Seeding the future

January 26, 2018 -  By
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Allentuck Landscaping’s school garden contest teaches kids about gardening.

One of Bruce Allentuck’s missions since starting his business has been to get people outside more. It’s what has kept him so passionate about the green industry, and it’s what drives his landscape designs at Allentuck Landscaping, Co., in Clarksburg, Md. It’s also what inspired an idea to work with kids—because, as Allentuck puts it, “What better place to start with getting people outside more than with kids?” Through the Gardens for Grade School Grants program that Allentuck created, he does just that.

“In talking to teachers over the years, often those who were our clients, we would hear that students don’t spend as much time outdoors as they used to,” Allentuck says. “We came up with this idea to donate and install raised gardens to schools through what we called our Gardens for Grade Schools Grants. It’s a great reason to get kids outside.”

Entering its fourth year, the program continues to gain traction. Allentuck promotes the grants through social media and other marketing channels, typically in March, asking the community to nominate schools for the grant. Next, the company holds a vote on Facebook to determine the winning school. The school with the most votes wins the installation of a cedar raised garden, complete with the company’s own organic soil mix, plants and an age-appropriate presentation for the kids, based on grade level.

In terms of what plants are installed, the schools can choose from a vegetable garden, an herb garden or a butterfly garden. However, due to allergies and food safety regulations, Allentuck says the past three winning schools have chosen butterfly gardens. Some of the plants used for the butterfly gardens have included salvia and coreopsis, though Allentuck says it can vary.

Of all the aspects of this project, Allentuck says the presentation he does for the kids is his favorite part. He sees it as a fun, educational opportunity. It’s also fulfilling his mission of getting kids outside.

“One year, the third graders had just finished a butterfly unit, so they had the opportunity to attend our presentation,” Allentuck says. “We talk about why it’s important to have butterfly gardens and how they can also provide food for caterpillars or a place for them to store their eggs. We keep it short but often get a lot of questions from the kids.”

Overall, Allentuck says it’s been a very modest investment to start this program. The company makes the cedar boxes in-house, which Allentuck says is a good “rainy day project” when crews are stuck at the facility with downtime. The organic soil is also made in-house. So, the only real investment is donating the plants and the time for the installation and the presentation.

Allentuck says he has learned a few valuable lessons since starting this initiative, including the fact that social media is a key tool for promoting it. Initially, he hadn’t done much to blast out the message, but he says that involving the community has been valuable in making the effort work.

He has also branded the program with a logo. “It’s something we feel good about doing, and it’s something that fits into our mission and our branding perfectly, and for that reason, the logo lets people know it’s something that we value,” Allentuck says. “But it also has the added benefit of letting people know about our business. They might hear about the contest before they hear about the business, and it’s an added marketing opportunity. Ultimately, it’s a win-win for us and for the community.”

Photo: Allentuck Landscaping

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Casey Payton

About the Author:

Payton is a freelance writer with eight years of experience writing about the landscape industry.

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