School Vegetable Gardens

August, 2013

Contributor: City of Athens

School vegetable gardens offer the opportunity to youngsters, teachers and parents  to get acquainted with their food and learn about sustainable agriculture and consumption. 



School vegetable gardens form an activity implemented by the municipality for the first time in 2012. As a pilot 30 primary and secondary schools have adopted the program, while in April 2013 the project was announced to all schools willing to make a small garden. The project is run in cooperation with the Ministry of Education Environmental Education Secretariat and the responsible teachers at every school.


What are the context/initial motivations? 

The initial motivations came from many directions. On the one hand there were no gardens or green areas in most schools in Athens. At the same time the food offered in school canteens is mostly ready-made food lacking in fruits and vegetables, while students and teachers in the city center are alienated from nature.

All the above and the fact that school gardens were succesfully implemented in other municipalities has made it clear that vegetable school gardens are a necessary measure for ameliorating food culture in Athens.

As it is obvious School Vegetable Gardens are related to “Enjoying” as much as they are related to “Growing”.

With regards to “Growing” the basic motivation relates to students, teachers and eventually parents getting acquainted to food production and agricultural activity mostly for educational and cultural purposes, i.e. the aim is not to achieve food production in order to feed school population, but in order to get school population in closer contact to nature and agricultural production. This shall be useful in offering new horizons to students and build up on the experience they are having through excursions to periurban farms.


What is the result (describe the solution/project/practice…)?

As related to “Growing” our main target is the creation of small vegetable gardens in order to:

  • Enhance students’ relation to nature, since such a relation ameliorates their physical, psychological and emotional health.
  • Offer students and teachers the opportunity to learn how to cultivate, so as to be able to do the same outside the school – e.g. their neighborhoods or houses.
  • Develop a “Grow your own” tool kit that will eventually help further population groups to get into cultivating small plots of land within or out of the city limits.
  • Highlight the cultural importance of agricultural production as related to civilization and history.
  • Offer a context wherein students learn to cooperate and to accept their individual responsibility in collective actions.
  • Help students to acquire new abilities.
  • Enrich school activities regarding a range of taught courses, as well as environmental education.
  • Form close ties among all participants in the academic and school communities.
  • Offer the potential for alternative teaching methods that are proven more effective in cases of cognitive difficulties.


What are the benefits (environmental/social/economical…)

Until now the project was welcome with great enthusiasm from the schools that created the vegetable gardens, while many other schools in the municipality have asked for the extension of the gardens to all public education institutions. At the same time it is expected that in the longterm, students, teachers and parents eventually shall become aware of sustainable food practices ranging from production to consumption.

Eventually the idea is to show that agricultural production is closely related to city-life, overcoming thus the alienation among city-population, nature and agriculture.

Furthermore students and teachers will get acquainted with sustainable methods for soil amelioration and food production.

Lastly the development of the “Grow your own” toolkit shall be a benefit not only for school population but for all inhabitants in Athens.


Discuss Pro and Contra


  • The popularity of the vegetable garden project.
  • The emergence of a collective consciousness, coming from students and teachers alike, with regards to the importance of such gardens.
  • The possibility for students to get immediately acquainted with nature without having to travel outside Athens.
  • The respect ensuing through this action for agricultural production and farming.


  • The absence of soil and green spaces in schools can become a barrier to the action. However the use of raised beds has solved the problem.
  • The cost involved in providing raised beds and soil.
The lessons learn to be used/transferred/implemented in the other partner cities:
For a city like Athens with limited green space, this project may function as a good pilot for any city wishing to establish a similar scheme.