Edible Classroom

The Edible Classroom helps families, gardeners, farmers and herbalists learn how to grow a wide variety of edibles in ways that increases the health of our local ecosystems.

The educational space is filled with fruits, vegetables and herbs, many of which are free for harvesting. Community groups, families and Parks and Recreation programs use the classroom to learn, tend, explore, snack and add artistic elements.

No synthetic pesticides or herbicides are allowed in the landscape.Edible Classroom in Spring

Thank you, Iowa City Parks and Recreation, for partnering with Backyard Abundance to implement this progressive project.

Landscape Areas

The three areas of the landscape are designed as a community resource, similar to a library or community art room, where residents can learn about local foods through classes, seasonal celebratory events, tours and casual visits.

Edible Classroom
View the design and plant list (pdf)

Vegetable Gardens

Six raised beds can be checked out for the growing season by individuals and groups. Arbors provide support for growing vegetable vines.

Produce from the gardens can be harvested for personal use, donated to food pantries or made available for free harvesting by visitors. Signs indicate how the produce will be used.

Edible Forest

In the center of the landscape, tasty fruits, perennial vegetables, medicinal herbs and beautiful flowers are free to harvest.

This area of orchard crops emulates the patterns of a healthy woodland ecosystem, demonstrating how interconnected trees, shrubs, herbs and ground covers can lower maintenance, increase food yields, support desired wildlife, build soil, reduce erosion and clean air.

Educational signs describe what to harvest and when it is ready.


The large, grassy area can be reserved for classes and events. A stage, tables and chairs all support a flexible and comfortable learning environment.

Creating an Edible Classroom

Edible Classroom Construction

Primary funding is provided by a Specialty Crop grant from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS).

The project has been a true community-supported endeavor that started with public visioning events in February 2016.

  • Volunteers continue to donate time to prepare, plant and manage the beds.
  • Generous donations of money and materials from local businesses have created a solid and flexible infrastructure.
  • The beautiful raised beds and arbors were constructed by Clear Creek Amana students under the guidance of teacher Steve Clark through the ACE Mentor program.
  • Trees Forever Fruit TreeKeepers helped establish the fruit trees and berry bushes.

2017 Establishment Goals

  • Install remaining raised beds and arbors. (Done!)
  • Install sink and shed. (Done!)
  • Plant remaining herbs, berry bushes and pollinator plants. (Underway.)
  • Install educational signs. (Underway.)

Visit Facebook to view implementation pictures

Public Benefit

Edible Classroom Fairy House Class

The Edible Classroom brings the richly diverse Iowa City community together by fostering an ecological-based approach to urban farming and land stewardship. Building a community around growing and sharing food encourages a more equitable and just food system.

Together we can...

  • Decrease grocery bills: Baskets of delicious fresh food will be available for grazing and storing.
  • Increase health: Research shows that children (and adults) who grow fruits and vegetables are much more likely to eat them.
  • Increase self-reliance: Learning to grow food and increase environmental health reduces dependence upon distant people and organizations.
  • Increase habitat: Desired feathered and buzzing friends keep undesired pests in check.
  • Mitigate climate change: Unlike annual crops, perennial plants sequester large amounts of carbon which helps meet community sustainability goals. 



This project would not be possible without these sponsors and supporters. Please frequent these generous organizations to thank them for donations of materials and funds.

Iowa City Parks and RecreationIowa Department of Agriculture  New Pioneer U of I Commuity Credit UnionACE Mentor ProgramHills BankField to FamilyHy-VeeBeisser LumberKing's MaterialFarm Credit Services of America

Upcoming Events

Convenient Location
South side of the Robert A. Lee Recreation Center
220 South Gilbert St, Iowa City

The area is open to the public during recreation center hours.
Monday - Friday: 6:30 am - 9 pm
Saturday: 9 am - 8 pm
Sunday: 11 am - 8 pm

Design and Plants
View the design and plant list

Learn about the Plants
Information about the plants can be found on the PlantsMap website.
View plant information

The Edible Classroom is not just a project for the community, it is a project of the community. Please donate your time and spread the word about this local treasure. Sign up for event emails or contact us to get involved.