Creating a new compensation model for School Garden Coaches to be recognized as integral to the school community and to build successful school garden programs across the state of Maine.

2016 Pilot Project, supported by the Sewall Foundation

The School Garden Coach Pilot Project began in 2016 thanks to the generous support of the Sewall Foundation. The Maine School Garden Network was able to provide two $2000 stipends for paid School Garden Coaches to two schools in Maine, creating a collaborative relationship with these programs to provide mentorship, create resources such as a School Garden Handbook, and promote this compensation model for other schools to easily integrate it into their coaching budget.

“Our research in 2014/15 shows successful school gardens have one feature in common, they are coordinated by a paid garden educator. Investment in a paid position increases recognition of the program and commitment from both the primary educator and other school staff. We work with 130 school gardens, only 6% of these schools have staff that is compensated for work in the gardens… Introducing this model is vital to continuing the momentum of the school garden movement and allowing programs to maximize their potential into the future.” – Sewall Grant Narrative, 2015

After we received word of the funding, we immediately created an application for the schools applying. You can find that application here. This was sent out in the newsletter and through social media, and was shared by collaborating organizations as well such as Maine Ag in the Classroom and Farm to School Network. In just three weeks, we received 22 enthusiastic and hopeful applications! A committee from our board put together a rubric to for the difficult task of reviewing the excellent candidates.

Based on the rubric, the committee selected Messalonskee Middle/High School and Ridge View Elementary School as the first two pilot sites:
Amanda Ripa is the Science Teacher who teaches 7-8 grade students at Messalonskee Middle School and is the Garden Leader with a new garden club.  Beth Prelgovisk is a 9-12 Health and Physical Education Teacher, Garden Leader and Agricultural Club Adviser for 3 years at Messalonskee High School.  Beth is the teacher who pushed to start the Farm to School Program and worked with a group of girls to raise the funds to build the 18′ x 28′ greenhouse. Learn more about Messalonskee’s School Gardens here.

Erica Rudloff is a parent volunteer, Garden Club facilitator, and Wellness Team Member at Ridge View Community School, as well as a passionate gardener for over 25 years. She has made the garden program sustainable through annual sales and raffles, but struggles to get teachers on board with the program, and has had little recognition of her efforts.

Through these programs, we have great models: two teachers running programs vs. a community member and parent, a high school, middle school, and elementary school to demonstrate the various levels of lesson plans and possibilities, and various levels of student, teacher, and administrative support. I anticipate we will learn a great deal by working closely with these incredible leaders. We want to thank the Sewall Foundation for their support of this pilot project.

Stay tuned as we continue to build this model, and look out for more opportunities – we are seeking funding for more School Garden Coaches in the coming months!


To qualify, schools must:

  1. Have a school garden program (of any size, capacity, involvement level, etc.)
  2. Have a team of stakeholders with representation from staff (teachers, food service, maintenance, etc.), administration, and the community (parents, Master Gardeners, others).
  3. Have a person in mind who is willing and able to be a Coach, including involvement during the summer months.
  4. Be willing to serve as a model for other school gardens around the state of Maine and beyond!

Contact us at for more information.