NYC School Gardens in Every Borough: Bronx

by Cameron St. Germain

By Lani Furbank

School gardens are a growing presence in New York City, and for good reason. Research has shown that they are associated with a bounty of benefits for both students and teachers. A study in HortTechnology found that students with school garden programs in their science curriculum score significantly higher on science achievement tests than those taught by traditional classroom methods. In addition, teachers who work in school gardens had higher workplace morale and increased satisfaction with their jobs. Studies in Environmental Education Research and Journal of the American Dietetic Association show that children who are more familiar with growing their own food eat more fruits and vegetables and are more likely to continue healthy eating habits through adulthood. They are also more likely to accept people who are different from themselves.

These benefits and more have motivated schools across the five boroughs to develop and nurture their school garden programs. In partnership with Grow to Learn, the NYC Food Policy Center will be highlighting exemplary gardens in each borough over the next few months. Grow to Learn is a network of school gardens across the city that provides grant funding, materials, technical assistance, and education. Any public or charter school in NYC can register with Grow to Learn for support.

Here are 14 Grow to Learn school gardens in the Bronx that are doing great work.


Bronx Lighthouse College Prep Academy Garden

Type of school: Charter high

Date founded: 2013

Founded by: Benji Pakter

Led by: Benji Pakter

Maintained by: Bronx Lighthouse College Prep Academy (BLCPA) Garden Class

Garden mission: “The mission for our garden is to create a proactive environment in our BLCPA community where students and parents can help produce their own food. As well as, giving our community a place where they can get inexpensive and available fresh organic produce in order to improve the quality of life here in our community. Most of the students in our school has a family member with high blood pressure or diabetes. They worry that they can be next to get it but, they often don’t know how to change their food habits. The South Bronx is a food desert. There isn’t much access to organic and unprocessed food here. And where there is access, it is extremely expensive. We want to create a place where organic produce is free and available. The kids can feel accomplished working on the garden and their parents can come pick up fruits, herbs, and vegetables that their child has worked on. Which will better the quality of life here in the South Bronx.”

What they grow: “We grow parsley, oregano, cilantro, sunflowers, tomatoes, fennel, cherry tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, Japanese eggplant, cucumbers, summer squash, lemon balm, beans, peas, lavender, strawberries, five types of basil, spiderwort, black eyed Susans, marigolds, bamboo, corn, kale, collard greens, onions, snap dragons, rosemary, a blackberry bush, Echinacea, three types of mint, thyme, sage, tricolor sage, three types of grapes, a fig tree that has not fruited yet, a lot of native plants like asters. We also raise chickens in our garden in order to produce eggs for our community.”

Why they’re unique: “We are unique because of the mission we have set for our garden here at Bronx Lighthouse College Prep Academy. We are not interested in selling our produce. We are solely interested in bettering our community. We brainstorm ideas every day to better sustain and produce food throughout the year. And bring awareness about the food in our garden to more families in our community. We have built a greenhouse and expanded our chicken coop. The greenhouse is useful during the winter—it makes sure we have food to give out for the spring and summer. Our chicken coop allows the BLCPA Garden to continuously give out half a dozen of fresh eggs to the families. Our only mission is to better the quality of life and better eating habits. Around Thanksgiving, we have a food drive where parents are able to come in and pick up any herbs, fruits, vegetables, eggs, etc. Throughout the year students, parents, and teachers are able to come in and take what they want out the garden. During the closing of the school year we give out pot sized pants in order for students to grow on their own—this ranges from strawberries, tomatoes, oregano, cilantro, and anything else we have access to in the garden. The students here are extremely passionate about the work we are doing in the garden. A handful of them have been able to intern and even get a job with some garden spaces throughout New York as well as, a job sustaining our own garden over school breaks—including taking care of Central Park as a whole. The BLCPA Garden is much more than a garden to our community. It represents change and growth for the school as a whole.”


Green Bronx Machine Community Garden at CS 55 / National Health, Wellness and Learning Center (CS 55)

Type of school: Public elementary

Date founded: 2011 

Founded by: Principal Luis Torres and Stephen Ritz

Led by: Stephen Ritz and Green Bronx Machine

Maintained by: Green Bronx Machine

Garden mission: “We believe the art and science of growing vegetables aligned to Common Core and content area instruction transforms health outcomes and whole school performance. We grow vegetables, but our vegetables grow students, schools, community, and opportunities.”

What they grow: “We grow both indoors and out of doors, all year long using 90 percent less water and 90 percent less space—regardless of seasonality. We grow 37 kinds of fruits, vegetables, herbs, flowers, and are home to the CS 55 Perfect Pickle. We are proud to feature Tower Garden technology and more importantly, are proud to send home produce to families 52 weeks of the year!”

Why they’re unique:The project at CS 55 is one of the most unique in all of NYC and has inspired schools and educators across the city, state, nation, and world. Our gardens and programs have been featured by Disney, PBS, NPR, TNT, TED, Progressive, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times. Our garden is internationally known, having been visited by over 60 countries across six continents! It is a wholly immersive and inclusive program where all stakeholders from the community—including Jennifer Lopez herself—have been and remain involved. Our site has been identified as an exemplar and model program by Newman ‘s Foundation and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, amongst others. 50,000 pounds of vegetables later, our favorite crop is organically grown citizens, children who are growing and eating themselves into good health and high levels of academic accomplishment. We routinely host training and professional development for teachers and community groups and organizations across NYC. Our outdoor gardens are amongst the most productive per square foot in all of NYC—open to the community and feeding residents from June through end of November.”


Kenneth Holmes Garden (PS 188X)

Type of school: District 75 elementary school

Date founded: 2012

Founded by: T. Andersen, D. Edwards, and D. Bohrer

Led by: D. Edwards, D. Bohrer, A. Barreto, and T.Andersen

Maintained by: D. Edwards, D. Bohrer, A. Villa (custodial)

Garden mission: “Facilitate students’ growth and learning through gardening and cooking. Connecting children with nature and utilizing the environment as a resource.”

What they grow: “Our garden consists of tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, spinach, onions, potatoes, collard greens, okra, different varieties of peppers, and herbs.

Why they’re unique: “Allowing students with differing abilities to grow and learn through gardening and cooking. We focus on strengthening leadership skills, self-efficacy, character building, and connection with nature. The garden serves children with autism and multiple disabilities with sensory and eating issues. Gardening and cooking will be a first step towards connecting children with nature and having them explore a path of healthier eating habits.”

Lucero Elementary School’s Garden of Eating (PS 311)

Type of school: Public elementary

Date founded: 2013

Founded by: Janet Allen

Led by: Edible Schoolyard NYC 

Maintained by: Students, families, FoodCorps service members, and Edible Schoolyard staff 

Garden mission: “At the Garden of Eating, we teach students and families how to grow and maintain plants, we exchange knowledge about cooking plant-based recipes that highlight the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables, and we build community around growing and eating nutritious food together.”

What they grow: “Herbs, tomatoes, hot and sweet peppers, leafy greens, flowers, salad greens, radishes, carrots, strawberries, cucumbers.”

Why they’re unique: “Our school garden is shared between two schools that are co-located. Through a partnership with Community Food Action out of New Settlement Apartments, Edible Schoolyard NYC, and FoodCorps, we have been developing the school garden program and integrating into the school day for the past two years.”


PS 32 Children’s Garden at The Belmont School (PS 32)

Type of school: Public elementary

Date founded: “Originally founded in 2005, re-cultivated in 2014”

Founded by: Nessa Arnold, William Payret, Helene Sorkin (teachers), and Principal Rebecca Lew

Led by: Nessa Arnold, William Payret, Helene Sorkin, and Diana Evans (teachers)

Maintained by: Nessa Arnold, William Payret, Helene Sorkin and the PS 32 students and parent community

Garden mission: “Our mission is to create a garden space that encompasses educating students about where their food comes from, growing selected vegetables and flowers to be used in our cafeteria (garden to table), teaching students about composting and sustainability, as well as providing a therapeutic art and academic space for children of the Bronx to enjoy nature in their own backyard.”

What they grow: “Vegetables such as eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, Swiss chard, radish, potatoes, herbs.”

Why they’re unique: “We are amazing and committed to our students learning and health through our garden program. Many of our students live off processed food and have no idea where their food comes from, nor are they able to enjoy the taste and benefits of having fresh seasonal vegetables daily. By creating both an educational and functional experience, partnering with programs such as GrowNYC, GreenBeetz, Office of Sustainability, Garden to Café, and the State Agriculture Department, our students are developing improved eating habits, making better food choices, and learning an appreciation for fresh grown food.”


PS/IS 218 and WHEDCo Garden at Rafael Hernandez Dual Language Magnet School (PS/IS 218)

Type of school: Elementary and middle

Date founded: 2012

Founded by: Veronica Echols and Lilian Moro

Led by: Veronica Echols and Lilian Moro

Maintained by: Veronica Echols, Lilian Moro, parent volunteers, WHEDCo staff, students

Garden mission: “Help and encourage students to go from seed to table, educate them about good health and nutrition while doing creative and fun activities, and show them how to have proper weight management by eating organic.”

What they grow: “We grow varieties of vegetables, fruits, and herbs.”

Why’re they’re unique: “We are unique to the area, showing students and parents that there are good things to eat out of their comfort zone and therefore educating them for good health and nutrition.”


The 811X School Garden at The Academy for Career and Living Skills (PS 811X)

Type of school: “We are a District 75 special education high school that serves students with a wide range of physical and intellectual disabilities, including autism, emotional and behavioral disorders, learning and developmental disabilities.”

Date founded: 2010-2011

Founded by: N/A

Led by: School Horticulture Committee

Maintained by: “All those that love and support horticulture and gardening at P811X, including teachers, students, para-professionals, related service providers, school aides, custodians, administration, and community members.”

Garden mission: “Our mission is to provide students with real-world, hands-on learning opportunities that foster educational excellence, the development of employment-related skills, social responsibility, sustainability, environmental stewardship, and creativity. The horticulture program is woven throughout the entire school culture and curricula, making for an immersive and meaningful educational experience, with the goal of instilling the importance of nature, healthy eating, and health equity within our school and surrounding community.”

What they grow: “The students grow a variety of organic fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers, including eggplant, squash, peppers, cucumbers, tulips, daffodils, basil, and tomatoes. Students also tend to specialized areas of the garden such as the native flora, sensory, and pollinator gardens.

Why they’re unique: “What makes us unique is that our garden serves as an outdoor living classroom, providing a therapeutic and accessible rich environment for student learning. Seasonal harvests grown in our garden are sold at our weekly student-run community farmers market. Through our culinary arts program, students are able to promote nutrition education while providing our school-wide community with opportunities to sample locally grown produce. Our hydroponics and aquaponics lab supports students with severe challenges in gaining access to gardening. Our composting and rain catchment allows students to engage year-round in the practices of sustainability while maintaining different types of indoor and outdoor gardens. For our students who learn primarily through sensory modalities, the garden provides opportunities for academic learning in the content areas through real-world application in a living environment. The horticulture program has led to increased opportunities for peer interaction, strengthened student self-esteem, and contributed to positive improvements in students’ mental and physical well-being.”


The Clinton Garden at DeWitt Clinton High School

Type of school: Public high

Date founded: 2010

Founded by: The Witt Seminar, a class on activism taught by Ray Pultinas

Led by: Ray Pultinas

Maintained by: Sustainability students, interns, community volunteers

Garden mission: “Since 2010, we have expanded our growing operations that now include a community garden (Meg’s Garden), a hydroponics farm (in construction), and the future James Baldwin Center and Trail.”

What they grow: “Wide variety of vegetables, berries, and flowers, but starting an orchard on June 6.”

Why they’re unique: “We aspire to be a model community school that not only educates, but feeds the community fresh healthy local food.”


The Enchanted Garden at Bronx Theater High School

Type of school: High

Date founded: 1992

Founded by: N/A

Led by: Danny Steiner (science teacher)

Maintained by: Students, teachers, neighbors

Garden mission: “Our garden tries to help the environment and our city to reduce organic waste and use it to nurture the garden. We try to show and teach visitors about sustainability, good food, better diets, and farming.”

What they grow: “The features are as follows: wetland restoration, a pond, 20 raised beds for vegetable planting, urban farm, a greenhouse, pollinator garden, composting project, fruit orchard, rainwater capture system.”

Why they’re unique: “It is so much work and we need volunteers to sustain the effort. Our wish list is for running water and electricity.”


The Family Garden at The Family School (PS 443)

Type of school: Public elementary

Date founded: 2013

Founded by: Students and staff

Led by: Laura Goodspeed, Laura Owen, Omar Jawo, Sabrina Elam, Cara Plott

Maintained by: Classroom teachers, FoodCorps service members, Sprout Scouts Afterschool Club (garden club of some students in 5th grade)

Garden mission: “To support the growth of our students into healthy and knowledgeable members of our community. To give our students the space and opportunity to better understand where their food comes from and inspire them to engage with social justice issues surrounding food access in our community so that they can be leaders in making system-wide change.”

What they grow: “Mixed lettuce greens, kale, spinach, carrots, radishes, beets, cabbage, snap peas, Swiss chard, collard greens, herbs.”

Why they’re unique: “Our garden initiative was begun by classroom teachers. Instead of one teacher (like a science cluster teacher), our students visit and work in the garden with their classroom teachers. Therefore, students’ garden experience can extend beyond just one period a week and can better connect with taste tests, classroom teaching, read alouds and even Cook Shop (which some of our teachers participate in). Our students are active in expanding and improving our garden. Just this year they have helped to install a compost bin and pea trellis! Also, this year, all of our students in grades Pre-K through 2nd are engaging with the garden through weekly garden-based classes. This has been possible because of the support and dedication of our teachers, administration, and support staff.”


The Melrose School Community Garden (PS 29)

Type of school: Public elementary and middle

Date founded: 2017

Founded by: PSMS 29 Garden Committee

Led by: PSMS 29 students and Garden Committee

Maintained by: PSMS 29 students and Garden Committee

Garden mission: “A kid that grows vegetables is a kid that eats vegetables.”

What they grow: “Vegetables, herbs, flowers.”

Why they’re unique: “The garden resides in our courtyard where students play during recess. This allows all 700 students a chance to see the garden growing each day.”


The PS 68 Garden of Unity at The Edward A. Fogel School for Critical Thinking and the Arts (PS 68)

Type of school: Public elementary

Date founded: 2017

Founded by: “Richard Geldmacher and a remarkable group of science, kindergarten, first grade, and special education teachers.”

Led by: The PS 68 Garden of Unity Committee

Maintained by: Students and science teachers

Garden mission: “Our ultimate goal is for each student to be a skilled urban farmer, well-versed in both traditional and modern growing techniques; confidently capable of providing for their family’s food needs well into the 21st century.”

What they grow: “Vegetables such as carrots, radishes, tomatoes, corn, beans, squash, okra, collards, kale, eggplant, zucchini.”

Why they’re unique: “These students were more than ready for this garden to begin. Some students, despite struggling academically and facing economic challenges at home, are well-versed as to the current state of the food supply in this nation and how it affects them. The students take an active part in decision-making for our garden, from logo design, to deciding what to plant, to providing problem-solving assistance in our garden committee meetings.”


The Spuyten Duyvil School Garden (PS 24)

Type of school: Public elementary

Date founded: 2015

Founded by: Former Principal Donna Connelly

Led by: Laura Moukas

Maintained by: Laura Moukas, school custodians, the Riverdale Y, and a parent-led garden committee

Garden mission: “To expose as many children as possible to growing healthy food and eating it too!”

What they grow: “Vegetables, fruit, pollinator attracting flowers.”

Why they’re unique: “We are the only school around with a beautiful garden and shares it with the community.”


University Heights High School Garden

Type of school: Public high, grades 9 through 12

Date founded: 2011

Founded by: HealthCorps, Project Eats, Good Shepherd Services, and University Heights High School

Led by: Joan Fox

Maintained by: “The garden is maintained primarily by the students in the Garden Club; approximately 10 students who work with part-time gardener Junior Schouten. The garden is maintained over the summer with help from our funders to employ two students part time to help water, harvest, and maintain the beds. We also receive summer help from the Parks Department, who use our site as a teaching garden.”

Garden mission: “The mission for the garden is to expose as many students as possible to gardening and raising fresh food. It also serves as an important teaching tool for understanding the food industry and improving health and nutrition. The garden is open to all disciplines. This year, our physical computing class has designed and is building a computer driven self-watering system. Students from science, advisory, health, HealthCorps, art, and math classes have done projects in the beds. New this year was work with some of our special ed students to create a hands-on learning environment. Crops harvested are given to students to take home, donated to local food pantries and soup kitchens, and occasionally purchased by staff.”

What they grow: “The garden consists of 11 raised beds, 4 by 16 feet.  We also have a compost bin and rainwater catchment from the roof. We grow pollinators in the form of a variety of native and perennial flowers. We grow herbs, strawberries, and a variety of greens and other vegetables.”

Why they’re unique: “We welcome anyone to come out to the garden to ‘play.’ We welcome classes to adopt a bed and try different things—the important lesson being that they got involved and learned, not necessarily that they were able to produce a large harvest. Students have come out to test the soil, create pop-bottle planters, build benches, help spread compost, water, weed, and soon to build a tool shed.”

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