girl in school garden holding water can

2016 Schoolyard Gardens Conference
An Ecosystem of Learning, Sharing Common Ground

Friday, March 4, 2016  8:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, MacMillan Auditorium

SCHOOLYARD GARDENS provide an incomparable, hands-on opportunity for students to meet academic standards, engage with community partners, learn about agriculture, healthy eating, cultural competency and connect with natural systems. Whether you are a beginner or schoolyard garden veteran, join us in March to learn innovative strategies, sustaining and engaging diverse learners in a thriving schoolyard garden.

Presented by the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum and the University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Program in collaboration with the Minnesota Schoolyard Gardens Coalition

$65 Arboretum members and Conference Affiliates/ $75 General Admission
(Fee includes Arboretum admission, coffee, and lunch)

We were fortunate to have over 370 participants on Friday, the largest single-day attendance for the Schoolyard Garden Conference to date, including teachers/education programs representing over 45 different schools throughout the state of Minnesota. 

The goal for this year's conference was to bring multiple groups together and connect over common ground to promote the schoolyard garden in Minnesota. Our schoolyard garden community looks forward to continuing this momentum when we celebrate May 23-27th, 2016, which Governor Dayton has proclaimed Minnesota Schoolyard Garden Planting Week!

Schoolyard Gardens Conference 2017
Thursday March 2 & Friday March 3, 2017 

Follow the links within the page below to view presentations from the 2016 conference. 

View a slideshow of photos from the 2016 Conference

Keynote Address

Photo courtesy of Excellent Schools Detroit and DetroitMetro Parent.

Betti Wiggins
Executive Director, Office of School Nutrition, for Detroit Public Schools
view presentation

MINNESOTA SCHOOLYARD GARDENS CONFERENCE welcomes Ms. Betti Wiggins, a national leader in nutrition and food service management. She is responsible for school-based meal operations in 143 schools for all USDA child nutrition programs and non-program sales, facilities management, employees and services; training programs for all levels of staff, and managing external business relationships with vendors, school principals and non-profit organizations. In 2011, under her leadership, the Detroit School Garden Collaborative (DSGC) was established which currently supports 78 school-based gardens and a 4.5 acre school farm. Ms. Wiggins is the recipient of numerous honors and awards including the 1997 Silver Medalist Certificate of Achievement from the Federal Executive Board: Excellence in Government and was most recently named 2015 Director of Year by the School Nutrition Association of Michigan (SNAM). She also delivered a rousing testimony on the subject of “Meeting the Challenges of Feeding America’s School Children” at the Congressional hearing before the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry of the United States Senate.
Watch a video about Betti Wiggins

Also Featuring


Rose McGee
Conference Emcee 

Rose McGee is the creator of the "Sweet Potato Comfort Pie Initiative - A Catalyst for Caring and Building Community." She is owner of Deep Roots Gourmet Desserts, and co-author of the new book, Story Circle Stories. Described as a "social change agent", she uses her skills as a storyteller, educator, facilitator and playwright to convene people in circle to listen and share each other's authentic stories. Rose earned a Master's Degree in Creative Arts in Learning from Lesley University Cambridge, Massachusetts. She has a TEDx Talk on The Power of Pie and is featured in the national PBS documentary, A Few Good Pie Places. In August 2015, she led her own community of Golden Valley, Minnesota in baking 56 Sweet Potato Comfort Pies and personally served them at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina where nine Black people were killed. Her gift and service of pies was featured nationally including USA Today and Huffington Post. Recent awards include: Bush Foundation's BushConn Grant, Golden Valley Community Foundation's Spark Grant, Calvary Lutheran Church of Golden Valley's Community Engagement Fellowship Grant, and the Minnesota Social Impact Center's Change Maker Award. She is currently writing Can't Nobody Make a Sweet Potato Pie Like My Mama - The History of Sweet Potato Pie. 
Watch Rose's TEDx Talk: The Power of Pie

Bertrand Weber
Town Hall Interactive Forum Moderator

Mr. Weber is the Director of Culinary and Nutrition Services for the 36,000-student Minneapolis district, where he is overseeing a massive shift in what students in that city encounter in their cafeterias. He is steadily phasing out prepackaged meals assembled in a central kitchen and trucked to school lunchrooms and replacing them with meals made from scratch and featuring fresh fruit, vegetables, and meats and other ingredients that are locally sourced.
Watch an interview with Bertrand Weber 
Excerpt from Minneapolis Leader Turns School Cafeterias Into 'Real Kitchens', by Lesli A. Maxwell, 2014

View Conference Art recorded by artist Amy Sparks during the morning sessions
Pigeonhole Live

This Conference will utilize Pigeonhole Live, an interactive platform for audience participation. Bring any web-capable device such as a phone, laptop, or tablet. No apps, sign-up or downloads required, but data usage may apply if using cell service. No device? Don't can still participate!

View Pigeonhole Q&A Session Results:

  Thank you to Hannah Jastram and Jessica Barnes from  University of Minnesota Extension Center for Family Development for live tweeting and photographing the conference! Please visit the Storifiy from the day.

2016 Schoolyard Gardens Conference sessions to include:


  • Principals' Roundtable
  • The Buzz on Pollinators and Beekeeping  view presentation
  • School Gardens and Educational Curriculum UNITE- A Teacher's Round Table  view presentation
  • Overview of Legal and Policy Issues with Using Schoolyard Garden Produce in the Classroom  view presentation


  • STEM in the Garden  view presentation
  • Minnesota Schoolyard Garden Coalition Networking & Informational Session
  • Square Foot Gardening  view presentation
  • Growing for Equity in the Suburbs  view presentation


  • YES! Youth Eating Smart, Summer & After School Programming view presentation
  • Project Sweetie Pie 
  • Pollinators & Beekeeping in the Garden  view presentation



  • Food, Farming and Fun from Wolf Ridge Organic Farm in Finland, Minnesota  view presentation
  • Winter Gardening in MN Classrooms  view presentation
  • Linking the Lunchroom and the Classroom  view presentation
  • Garden & Farm-Based Programming with School-Age Gardens  view presentation


  • Growing Small Fruit in the School Garden and Attracting the Right Pollinators  view presentation
  • Genetic Engineering of Food: The Challange of Communicating a Complex and Controversial Subject in the Classroom  view presentation
  • Building Soil: Roots of Success   view presentation
  • Hydroponic Gardening: The Easy Way  view presentation

2016 Conference Exhibitor Showcase to include:

  • Jeffers Foundation
  • Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community Tribal Garden Resources
  • Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom
  • Minnesota Schoolyard Garden Coalition
  • The Monarch Lab-University of Minnesota
  • USGBC/MN Green Schools Coalition
  • Renewing the Countryside
  • YES! Youth Eating Smart/Ground Works- Midwest
  • Minnesota Department of Education
    and more!


Lunch Menu

Roasted Root Vegetable Gratin with Gruyere Cheese
Featuring Wisconsin-Bushman's "Silverton" Russet Potatoes
Field & Sons (Anoka MN) Turnips
Organic Carrots and Fresh Celery Root

Caesar Salad
Romaine Heart & organic Baby greens
Great Lakes Parmesan
House-Made Crouton

Rustic Artisan Baguette
New French Bakery(Mpls, MN)

Rose McGee's Sweet Potato Pie
Hand- crafted crust
Local Eggs & Cream


Cancellation Policy: Registration cancellations must be made two weeks prior to class date in order to receive refund. A $5 processing fee will apply.

A certificate of completion for continuing education contact hours will be available to participants upon completion of each day.

Conference Folder and Agenda

Minnesota Department of Education
University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Program


Bloomington Public Health
Columbia Heights Public Schools

Edina Public Schools
EnergyScapes, Inc
Gardening Matters
Ground Works-Midwest
Growing West Side
Harvest Moon Edible Landscapes
Hopkins Department of Nutrition and Lifestyle Services
Houston County Public Health
Jeffers Foundation
Life Time Foundation
Midwest Food Connection
Minneapolis Public Schools Culinary and Nutrition Services
Minnesota Action for Healthy Kids
Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom
The Minnesota Association for Environmental Education (MAEE)
Minnesota Green Schools Coalition
Minnesota Department of Agriculture 
Minnesota Department of Education
Minnesota Department of Health
Minnesota Grown
Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (MISA)
Minnesota Science Teachers Association (MnSTA)
Pollinate Minnesota
Public Health Law Center
University of Minnesota Extension Center for Family Development
University of Minnesota Monarch Lab

Youth Farm

Financial Sponsor: Please contact Carrie Stowers at to discuss options and benefits for your organization.
Sponsoring Organization Guidelines

Endorse: This no-cost option shows your support by helping to promote the program to your constituents. Contact Jill Leenay at to confirm your endorsement.
Endorsing Organization Guidelines

Be a Schoolyard Gardens supporter!

Spread the word about this conference by printing and distributing the conference flier

Country Inn & Suites By Carlson Chanhassen, MN

additional area hotels found


Financial hardship assistance may be available. Please call 612-301-1210 to inquire