BY SARA SHEIKH
With a mission “to help boys and girls learn about gardening,” the George E. Archer Foundation (GEAF) works with schools and nonprofit organizations by funding horticulture-based curriculum and activities. Formerly the Hilltop Educational Foundation, the GEAF was established in 1984 to support children’s gardening through advocacy, fundraising, and volunteer efforts.
In 2008, the Hilltop Educational Foundation received a major gift from the estate of the late George E. Archer. Archer, who died at age 100, worked as a farmer and factory worker and, in later years, as a yardman. The passionate outdoorsman left his inheritance as a gift to help boys and girls learn about gardening. In 2010, the Hilltop Educational Foundation changed its name to honor Archer.
Since 2011, the GEAF has awarded nearly $87,000 to schools and youth-centered organizations in Bartholomew, Brown, Greene, Lawrence, Jackson, Monroe, Morgan and Owen counties. In 2017, the foundation awarded grants totaling $18,677 to recipients that included Monroe County Parks and Recreation Department, Head Start, Bloomington Community Orchard, Hoosier Hills Food Bank, Lincoln Elementary School, Global Childcare Development Center, Childs Elementary School, and WonderLab Museum of Science, Health and Technology.
Grant funding supports projects such as reaping and sowing vegetable gardens, composting, creating butterfly gardens, vermiculture, environmental awareness, learning about nutrition and health, vocational education, curriculum integration, educator training, and more.
“The focus on youth gardening is gaining interest,” says Beth Hollingsworth, the foundation’s president. “It’s such a rewarding educational process.”
Whether it’s fighting the increase in childhood obesity by teaching children how to make better food choices, helping them learn how to create a more sustainable environment, or getting children away from electronic screens and back into nature, the reasons to teach young children to garden are more plentiful than ever in the digital age, Hollingsworth says. But the organization faces a few hurdles—some that might be hard to imagine.
“One of the greatest challenges facing GEAF is giving away the money,” says former president and current board member Judy Granbois. “You wouldn’t believe how hard it is!”
For more information about the George E. Archer Foundation, available grants, the grant application process, tools for writing grants, and gardening resources, visit archerfoundation.org.