The Jefferson Garden

jefferson-garden-spring-2021Did you know? The Jefferson Garden is the largest school garden in Arlington and has donated thousands of pounds of fresh produce to Arlington food pantries to help alleviate food insecurity in our local community – including 550 pounds of food in 2021 alone.

The Jefferson Garden is an outdoor classroom instruction garden for Thomas Jefferson Middle School that also serves as an “urban farm” for our Arlington community. Also known as the Thomas Jefferson Middle School Community Garden, it benefits a diverse group of students and families in our school community by creating hands-on learning experiences with organic, natural and sustainable gardening practices, as well as donating fresh produce to food-insecure neighbors. The garden is funded by both the TJMS PTA and outside grants, and it is staffed by both parent and teacher volunteers.

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Last updated Nov. 30, 2021

A Tradition of Service

The Jefferson Garden was founded in 2010 as a Girl Scout Silver Award project by Cadette Troop 557, with a portion of the produce going to the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) in support of its “Plot Against Hunger” program (then run by AFAC).

Today, the garden honors the legacy of its Girl Scout founders by continuing to make donations to Arlington food pantries through the Plot Against Hunger program, now run by the Arlington Friends of Urban Agriculture, whose mission is to build a resilient, community-driven urban agriculture sector that provides a fair, healthy, sustainable food system for all Arlingtonians.

Benefits to the School and Its Community

The following are the many ways our garden brings value to the TJMS student body, families and surrounding local community:

  • The garden has been integrated into the TJMS International Baccalaureate (IB) academic curriculum, prompting students to explore how food impacts their lives, community and environment. TJMS teachers use the garden as an outdoor classroom and hands-on learning space for students, where they investigate topics like native pollinators, irrigation systems and composting, and explore lessons around math, science, geography, art, English and more. 
  • TJMS students can earn community service hours in support of IB Programme projects and learn gardening skills when working in the garden.
  • The Jefferson Garden makes fresh produce donations to Arlington food pantries, with thousands of pounds of fresh vegetables and fruit donated to date.
  • TJMS students, families and neighbors are welcome to join the Garden Club to help out, learn and enjoy the garden after school and on the weekends during the growing season, which helps maintain the garden while also strengthening our community.

How to Get Involved

Learn More and Volunteer – This webpage offers a general introduction to the Jefferson Garden, but for families to learn even more about the latest happenings at the garden; to sign up for volunteer work hours in the garden; and to subscribe to the TJMS Community Garden News & Updates email newsletter, visit the dedicated Jefferson Garden website at

Follow the Jefferson Garden on Social Media – Get regular updates and see photos and videos of beautiful scenes from the garden here:

Garden History

Below are notes and links related to our garden’s founding and history, which we’re keeping on this page as an archive.

Jefferson Garden Fun Facts

  • The Thomas Jefferson Middle School Garden is a featured garden in the Smithsonian Gardens’ Community of Gardens digital archive created to help people better understand the meaning and value of gardens to American life
  • Created in 2010 as a Girl Scout Silver Award project, the Jefferson Garden was inspired by the Edible Schoolyard Project based in Berkeley, CA, as well as by the White House Kitchen Garden, originally planted on the South Lawn by First Lady Michelle Obama in 2009

Jefferson Garden in the News

  • InsideNOVA, Oct. 11, 2020 – Eagle Scout project brings accessibility to the Jefferson Garden
  • InsideNOVA, Aug. 13, 2020 – Arlington embarks on modern take on WWII victory gardens
  • Arlington Now, Aug. 12, 2020 – School ‘Victory Gardens’ Used To Grow Food For Local Pantries
  • InsideNOVA, Dec. 9, 2014 – Letter to the editor from the garden’s “founding farmers,” Arlington Girl Scout Troop 557, to save the garden at a time when it was at risk
  • The Washington Post/Kid’s Post, Nov. 2, 2014 – TJ youth gardeners hungry to help raise and prepare food for the needy
  • Arlington Magazine, Sept-Oct 2014 – How the garden has a big impact
  • The Jefferson Post, April 2014 – TJMS student journalists on the topic of outdoor classrooms
  • APS Green Scene, June 14, 2013 – Report on how students, families, faculty, staff and community members create the garden’s master design (link no longer available)
  • The Arlington Connection, Feb. 6-12, 2013 – How the garden grows healthy connections (link no longer available)

Jefferson Garden Design History

In 2014, landscape designer and former teacher Nancy Striniste, founder and principal designer at Earlyspace, designed a beautiful and vibrant plan inspired from input by TJMS students, faculty, staff and community. This big-picture, long-term vision for a TJMS community garden featured outdoor classrooms, picnic tables, oven, international gardens, amphitheater, fruit trees, pond, rainwater harvesting/exchange systems, accessible raised beds, earth loom, high tunnel, enchanting entrances – all ideas for enhancing student learning and activity, extending the growing season and fostering community in the garden.

Over the years, Jefferson parents, teachers and students together have devoted many volunteer hours to incorporate elements of the plan as well as other improvements, to help develop the garden into a place that delivers value to our entire community.