The Anthony Pizza Garden

What do you get when you combine students from a Minneapolis middle school with a neighborhood pizza place?

The answer is the Anthony Middle School Pizza Garden.

Pizza Garden harvest

The idea grew (pun intended) from special education teacher, Dan Magnuson, who got involved in gardening through the Minneapolis Public Schools. Inspired by what he had learned, Dan wanted to bring some kind of garden back to Anthony and have his students participate in the operating, maintaining and harvesting of the garden. While he had heard of all kinds of gardens, it made perfect sense that he establish a “pizza garden.”

He approached local favorite, Pizzeria Lola, who was looking for a neighborhood cause to support. And since Anthony sits just a few blocks east of the restaurant, it seemed like a no-brainer.

Thus, in 2014, the Anthony Pizza Garden was born. Lola provides funds for germinating seeds, and the students do the rest.

The 6th, 7th and 8th graders in the CLASS program at Anthony start to germinate and grow about 1,000 plants indoors in March and April. Then, one of two things happen in late May:

  1. The students transfer some of what they have into the pizza garden, which is, in fact, shaped like a pizza.
  2. The students hold a plant sale, selling what they have grown.

First, we’ll talk about the garden.

Since the school year ends shortly after the plants have been transferred into the ground, volunteers work throughout the summer to care for the garden so that it will be ready to harvest in the fall.

Once school is back in session, in late August through about the end of October, students tend to the garden and take the veggies off the vine. Then each week, they bring some of their yield over to Pizzeria Lola for use in the restaurant.

The other portion of their yield is sold to the school’s cafeteria, which uses the vegetables to supplement what they would normally order. The gardeners get $1 from the school for every pound of vegetables sold to the cafeteria.

Of course, GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) is in place, so along with learning the ins and outs of gardening, the students are also learning and adhering to the strict guidelines around food safety.

Now, the plant sale.

The students grow a wide variety of herbs and vegetables including kale, peppers, basil, heirloom tomatoes, Brussels sprouts and much more.  People can order what they want for just $3 per plant, with the proceeds from the platn sale going toward the items such as:

  • A sign for the garden
  • A garden shed or a pergola-type gate
  • Garden tools and materials to help  harvest apples from the school’s new Honeycrisp apple orchard.

Dan also has some loftier goals for the garden, like building a greenhouse and developing an aquaponics system for growing greens year-round.

Pizza Garden Plants

You are encouraged to pre-order plants for pick up on May 19, but if that’s not possible, you can also simply show up at Anthony Middle School during Family Day, starting at 4:30 pm, to purchase plants.

Anthony Middle School is located at 5757 Irving Ave. S. in Minneapolis.

The CLASS program is a special education curriculum for middle-schoolers that is focused on basic academic skills with a secondary focus on social skills instruction. The Pizza Garden gives these students a sense of ownership and a sense of pride for all of the hard work they put into it.

For more information on the Anthony Pizza Garden and how to order your plants, please click here.

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