An Investigation of Best­practices for the Establishment and Effectiveness of  Youth Garden Programs   

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An Investigation of Best-practices for the Establishment and Effectiveness of Youth Garden Programs

By Gemma Cooper

Urbanization and technological advancement has caused communities at large to reduce their exposure to the natural environment, contributing to a rise in lifestyle related disorders associated with inadequate nutrition and physical exercise. In an attempt to reverse this pattern, the establishment of youth gardening programs is gaining popularity throughout communities in the US. There currently is a great deal of momentum promoting the importance of the natural environment and physical activity – there are youth gardening programs being set up in locations such as local schools and local churches in an effort to help to educate the younger generation about the importance of the sustainability of natural resources and the food cycle to the continuing prosperity of Society.

This master’s project examines the factors related to the establishment and effective operation of youth gardening programs. Open-ended interviews were conducted with administrators, founders and coordinators of 7 gardening programs in North Carolina and Utah that have a focus on the youth and/or community. All but one of the interviews was conducted face to face and each interview lasted between 1-2 hours. Key ideas and patterns from the interviews were identified through a standard qualitative data analysis method of classification and coding and categorizing the data. Principal themes from the interviews were recorded and cross-referenced with findings from the literature.

Results highlight that gardening programs targeted at the youth population are important in promoting environmental sustainability. Program structures range from an association with a school through to entrepreneurial initiatives targeting the teen population. Funding, staffing considerations, bureaucracy, establishing community partnerships and using appropriate engagement strategies are the main challenges limiting the success of programs. These issues can be addressed through appropriate planning, community engagement and ‘learning’ through accessing publicly available resources. There is definitely a place for youth gardening programs within Society and at the end of the day the success of these programs is due to the underlying enthusiasm and passion of the coordinators and all stakeholders associated with the project.





Cooper, Gemma (2010). *An Investigation of Best­practices for the Establishment and Effectiveness of  Youth Garden Programs   *. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from

Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.