for its vegetables and flowers.”

    Writing about gardens in transitional areas (in the same period as the Children’s School Farm) FLOWERS AND FLOWER-GARDENS BY DAVID LESTER RICHARDSON, “they are a discipline of humanity, and may sometimes ameliorate even a coarse nature, just as the cherub faces of innocent and happy children are sometimes found to soften and purify the corrupted heart.”

  2. Hi Randy! Thanks so much for writing and for your beautiful, inspirational quotes! They surely speak to the spiritual benefits of gardening that go far beyond the growing of things, which is wonderful enough in itself. Thank you, also, for mentioning the ECO-roof movement. There are so many creative things going on, in terms of using the space one has to grow flowers and food. I just read about wonderful hanging tomato planters that people are using when there’s limited planting space on the ground. Thanks again. I hope you’re able to visit and comment often.

  3. The founder of the Children’s School Farm was my great grand mother, Fannie Griscom Parsons. I have been involved with landscaping all my working life and now for the first time’ I am involved in starting a church/ community garden. I guess what goes around comes around and I hope she would be proud of my efforts. I have several of her letters detailing the the start of the garden movement.

    • Hi Randy! I’m so glad you found and commented on this story. I love that the founder of the Children’s School Farm was your great grandmother. It’s so wonderful that you are carrying on her legacy in such a direct and passionate way. Of course she would be proud! Do you have any plans for the letters? Thanks again for taking the time to write.

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