Roger Doiron breaking ground on the Pleasant Hill School Garden in October 2006.  “It was a particularly meaningful project for me because one of my sons was attending the school,” Doiron said. “It was the first school garden in Scarborough and the first of many school gardens across the state that my nonprofit and I had a role in starting and funding.” Courtesy image.

SeedMoney, a nonprofit organization based out of Scarborough, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. The organization advocates for public food gardens in Maine, nationally, and internationally and provides financial and technical support. Public food gardens, including community gardens, school gardens, and food bank gardens, are important in effectively creating healthier, resilient, and sustainable communities, especially in light of food insecurity and climate change.

Roger Doiron started the organization in 2003, then called Kitchen Gardeners International. Kitchen Gardeners International led various advocacy campaigns to protect the right of homeowners to grow edible gardens in their front yards and lead in creating public gardens. The Obama family replanted a kitchen garden at the White House as a result of Kitchen Gardeners International’s successful “Eat the View Campaign” in 2008 and 2009.

Kitchen Gardeners International began to provide small grants in 2012 to community and school gardens that helped such projects take off. The organization awarded 440 grants between 2012 and 2015. Kitchen Gardeners International was unable to give funding to many projects that deserved it, so the organization took on a new crowdfunding model in 2015, the “SeedMoney Challenge.”

In the first year of this model, Kitchen Gardeners International provided for 390 garden projects, raising over $190,000. The organization’s name was changed to SeedMoney in 2016 and focuses now on public food garden financing. Since 2016, the nonprofit has awarded over $2.3 million to 2,575 garden projects in all 50 U.S. states and in 68 countries. The impact has reached over 770,000 people.

SeedMoney offers free access to an online garden planning platform, as well as two types of grants: Challenge Grants and Geographic Interest Grants. The organization is funded through donations from individuals, family foundations, and corporate sponsors.

Locally, SeedMoney has started or assisted gardens all over the state. Pleasant Hill School in Scarborough was the first of many school gardens in the state the organization had a hand in.


“We’ve worked on a number of projects over the years in this local geographic area,” said Doiron. “Most of them have been school gardens. That’s actually in a way how I got my start in this area — wearing my dad hat. I had children, three boys, who went through the Scarborough school system.

“I founded my organization in 2003 and we started up the school garden at the Pleasant Hill School in 2006, and what really dawned on me was the power of these gardens to affect people in a positive way. And essentially, every school garden is a community garden in the sense that it’s not just the students and the teachers and the staff that are able to benefit from them — but what I saw from being directly involved initially in the Pleasant Hill School and later at what was called the Wentworth School at that time — was just the power of these gardens to pull people in from the greater community and to let them see up close what good food looks like in its various stages of development.”

The 20th anniversary of SeedMoney is being celebrated with a campaign running from June 11-30. The campaign intends to educate and spread awareness of the positive role public food gardens play. All funds from these 20 days of the campaign will be used to award new challenge grants of $100 to $1,000 for garden projects in this year’s SeedMoney Challenge. The challenge starts on Nov. 15, with over 600 projects expected to participate. Some of these projects rely on SeedMoney as their primary source of funding.

One garden in Biddeford that serves food-insecure families and at-risk youth raised $2,850 in donations and grants last year. “It has been wonderful working with SeedMoney raising money for our children’s garden expansion,” said Holly Culloton, a master gardener volunteer. “The ease with which we were able to promote our campaign made it trouble-free. We appreciate the prompts that we received throughout the process. We reached our goal and look forward to kicking off this project this spring.”

The garden projects SeedMoney develops varies substantially depending on location. “Here, this area, which tends to be a more affluent area, people tend to turn into gardens for culinary and health benefits,” Doiron said. “Other parts of the world, these gardens are about survival. We are doing a lot of work outside of the United States, especially in Africa. It is something for people to realize that gardening is universal. It is something that connects us.

“To the earth and to one another by understanding that across the world there are people that are bending down and putting seeds deep into the soil, and tending plants, and eating from their little piece of the planet. And all of those little actions really add up in the end.”


Growing food from home gardening is also an economic decision that saves money.  “One little side project my wife and I did a number of years back was to calculate the economic value of our home grown produce,” Doiron said.

The two of them weighed every single thing they grew that season down to the herbs and each strawberry, then calculated that value.

“The value of what we had grown was somewhere between $2000 and $2500 depending on what you are sort of stacking it up against, whether you are using prices coming from, for example, a Hannaford or a farmer’s market, or a Whole Foods,” Doiron said. “So that’s why there’s sort of that discrepancy between $2,000 and $2,500.”

Public food gardens in particular are so important for SeedMoney to advocate, as many people do not have access to their own land to be used for gardening. Community gardens can allow for anyone to start gardening, regardless of age, economic status, etc.

As many as 828 million people suffer from food insecurity worldwide, according to the World Food Programme. Additionally, effects of climate change are increasing food insecurity in the world. Gardens can be started up for as little as a few hundred dollars, something SeedMoney utilizes to help communities.

“We can sometimes feel a little overwhelmed by all of the big scary things that are happening in the world,” Doiron said. “For example, climate change or inequality. And sometimes you can feel powerless to do something on that sort of global scale, but gardening is something that is doable. It is accessible to many people, and I just encourage people to do a little bit of it. And if we have more people that are growing more of their own food and understanding where good food comes from, it really does add up in the end.

“And one statistic I share with people is that during World War II, it is estimated that roughly 40  percent of the nation’s fruits and vegetables were being grown in gardens. That was a time of crisis when people really felt that they needed to pitch in and work together to avert that crisis. And you could say that we are in a time of crisis again.

“Maybe it’s not a World War III that we are so concerned about, but it is a war of sorts where it’s us against the climate, or the climate against us, depending on how you look at it. And to the extent that we can once again rally and realize that there are things we can do together to avert this crisis, I think that’s what we ought to be doing.”

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A York County Master Gardener volunteer works with children to plant seedlings in the Pierson’s Lane Children’s Garden in Biddeford, Maine. The garden is located within a children’s playground in a neighborhood comprised of young families (some single-parent), new immigrant families, and young working adults. This garden addresses food insecurity by providing a beautiful safe space and support for kids to grow food to supplement their family’s food budget. Courtesy of Holly Culloton

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