Pictured: The Jefferson Garden. Over the years, this community garden has donated thousands of pounds of fresh produce to Arlington food pantries to help alleviate food insecurity in our neighborhood.
The Jefferson Garden, also known as the TJMS Community Garden, is an outdoor classroom instruction garden for Thomas Jefferson Middle School that also serves as an “urban farm” for our Arlington community. 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 managed by community volunteers and funded through corporate sponsorships. For inquiries or to become a corporate sponsor, contact:
- TJMS Community Garden Manager
- TJMS Teacher Liaisons Enid Dunbar and Kaila Leonberger
- TJMS Principal Keisha Boggan
To learn what’s happening in the garden and sign up for garden news and updates, visit the dedicated Jefferson Garden website at jeffersongarden.org (by clicking this link you will leave the Jefferson school website).
Get regular garden updates and see photos and videos of beautiful scenes from the garden on social media:
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. During the school year, TJMS teachers may 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 Program projects and learn gardening skills when working in the garden.
- TJMS students can 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.
- The garden makes fresh produce donations to Arlington food pantries, with thousands of pounds of fresh vegetables and fruit donated to date.
Jefferson Garden History
Below are notes and links related to the Jefferson Garden’s founding and history.
A Tradition of Service
The Jefferson Garden was founded in 2010 by TJMS students in Girl Scout Cadette Troop 557 as their Silver Award project, with a portion of the produce going to the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) in support of its “Plot Against Hunger” program (which was 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.
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.
- The Girl Scouts who founded the Jefferson Garden were 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
- 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 community.