Plant the Seed
710 Porter Road
Nashville TN 37206-1744
Mission Statement

Plant the Seed is a nonprofit program that shapes community and school gardens into outdoor classrooms to educate and empower under-resourced young people–building cultural connections, advancing economic justice and improving their overall health and well-being. We see sowing, preparing and sharing food as a powerful tool for starting cross-cultural conversations and growing together in community.

  • We believe everyone has a right to fresh, affordable, culturally-relevant foods and that young people are capable of effecting meaningful change in their diet, their lives and their communities.
  • We see sowing, preparing and sharing food as a powerful tool for starting cross-cultural conversations and growing together in community.

Plant the Seed provides experiential garden-based education to children ages 4-14. By partnering with pre-k and elementary schools, as well as community-based organizations working with young people in the most vulnerable neighborhoods in Nashville, PTS is part of a movement seeking to make school and community gardens sources of vitality in low-income areas. Through meaningful relationships with these organizations, PTS increases food access and awareness for young people who may be food insecure—improving the health and well-being of students and their families, as well as providing directly-applicable learning experiences that enrich students' academic curriculum and boost their civic engagement potential. Plant the Seed is also increasing the capacity for school gardens by working with teachers, parents and administrators to build a sustainable food system within the boundaries of the schoolyard, increasing garden literacy among children and grown-ups alike. Plant the Seed has developed educational materials (via a 138-page, 27-lesson toolkit) that will be accessible to teachers, parents and the wider food justice community in Nashville, Tennessee, and throughout the U.S. with an innovative and replicable model of garden education.

Leadership
CEO/Executive Director Ms. Susannah Fotopulos
Board Chair Melia Arnold-Balch
Board Chair Company Affiliation
History & Background
Year of Incorporation 2014
Organization's type of tax exempt status 501-C3
Financial Summary
Graph: Expense Breakdown Graph - All Years
 
 
Projected Expenses $425,423.00
Projected Annual Revenue $452,423.00 (2017)
Statements
Mission

Plant the Seed is a nonprofit program that shapes community and school gardens into outdoor classrooms to educate and empower under-resourced young people–building cultural connections, advancing economic justice and improving their overall health and well-being. We see sowing, preparing and sharing food as a powerful tool for starting cross-cultural conversations and growing together in community.

  • We believe everyone has a right to fresh, affordable, culturally-relevant foods and that young people are capable of effecting meaningful change in their diet, their lives and their communities.
  • We see sowing, preparing and sharing food as a powerful tool for starting cross-cultural conversations and growing together in community.

Plant the Seed provides experiential garden-based education to children ages 4-14. By partnering with pre-k and elementary schools, as well as community-based organizations working with young people in the most vulnerable neighborhoods in Nashville, PTS is part of a movement seeking to make school and community gardens sources of vitality in low-income areas. Through meaningful relationships with these organizations, PTS increases food access and awareness for young people who may be food insecure—improving the health and well-being of students and their families, as well as providing directly-applicable learning experiences that enrich students' academic curriculum and boost their civic engagement potential. Plant the Seed is also increasing the capacity for school gardens by working with teachers, parents and administrators to build a sustainable food system within the boundaries of the schoolyard, increasing garden literacy among children and grown-ups alike. Plant the Seed has developed educational materials (via a 138-page, 27-lesson toolkit) that will be accessible to teachers, parents and the wider food justice community in Nashville, Tennessee, and throughout the U.S. with an innovative and replicable model of garden education.

Background

Plant the Seed began in 2011 with a fiscal sponsorship agreement with the TN Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) and a partnership between Executive Director and Founder, Susannah Fotopulos, and Nashville International Academy's sixth grade science classes. This program grew to be fully-integrated into the curriculum for 1st through 6th graders at NIA and included 10 raised beds that grew culturally-relevant foods nearly year-round.


In a 3-year partnership with the YMCA Bridge program and East Nashville Cooperative Ministry (ENCM), Plant the Seed facilitated a 5-week leadership development camp each year held in the ENCM community garden. The summer program connected Bridge students—who came from disadvantaged backgrounds and, in most cases, would be the first college graduates in their family—to opportunities to learn, lead and grow as a community of young people; in partnership with Plant the Seed, this was done with the garden as the backdrop.


In 2011, Susannah and the founding board attended Alice Water's The Edible Schoolyard Project training in Berkeley, CA. The team returned energized by the work being done within schools on a national level and determined to create a portable model where garden education could be brought to where young people gather, rather than in a field trip model where only students with transportation and financial means could participate. In this, the school model of PTS edible education was solidified. Plant the Seed was presented with an opportunity to contract with Metro Nashville Public Schools in the 2014-15 school-year to deliver our model of edible education within the three newly-established MNPS early learning centers. This partnership allowed the ED to make a salary for the first time in 4 years and to hire two staff members. Plant the Seed formally incorporated as a 501c3 in the fall of 2014. We have expanded our programming to 6 schools and educate nearly 900 students in the garden each week.

Impact

accomplishments:

1. Completed a 138-page, 27-lesson electronic tool kit that offers a school year's worth of pre-k gardening curriculum tied to Creative Curriculum standards available to any MNPS pre-k teacher

2. Expanded our gardening programming into two new early learning sites and into the kindergarten grade level

3. Hired 4 new team members, including and operations manager, to help with our rapid growth


Plant the Seed is rapidly becoming a pioneer in meaningfully integrating edible education into school curriculum, especially at the pre-k level. Plant the Seed is one of the few—if not only—organizations in middle TN working with early learning programs to integrate edible, hands-on learning into the students’ day. PTS has translated a vision to produce a just and sustainable food system into a reality through projects such as planting, harvesting, cooking and building with 4-year-olds and the adults who care for them. PTS embraces a child-led approach for garden education, where facilitators plan lessons to be flexible enough to follow children's interests and allow for experimentation and exploration, while also aligning their lessons to the daily curriculum to increase the impact for learning. Cultivating a sense of wonder, alongside ownership in the knowledge of local food systems forms the basis of Plant the Seed’s work with all 6 partner schools, one in every region of Nashville. Cultural diversity and multicultural understanding are guiding principles in PTS' work, manifested in making culturally-relevant foods available for young people from immigrant communities to include in their school gardens and sharing foods with others. Plant the Seed is leading the conversation around food and its meaning with the youngest and most vulnerable in our community.


goals:

  1. Align our toolkit with kindergarten standards and create a subscription model for users locally and nationwide
  2. Share our message with a wider audience: present at the Organic Grower’s Conference in Asheville, NC, in the spring on the topic of “Growing our Youngest Gardeners”
  3. Diversify our funding through national and local foundation applications and corporate partnerships
  4. Clarify 3-5 year strategic growth plan
  5. Redesign website and print materials for outreach and more effective visual storytelling


Plant the Seed has grown quickly. We would like to take the next year to focus on those internal systems and plans for continued growth to ensure we are approaching the future with a mindfulness that honors what we have grown, considers sustainability in any growth plan, that continues to support communities with whom we have partnered and respects this remarkable team of people who got us to this point.

Needs

1. Effectively tell our story so that we might diversify funding through community sponsorships, foundation grants and individual giving

2. Build and train an invested Board of Directors that will meet internal needs, as well as serve as ambassadors of the mission to various sectors of the community, as yet unreached

3. Website redesign that is functional and easy-to-navigate and that uses key elements from our toolkit design to more accurately reflect the thoughtful and clean nature of our work

4. Strategic plan for growth to help guide our work, ensure program and staff sustainability, help us accurately determine what success looks like, refine what opportunities best serve the mission of our organization

5. Develop an evaluation tool to study the impact of our work; no such tool currently exists, so we would be poised to set a model for the nation.

Other ways to donate, support, or volunteer

Plant the Seed is grateful for a variety of resources supporters choose to share with us–whether those are financial resources, a donation of tools or seeds, care for one of our garden spaces or time spent sharing a teaching talent.


Our wish list includes: child-sized tools and gloves, seeds (preferably organic), soil, cedar for raised beds, small child-sized wheelbarrows, organic vegetables seedlings, etc. Some of our preferred brands, which hold up to the work we do with our students, can be found here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1rQ6lcPhM3hOYWdSWQXwcbOJg7x0J7zm0sYmVaNIaeEc/edit?usp=sharing

You can make an online donation, sign up for our e-newsletter or volunteer at one of our garden sites via this link: https://planttheseed.org/get-involved/

We believe something meaningful can begin with just one seed. Will you help us connect young people to their food, their community and the earth? Will you help us plant the seed of good nutrition, responsibility and interdependence?

Service Categories
Primary Organization Category Education / Elementary & Secondary Schools
Secondary Organization Category Youth Development / Youth Development-Agricultural
Tertiary Organization Category Food, Agriculture & Nutrition / Agricultural Programs
Areas of Service
Areas Served
TN - Davidson

Current Plant the Seed garden programming is at Ross, Ivanetta H. Davis, Casa Azafran and Cambridge Early Learning Centers; with the pre-k and kindergarten classes at Whitsitt Elementary; and the kindergarten and first grade classes at Explore Community School. Plant the Seed is also developing programming through a grant from the Mayor’s Office within the Bordeaux and Edgehill Public Library Branches to expand garden education opportunities for young people within these communities.

Board Chair Statement

Plant the Seed (PTS) operates within a well-established governance structure. This operation is guided from a history of thoughtful and intentional practice. PTS honors the mission and vision through strong leadership and staff who make the community they serve their primary focus, providing exemplary programming for youth and schools. Behind the scenes PTS ensures strong ongoing programmatic and financial oversight, while simultaneously planning for the future.

 
PTS’s growth is both its greatest success and challenge. The challenges that arrive with success are welcome in this organization and are viewed as motivation to continue the great work and to ensure success in the future.

In the last 3 years PTS has emerged from a seedling of an idea, to a well-organized, thoughtful, sought after program for youth in the Nashville area. Within the last 2 years we have added 7 new staff members, have expanded to 6 program sites in nearly every geographic region of Nashville and are now operating with a budget of nearly half a million. This growth has come with great care and conversation. It has taken strong leadership from the Executive Director to ensure this growth is intentional and aligned with the vision of PTS. These opportunities for growth have come to fruition because of the vision and work toward the mission that has been accomplished in the early stages of this organization. The success of the program is highlighted in the delighted, inquisitive faces of young children experiencing the garden. It is highlighted by the positive reports from principals. It is highlighted when educators outside of the program ask to purchase the Plant the Seed toolkit that was recently published, as it is a model best practice for pre-K programs.

Our growth can be seen as a challenge, but we view it as an opportunity to increase the capacity of the work we do, to serve more youth and impact the community in an even greater way. Our board is proud to serve PTS and support its growth. The board has implemented a successful board recruitment, orientation, and retention plan to increase the capacity of the board.

PTS has committed to and is participating in ongoing strategic planning sessions with an outside facilitator to ensure our alignment with goals, increase of impact, and future direction and scope. Concurrently, PTS updates existing operational guidelines, while establishing new procedures in alignment with the mission and vision.

PTS is a small, but growing, non-profit and diversification of funding sources is a priority. PTS has a standing fundraising and financial resource development committee. This committee spearheads this effort through research, cultivating our donor pool, creating our giving campaign, and will kickoff our first physical fundraiser in the Spring of 2017. As of May 2016, PTS has e-published a Toolkit for pre-K professionals, which will also be utilized as a funding source.

PTS provides positive, fun, empowering gardening and growth connections for young people. PTS continues to grow at a sustainable rate through intentional and compassionate conversations and thoughtful planning. I am proud of the great work and services PTS provides to our communities, and I am honored to serve this organization.

CEO Statement

Plant the Seed is rapidly becoming a pioneer in meaningfully integrating edible education into school curriculum, especially at the pre-k level. Plant the Seed is one of the few—if not only—organizations in the nation working with public early learning programs to integrate edible, hands-on learning into the students’ day. PTS has translated a vision to produce a just and sustainable food system into a reality through projects such as planting, harvesting, cooking and building with 4-year-olds and the adults who care for them. PTS embraces a child-led approach for garden education, where facilitators plan lessons to be flexible enough to follow children's interests and allow for experimentation and exploration, while also aligning their lessons to the daily curriculum to increase the impact for learning. Cultivating a sense of wonder, alongside ownership in the knowledge of local food systems forms the basis of Plant the Seed’s work with all 6 partner schools, one in every region of Nashville. Cultural diversity and multicultural understanding are guiding principles in PTS' work, manifested in making culturally-relevant foods available for young people from immigrant communities to include in their school gardens and sharing foods with others. Plant the Seed is leading the conversation around food and its meaning with the youngest and most vulnerable in our community.


What matters most to me are the notes from grandparents of current students who say: “I LOVE the idea that someone is taking the time to introduce children at the very earliest years of their schooling to the process of where our food comes from in a tangible way, and I wanted to make a contribution.”


“To create in children and appreciation (if not a passion) for the earth and the labors involved in bringing our sustenance to the table is a gift to us all.”


I feel our work matters when parents share that they’ve had a garden in their backyard since their daughter was born, but she’s only taken an interest in eating lettuce since tasting it in her school garden and hopping around like a bunny with Plant the Seed.


I am most moved when a Kurdish 6th grader tells me she feels like she’s back home when her hands are in the soil with us in the garden.


And I feel pretty proud when a mom tells me her 5-year-old requests sautéed kale as an afternoon snack, because he learned how to harvest, wash and cook it with Plant the Seed.

Programs
Description

When we partner with a school to provide garden-based education, we:

-work with their leadership to plan and build out the garden space that is age and use appropriate,

-provide outdoor classroom facilitation that connects to specific grade-level standards within the curriculum,

-furnish the related lesson from our toolkit,

-host periodic teacher trainings and family engagement activities,

-file bi-weekly reports on number of students engaged, new vocabulary introduced, any noteworthy comments or connections from students and pictures of the students engaged in a lesson in action.

 

Budget 81,000
Category Food, Agriculture & Nutrition, General/Other Food, Agriculture & Nutrition, General/Other
Population Served Children and Youth (0 - 19 years), Families, Poor,Economically Disadvantaged,Indigent
Description

When we partner with a youth-serving community organization to provide garden-based educational workshops, we:

-conduct a community needs assessment to work with community members to identify an approach that will work best to meet their needs/desires,

-work with their leadership to plan and build out the garden space that is age and use appropriate,

-provide food and garden-related workshops based on the community needs assessment, which may include seed starting, building, planting and tending raised garden beds, harvesting and cooking workshops, related arts and crafts, seed saving and food preservation classes, etc.

-furnish the related lesson from our toolkit, where relevant,

-host periodic family engagement activities,

-file mis and summary reports on number of students engaged, new vocabulary introduced, any noteworthy comments or connections from students and pictures of the students engaged in a lesson in action.

Budget 50,000
Category
Population Served , ,
Description

We develop orientation and training to help teachers use the garden independently as an effective teaching tool. This includes meeting the teachers were they are in their experience and willingness to be outside, get cold, hot or dirty and be around insects, as well as addressing some pre-conceived motions that they only kill plants. We host an introduction on the key elements of our space and our lessons, field questions from the teachers, model the lesson in the garden weekly and ask them to oversee aspects of the lesson with graduated autonomy each time. We are always available to consult and advise and welcome the back and forth between the classroom and the garden.

Budget 15,000
Category
Population Served , ,
Description

Plant the Seed has developed a 138-page, 27-lesson toolkit that connects seasonal needs and tasks in the garden with standards from the MNPS pre-k Creative Curriculum. The toolkit addresses:

-Designing the Pre-K Garden

-Program Practices and Routines

-Growing a Great Garden: Tips and Methods

-Recommended Literature

-Local Resources for Starting your School Garden

-Seasonal Pacing Guide

-Learning Objectives

-27 field-tested Lessons

-Printables (including word cards for the emerging reader and writer and recipe cards)

Our plan is to relate this to each grade level standards, as we grow the programming up from pre-k through 4th grade. We also believe this has the potential to be a national resource and are developing ways in which we can share the knowledge we have gained.

Budget 25,000-50,000
Category
Population Served , ,
Description

Plant the Seed is poised to be a model for the nation with its innovative garden-based learning for low-income, public school pre-kindergarten students. This kind of work has not been studied well to determine the exact benefits. While we believe it has the potential to inspire learning and increase academic engagement; build communities; engage young people to be change agents in their lives, their families and their communities; improve health habits related to food choices and activity levels; the list goes on and on, there have not been conclusive studies. PTS would like to work with Western Kentucky and Vanderbilt Universities to develop a tool that will evaluate our programming, identifying benefits to students, families and communities, as well as creating clear guideposts for our work and our growth as an organization.

Budget 55,000
Category
Population Served , ,
CEO Comments

Some of our challenges are also our opportunities. Plant the Seed has seen rapid growth, and this small organization has quickly become a recognized expert in garden-based education for young people, due to our innovative programming and holistic approach to experiential edible education. We have many opportunities for growth, but are most in need of: 1) a strategic direction plan to help us determine the best options for our growth that are true to our mission and will help us serve our young people most effectively and 2) diversified funding.


Strategic Direction Plan: We have begun the strategic planning process, but have more work to do to develop a guide that will honor who we are and what we uniquely bring to the communities we serve, while directing us in how best to grow this work. We are also looking for clear indicators of success. The impact of our work stands to be behavioral change manifested over a long arc of time; that is difficult and costly to measure. What are the short-term indicators of success? How do we capture and measure this? How do we share this with funders?


Which leads me to our second area of challenge and opportunity: Diversified Funding. We are very grateful for the bold and innovative investment Metro Nashville Public Schools made in contracting with Plant the Seed. It was unprecedented and has grown an unprecedented and promising partnership. MNPS has funded PTS with local and federal monies. It is time for us to seek additional funding that will make the MNPS investment less volatile. We are strongly supported by various level of MNPS administration and the board, but I always hold my breath at budget time each year. More directly, I recognize the importance of varied revenue streams for sustainability, and I believe we are uniquely poised for investment from other organizations: local and national foundations, corporations and individual donors. We have invested so much in building quality programming; it is now time we invest in growing and sustaining this organization. I believe there are investors out there who would like to build on our early successes.

Board Chair
Board Chair Melia Arnold-Balch
Term June 2016 to June 2017
Email meliaarnoldbalch@gmail.com
Board Members
NameAffiliationStatus
Melia Arnold-Balch community volunteerVoting
Malinda Hersh The Nashville Food ProjectVoting
Annakate Ross McNeely, Pigott and FoxVoting
Dawana Wade
Lisa Wiltshire TN Board of EducationVoting
Board Demographics - Ethnicity
African American/Black 0
Asian American/Pacific Islander 0
Caucasian 4
Hispanic/Latino 0
Native American/American Indian 0
Other 0
Board Demographics - Gender
Male 0
Female 4
Unspecified 0
Governance
Board Term Lengths 1
Board Term Limits 3
Board Meeting Attendance % 100%
Does the organization have written Board Selection Criteria? Under Development
Does the organization have a written Conflict of Interest Policy? Under Development
Percentage of Board Members making Monetary Contributions 100%
Percentage of Board Members making In-Kind Contributions 75%
Does the Board include Client Representation? No
Number of Full Board Meetings Annually 8
Standing Committees
Audit
Board Governance
Finance
Marketing
Risk Management Provisions
Workers Compensation and Employers' Liability
Executive Director/CEO
Executive Director Ms. Susannah Fotopulos
Term Start Oct 2011
Email susannah@planttheseed.org
Experience

Susannah Fotopulos founded Plant the Seed in the fall of 2011 and now directs a growing organization with a staff of 8, including part-time folks and interns. She manages partnerships with schools in every region of Nashville. Susannah grew up on a 72-acre farm in rural Tennessee, where her family raised a 3-acre vegetable garden and shared bountiful harvests with neighbors, learning early the important role fresh food plays in building community. She has an undergraduate degree from MTSU in graphic design and a graduate degree from MTSU in outdoor recreation, and while neither are direct paths to where she is now, these early educational choices have informed the logo and design of Plant the Seed and the approach of experiential education in its service delivery. She entered the nonprofit world as an AmeriCorps member and started an award-winning service-learning program for children ages 4-12 at Hands On Nashville. She believes everyone has a right to fresh, affordable, culturally-relevant foods and that young people are capable of effecting meaningful change in their diet, their lives and their communities.

Staff
Full Time Staff 6
Part Time Staff 3
Volunteers 25
Contractors 3
Retention Rate 33%
Plans & Policies
Does the organization have a documented Fundraising Plan? Under Development
Does the organization have an approved Strategic Plan? Under Development
In case of a change in leadership, is a Management Succession plan in place? Under Development
Does the organization have a Policies and Procedures Plan? Under Development
Does the organization have a Nondiscrimination Policy? Yes
Affiliations
AffiliationYear
Metro Nashville Public Schools/Chamber of Commerce Alignment Process2014
Nashville Public Library2016
Awards
Award/RecognitionOrganizationYear
Real Food Emerging Leader AwardCommunity Food Advocates2014
CEO Comments

Simply put, we are a young organization who has experienced rapid growth. We recognize the importance of establishing sound internal policies that reflect our growth and protect it. Our board and ED are working diligently to get these policies and procedures in place.

 
 
Fiscal Year
Fiscal Year Start July 01 2016
Fiscal Year End June 30 2017
Projected Revenue $452,423.00
Projected Expenses $425,423.00
Endowment Spending Policy N/A
Detailed Financials
Expense Allocation
Fiscal Year201620152014
Program Expense$197,058$163,614--
Administration Expense$19,369$22,251--
Fundraising Expense$0$0--
Payments to Affiliates$0$0--
Total Revenue/Total Expenses1.021.09--
Program Expense/Total Expenses91%88%--
Fundraising Expense/Contributed Revenue0%0%--
Assets and Liabilities
Fiscal Year201620152014
Total Assets$54,088$42,571--
Current Assets$54,088$42,571--
Long-Term Liabilities$0$0--
Current Liabilities$3,500$1,400--
Total Net Assets$50,588$41,171--
Short Term Solvency
Fiscal Year201620152014
Current Ratio: Current Assets/Current Liabilities15.4530.41--
Long Term Solvency
Fiscal Year201620152014
Long-Term Liabilities/Total Assets0%0%--
Top Funding Sources
Fiscal Year201620152014
Top Funding Source & Dollar AmountGovernment Grants $211,088Government Grants $199,950--
Second Highest Funding Source & Dollar AmountContributions, Gifts and Grants $7,506Other Revenue $1,496--
Third Highest Funding Source & Dollar AmountNoncash Contributions $1,750Contributions, Gifts and Grants $844--
Audit Documents
IRS Letter of Exemption
Capital Campaign
Is the organization currently conducting a Capital Campaign for an endowment or the purchase of a major asset? No
State Charitable Solicitations Permit
TN Charitable Solicitations Registration Yes - Expires Dec 2017
Organizational Budgets and Other Documents
2016-2017 Budget2017
Organization Comments

None currently, with the exception of our goal mentioned earlier of diversifying our revenue streams in 2017.

GivingMatters.com Financial Comments Financial figures taken from Form 990.
Form 990 was prepared by Blankenship CPA Group, PLLC.
Comment provided by Kathryn Bennett 11/10/16.
Nonprofit Plant the Seed
Address 710 Porter Road
Nashville, TN 37206 1744
Primary Phone (615) 509-4513
Contact Email info@planttheseed.org
CEO/Executive Director Ms. Susannah Fotopulos
Board Chair Melia Arnold-Balch
Year of Incorporation 2014