Saturday, March 19, 2016

March 2016 Newsletter

Announcing a Brand New Book by Mel Bartholomew!
Gardening for more than 70 years, Mel has taught around the country and around the world. The most frequent question he gets is . . . “What should I grow?”He replies with,"It depends – where do you live? What do you and your family like to eat? How much space do you have to garden?" Mel believes that one of the best ways to determine what to grow is to ask yourself, “What are the most valuable crops I could harvest?” If you decide to grow zucchini rather than carrots, you’re going to have to buy your carrots. But would it be smarter to grow carrots and buy your zucchini? That’s what Mel calls a DOLLARS-AND-SENSE calculation.Mel was a civil engineer so he loves math and numbers and provides valuable information in High Value Vegies. He says,"So the best answer to “What should I grow?” is, “The crops that will bring you the biggest return on your investment.”  Get your copy today!

Using Social Media

By Kim Roman (Square Foot Gardening 4 U)

By far the easiest and most cost-effective (free) way to do this is through social media. Do you need to learn ALL of the different types of social media? It would be handy, but not necessary. First identify WHO you want to “target” and then you will fit the platform with your audience.  For instance when I was looking into social media, I was looking for an “older” audience.  This information comes from

*  55% of Twitter users are 35 or older.
*  63% of Pinterest users are 35 or older.
*  65% of Facebook users are 35 or older.
*  79% of LinkedIn users are 35 or older.

Here’s a list of average age of users of a few of the most common platforms:

*  LinkedIn has the oldest user base, with the average user being 44.2 years old.
*  The average Facebook user is 40.5 years old.
*  The average Twitter user is 37.3 years old.

Because I only have time to devote to one thing, I’ve chosen Facebook. It’s easy to use, I can schedule things to post automatically when I’m on vacation and if I choose, I can step up my game and use Facebook Advertising.

In addition to my business Facebook page, Square Foot Gardening 4 U, I also help Belinda Jensen and Amie Guyette Hall to administer the Square Foot Gardening Foundation page

After Facebook, I’d recommend using Instagram and Twitter. They are also easy to use. Because a lot of what we show is visual, Instagram is great since it’s photo-based.

You can tie many of your accounts together using HootSuite. There’s just not enough time and space to explain that, so do an Internet search. It’s also too complicated to explain all the intricacies of the different platforms, so for the rest of this article I’m going to just use Facebook as the example.

The first thing you will want to do is create a separate Facebook Page from your personal account. Nothing will drive your friends crazier than if you post a million garden-related posts and nothing will drive your customers crazier than seeing a million photos of your wonderful grandchildren.

You absolutely should let your friends know you have a business page and invite them to join, and you absolutely should let your followers get a peek into your life . . . OCCASIONALLY!

“But I can’t possibly think of enough stuff (a.k.a. content) to put on Facebook every single day.” Then it’s a good thing that 80% of what you post should actually come from someone else! Yes, only about 20% of the content you share with your followers on social media should be your own original work.

How do you find this “content”? Simple. You first start liking and following other gardening pages that have content that you enjoy and “share” them on your page.

Always give credit where credit is due. When you share someone else’s content, mention them in your post. Your followers will get to see where the post originated, but I also like to tell people where I found it. Let’s say there’s an article from Mother Earth News but I saw it on Gardens All.

When I share it people will be able to see that it came from Mother Earth, so I’ll say something like, “I saw this great article on Gardens All’s page.” Guess what? When I share, they receive a notification.

If they take the time to see that I personally named them they are likely to follow me. If they like my content, they will likely share and return the favor of mentioning the Foundation or my Page. Their 51,000+ followers might then pop over to see what else these Pages are about. You will build your followers by being generous with your praise of other pages.

Use a variety of content, both serious and fun posts. I have posted articles about prisoners growing gardens to help a local homeless shelter down to silly jokes. Mix it up – make sure to use a variety of photos, videos, articles, original and shared content.

See how each post performs then tailor what you share. On the Foundation Facebook page I posted a silly meme (pronounced MEEM). It was a closeup of a small green tomato and the caption said “The most wonderful time of year is not Christmas, it’s the start of gardening season.”

It was seen by over 62,500 people, clicked on by 2,300 and over 6,000 people “reacted” to it by commenting and/or sharing the post. That’s HUGE! Between that and our contest, we increased our followers by more than 400 in just three weeks.

Use hashtags (#). Hashtags turn topics and phrases into clickable links in your posts which helps people find posts about topics they’re interested in. We use #sfg40years on many of the posts on the Foundation page to celebrate SFG’s 40th Anniversary. It’s suggested not to use more than 3 hashtags per post. If you post an article about tomatoes - #tomatoes, #veggiegarden, #squarefootgardening might be used. It’s a great way for you to also search on what interests you.

Get your audience involved. Ask for their opinion on things. Encourage participation. This needs to be a two-way street.

Even though you have a gardening Page, you can broaden the scope of your posts by adding things like recipes and even other related topics like health.

I have an International following, but most of my classes are taught at my house in Glen Burnie, Maryland or in the local area. I’ll usually start that post with “Hey Maryland Friends! I’ll be giving a seminar at the Maryland Home & Garden Show in Timonium on . . . “

No matter what social media you choose to use, you can find info on how to use it by doing an Internet search “How to use Facebook for my business”, “Tips for using Instagram”, etc. You can also check out the book Social Media Marketing All-in-One For Dummies. Just make sure the information you get is no more than a couple years old.

ONE LAST NOTE: When you are a Certified Instructor, you are allowed to use the SFG name, and if you choose to use it in your social media name, please let Belinda know. AND make sure to let her know if you change the name of your account. We need to keep track of the AUTHORIZED users of the SFG name so that we can contact those who are NOT allowed to use the name – this protects YOU.

Monday, November 2, 2015

November 2015 Certified Instructor Newsletter

Official Publication of the Square Foot Gardening Foundation

In This Issue:

  • SFG 40 Years Celebration 
  • News from Mel
  • Welcome New Instructors
  • Weather can improve vegetables
  • Recipe for beet chips
  • SFG featured in magazine
  • Creative visual aid video
  • Spread SFG on social media 

Mel is inviting YOU to participate in the celebration of 40 years of SFG! 
Share the Mission! Be part of the Movement!  Watch for more detail coming soon!

News from Mel
Mel is undergoing chemotherapy right now for some cancer. He's doing pretty well and his son is living with him for a while. Previously, Mel managed to write a new book which is under contract and coming out soon! He was also informed by his publisher that his books have now sold over 2.5 million copies to date! 

Read Mel's story about his very first SFG here .
Original plank spacing for the first SFG

   Mel recently interviewed with CI, Mark Fierle on KUCI radio (Irvine,CA)  about his life and SFG vision.

Welcome to these New Instructors! 

Please note! Some locations have changed for these materials
( is not being used at this time)

Instructor Resources (you must login to your account and then select WHOLESALE )

Instructor Listings  (please send any updates to

Wayne Schirner Belton, TX

Wayne says,"I am working on my certification as a vegetable specialist through the Texas Master Gardener Association. The information on raised bed gardening obtained from them indicated that beds needed to be 8-12 inches deep, or even 18” deep.  As my research project, I have built a 6” deep SFG and a 12” deep SFG and I am planting identical crops in each box. I will weigh the output from the crops in each bed, which should prove that all you need is a 6” deep bed.  So far, less than a month into my fall crops, everything in the 6” bed is doing better than the crops in the 12” bed, so at least the plants are bigger. I have controlled for every variable that can be controlled for, so I’ll see what happens. "


Debra Baylinson Coral Springs, FL

Debra says,"I plan to volunteer my knowledge and time to organizing, planting and teaching SFG to communities and organizations that will donate the fruits and vegies to the poor and undernourished; my gardens of hope to help solve hunger!"

Eric Halterman Black Mountain, NC

Eric says," I can make the world a better place through the use of SFG by teaching and spreading the word on this quick easy way to grow your own food even to the point of sustainability and food security. I will be an ambassador for SFG by showing off my SFG's and the food they produce and offer to help others to do the same."

Did you know that weather can improve the taste of your vegetables? Read more about it here

Recipe for those Beets you may still be harvesting! Crisp rosemary and garlic beet chips 

SFG article featured in LDSLiving Magazine Read here

SFG of Tim Lyons in Tempe,AZ

See Kim Roman's Video about a very creative visual aid she made

Social media is vitally important for spreading the SFG word! Please join and share with your friends. SFG Foundation Facebook Page    SFG Certified Instructor FB Group

Looking for SFG Answers? 

Have you discovered the wealth of information Mel has compiled the Square Foot Gardening Answer Book? We recommend every certified instructor have a copy! Here are some examples of the detail you can find in it.
-What’s the best way to place my SFG on a slope?
-How can I sell the produce I grow?
-How long should I let the drip irrigation run in my SFG?
-Whats the best way to deal with aphids on tomato plants?

-How do I get asparagus to grow in my SFG?

Friday, August 21, 2015

August 2015 Newsletter

Mel’s Adirondack Adventure
By Kim Roman and Amie Guyette Hall

In late June we had an awesome time getting together with Mel. As you may know, Belinda Jensen, Amie Guyette Hall and I have been working for several months helping Mel and the Foundation, but we’ve never been altogether until this trip.

Mel at the Caldwell Country Store near Lake George, NY
Belinda lives in Utah, Amie in Connecticut, Mel in California and I live in Maryland. Belinda was going to sing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) in Saratoga Springs, New York. Amie has a vacation home not too far from there in the Lake George area so she invited Mel and I to come during that time.
FINALLY! We were all going to be able to meet and give and receive hugs.
Amie Hall-CT, Mel-CA Belinda Jensen-UT, Kim Roman-MD
Mel’s original flight was cancelled, so we were running late by the time I picked him up at the airport in Albany. It was great to see him after almost five years – we met when I attended the 2010 Eden, Utah symposium.
The first event was a “Meet and Greet” at Amie’s where Mel entertained the audience with a mini class and some great stories, and we enjoyed some wonderful healthy “nibbles” and beverages.
The next morning, even though he had to be tired from the time change, Mel was in good spirits as we took him on the first part of his whirlwind tour of the Adirondacks.
Our first stop was the Hillview Free Library in Diamond Point. Mel had a great conversation with the librarian and presented the library with copies of his books.
The next stop was Adirondack Safari where we met a young family whose young son was an absolute delight and a budding entrepreneur. The final stop of the morning was a new roadside nursery called Caldwell Country Store. 
That evening the “gang” finally got together at SPAC and enjoyed hearing Belinda and the choir sing.
Early the next afternoon, we enjoyed a lovely “Lunch and Learn” session where Mel gave another Introduction to Square Foot Gardening class. We also got to hear from Bob Markey about his burgeoning SFG project with the YMCA.
Next it was on to the Bolton Free Library where Mel again donated SFG books to the librarian. She was quite proud to tell us that they had a garden out front based on the kids song “Oat, Peas, Beans and Barley Grow”. Mel had a little fun with the garden, which had a string “grid” held on the raised bed by . . . nails. YIKES!

Mel sees string used as a grid

The point of visiting libraries is that they are usually great spots for you to work with the staff to place a Square Foot Garden. You will want to make sure that the staff is excited about the garden or that you find an organization that will make sure it’s maintained. Donating a book and teaching a core group of volunteer gardeners is key. Great places to develop partnerships are nearby Master Gardeners, garden clubs, scout troops, etc. This way the library staff won’t feel that it’s more of a burden to their already busy schedules.

Mel and the Owner of Bolton Garden Center
Our final stop that day was at the charming Bolton Garden Center and Country Store. Independently owned garden centers are also great places to form partnerships. They may want to carry the All New Square Foot Gardening books. You can buy them at wholesale prices and resell them to the garden center for a small markup. This will allow the garden center to mark it up again to make a couple of dollars per book. Encourage them to carry Mel’s Mix or at least the components and vegetable seeds and transplants.
If you’ve ever read the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey, he outlines the difference between living out of an abundance mentality vs. living out of a scarcity mentality.
People with a scarcity mentality tend to see things as win-lose. If there is a finite amount of something, either tangible or intangible, and someone else has it, there will be less for me. They hold onto everything with a tightly clenched fist.
Conversely, people with an abundance mentality see things as win-win. If you have an abundance mentality, you are happy for the successes of others. You tend to help others since you believe that other peoples’ success adds to your own success and happiness.
By forming these partnerships and helping these entities succeed, you may also find that it is a great way to expand your own business. Libraries and independent garden centers will likely invite you to teach classes where you can make some wonderful contacts.
Mel definitely lives an abundance mentality and works tirelessly to make sure that each and every one of us is successful in our own businesses while helping him with the Mission of the Square Foot Gardening Foundation . . . to end world hunger.

Instructors on the Move

Mel is especially proud of the efforts of CI, Bob Markey of NJ . Bob has been working with the YMCA and in his own words he says."

"I recently gave a 15 minute video presentation to the New Jersey YMCA Alliance encouraging them to replicate at other Y’s throughout NJ, my ongoing Rahway YMCA SFGardening summer camp program. It was received well by their Executive Director, Bill Lovett. His YMCA national contacts are very interested as well. I orchestrated the meeting and the presentation with the support of, and the attendance of, President-Elect of 4500 member Garden Club of NJ, Susan O’Donnell and the Director of Rutgers Gardens, Bruce Crawford."
Keep up the great work Bob, we can't wait to see SFG's at every YMCA!

TIm Lyons Tempe, AZ

Tim Lyons has been very involved with the Knights of Columbus in Tempe Arizona.  He says," The Knights of Columbus has initiated the “Food for a Lifetime” project which provides fully constructed and stocked Square Foot Gardens to families, individuals and institutions who have a need for additional food. The project helps recipients understand and use the Square Foot Gardening techniques created by Mel Bartholomew to grow some of their own food in the gardens.  The goal is to provide at least 1,600 square feet of gardens each year to be used to grow additional food in the Tempe/Mesa/Gilbert/Chandler Arizona area. Plans are also underway to expand the project statewide, nationally and internationally. The Knights of Columbus is the world's largest Catholic fraternal service organization with over 1.8 million members and over 15,000 councils across the world." Thank you Tim for your great service to the communities in Arizona!

Welcome New Certified Instructors!

Bonnie Thompson Lynn Haven,FL

Tim Lyons Tempe, AZ

Shannon Richard New Milford,CT

Hannah Richard New Milford, CT

Shannon and Hannah's SFG

"Digging Around"
Resources for Instructor Improvement

By Kim Roman
There are many places to teach Square Foot Gardening, but how do you get the word out?
Once a month I teach a SFG class at my small house and “advertise” online at my local and my Facebook page. Since Patch is city/town specific I normally post in several neighboring Patch locations (Glen Burnie, Severna Park, Broadneck, etc.). Think of as an online local newspaper – they have news and also community events and classes. It doesn’t cost anything to join and announce your classes.
Although I haven’t done it in awhile, I have also blogged on Patch. This is a wonderful way to position yourself as the “expert”. I usually start in February and write until September (from starting seeds to putting your SFG beds to rest). I did two posts a week (one with SFG-specific information and another with general gardening/vegetable information.
As is possible on a business Facebook page, which we’ll discuss later, you can schedule your posts in advance on Patch and other forums. For Patch, I wrote them in the winter and had them scheduled for when I’m too busy to write. For my Facebook page, any time I go on vacation I schedule a daily post.
My Patch articles provided many students for my classes, but also garden clubs and other organizations started contacting me for speaking engagements, events and classes.
You can also contact the garden or lifestyle editors of local print newspapers and television stations. I noticed that my favorite morning news show had learning segments on it so I emailed the out of the blue saying, “Would your viewers be interested in a short segment on Square Foot Gardening? I’m a SFG Certified Instructor and . . . “ When they contacted me back they said that I’d have three minutes and the anchor had to be involved. So I provided the anchor with what was basically a script, brought some visual props and it went well.
I posted the video on my web site and social media. It would be great if I could show it to you, but after a few years they deleted the link. If only I would have thought to record it instead of depending solely on the link. Please learn from my mistake.
Have you seen home and garden shows in your area that have speakers? Some are local affairs, but many larger ones are put on by production companies that have shows in many states. Some will not allow you to speak unless you rent a booth as a vendor. Fortunately I didn’t know that and naively emailed the production company asking if they needed speakers at the Maryland Home & Garden Show. They gave me two seminars. After each talk so many people came up and asked where my booth was that for the last three years I’ve gotten one.
Booths are EXPENSIVE, but because I am a speaker, and because my business is so small, they have given me a DEEPLY discounted booth space. Once one production company has given you a discount, you can use that as leverage to work on others. I had one company call me and when they gave me their booth price ($1500) I said, “I’m sorry, I just can’t afford that. I’m a very small business and the Maryland Home & Garden Show offers me $_______ plus two seminars, and that’s for two weekends.”
Honestly unless you’ve been to the show recently yourself, or know someone who has, this can be a good thing or a bad thing. The MD H&G Show provided me with enough leads that I had to double the number of classes I offered AND several people had classes at their house – I kind of like these like a Tupperware party with gifts for the host dependent on how many guests show up (there has to be a 5 person minimum). In April I had ELEVEN classes and seminars and EIGHT in May. I would have had more classes in May but I was away on vacation for 10 days. Most of the students came from the H&G Show and several more came from an article written by a local community garden writer.
However, even with the discounted booth, I lost money at the Baltimore Remodeling and Landscaping Expo. The last time I went to it was probably 10 years ago and it was half the size with nothing but home improvement vendors. I was the only garden-type of vendor and even though the name included “landscaping” there weren’t any landscapers there. Don’t get me wrong, exclusivity is normally a good thing, but since no one was expecting to see a gardening person there, I could almost hear crickets chirping. Attendance was very light for the entire show.
A Press Release is also a good way to get the word out for free, but you need to learn how to do them right and not just “spray and pray” as is mentioned in this article:  They recommend that you: use it as a sales tool, have a newsworthy story, write like a reporter, provide good quotes and contact the top outlets personally.
If you don’t use social media, I hate to tell you that you are at a deficit for getting the word out quickly. It’s taken about three years, but my Facebook page now has an audience of 4600, and it’s free. Don’t use your personal FB page, but set up a business or group page. I usually post twice a day and try to post a variety of things. Not everything is Square Foot Gardening related, but when I DO cover SFG it’s always as Mel prescribes. The general rule is to have 80% of your content come from other sources (interesting gardening or health-related articles, witty memes (think of a poster or billboard), photos, short videos, etc. and 20% be your original content (pictures of YOUR garden). Always try to engage the audience by asking open-ended questions. For instance, post a picture of a tomato from your garden and ask, “What varieties are YOU growing this year?” “Do you prune your tomato suckers? Why or why not?” For your photos or the memes you create, put your information on them so that when people share, their friends will know that it’s your material.
If you only have access to email, that’s fine too. Send out an email copy of your newsletter at least weekly. If you don’t have a computer, you can relay on local newspapers and newsletters. A press release and newsletters can certainly be done on paper but of course it costs to copy and mail. In that case your newsletter can come out monthly during the growing season or even quarterly.
As you can see there are a number of ways you can get the word out to the public that are free or at little cost. Can you think of some more?

New Product! 
The CuBe raised garden bed was created with Square Foot Gardening in mind. Each bed measures the familiar 12" so a grid is not even needed! Buy as many as you need for the size of raised bed desired.

Mel's Answer Book Now Available

Mel was able to get his publisher to reprint this helpful and popular book that answers so many common questions people have about SFG. If you don't have a copy, be sure to get one today!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

June 2015 Newsletter

Instructors on the Move

Amie Hall's SFG display at a local event in CT

LaManda Joy, heads up a community garden in Chicago, IL called the Peterson Project . She has written a book called "Start a Community Garden" Visit the project website
Norma Brunson has written a new book called "Sustainable Living for the Globe". Read the chapter in it written by Mel !

Promote SFG and Earn $ from Your Blog or Website

In an effort to support you as our valued certified instructors and to spread the SFG method,we have now launched an affiliate marketing program that allows you to earn income by simply placing one of our banners on your site. The banners below are examples of what we have created for you to use. They are embedded with a link which tracks your account and pays you 10% of every purchase that takes place. We have invested in this program and hope you will take advantage of it. You do need a blog or website for this program so please email if you would like help creating one.   Click here to Join Our Affiliate Program 


"Mel's Best" Blue Ribbon Series
Have you heard about Mels' blue ribbon series? He has been busy producing audio recordings about some of his favorite SFG topics. Here's message he sent out on Mother's Day speaking about his own mother and the success of growing vegetables in 6" of soil. 

                    Welcome These New Certified Instructors!
These dynamic individuals really add to our valued community of Square Foot Gardening certified instructors and we welcome them warmly.  They have demonstrated passion and ability in this new endeavor and we are excited to have them aboard.

Janet Kenyon  Lawrenceville,GA

Martha Rodriguez Harlingen,TX

Courtney McMillan  British Columbia, Canada

Deena Taylor Mineola TX
Joanne Lionetti Franklin Square, NY

                        Did You Miss an Online CI Meet Up? 
                                                           Here are the recording links--

                      "Building your SFG Brand" Learn how to market yourself online and in your community and secure teaching opportunities.

An Interview with Renee Shepherd of Renee's Garden 

"Digging Around"
Resources for Instructor Improvement

 Read last month's article- "Charging for your Classes"

Throwing a Pebble into a Pond
By Kim Roman
When you throw a pebble into a pond what happens? Ripples start to form and spread further and further out. The ripples closest to the center are the most well-defined and recognizable, but sometimes we only focus on the outer ripples and watch them spread across the water. I want you to think about that for a moment and visualize it. When you think of where to teach classes, or how to find students, do you look at what’s closest to you before venturing out further?
Do you attend a church? Are you a member of a social or civic club? The PTA? How about your kids or grandkids? Are they involved in Scouts or 4H? Members of the swim team? Eco-club? Do local businesses welcome speakers? Have you joined your local Chamber of Commerce?
If they’re not interested, do they know someone who is? Don’t be afraid to ask for a referral. If they’re uncomfortable giving you someone’s information, don’t push. Instead, if you have a business card, ask them to pass it along. Even if you don’t have professionally made cards, you can use your computer to find a business card template. You type in your information just once and it will produce a whole page for you. Print out as many as you need and cut them apart.
Or course looking farther out isn’t a bad thing, but sometimes we look so hard that we forget what might be right around the corner . . . or even in our own home. The number of places to teach is virtually endless – your home, libraries, garden clubs, churches, schools, someone else’s home, community centers, community gardens, etc. You need to decide in advance where you would like to teach and then you can figure out the best way to get those classes.
If you’d like to teach at a local community college you’ll need to “sell” the idea to the department head. Once you express interest they will usually send you a packet of information. Usually they will be offered as a Continuing/Adult Education (non-credit) class. The classes will be given a unique class designation (i.e., HT-158) but you will be asked to also give it a title like Intro to Square Foot Gardening, Advanced Square Foot Gardening, Your Fall Square Foot Garden, etc. My SFG 101 and SFG 201 classes can EACH be broken down into four 1-hour sessions or two 2-hour sessions. You will need to come up with a course description, a syllabus for the entire course and a description for each separate session. The pay was decent and it was pretty cool to put down “adjunct faculty” on my bio but the biggest benefit was that I was able to take free classes at the college.
In that last paragraph I mentioned a bio. You will want to keep a photo of yourself and a short bio handy at all times. Every group that hosts you will want to showcase your talk or class in their newsletter, the newspaper, etc. Of course the best photo would be of you out in your garden or a close-up of you with a basket of vegetables.
Where are some of the “odd” places I’ve taught?
A local framing and knickknack shop stays open late once a week and invites diverse speakers to come.
An organization that turns empty lots where they’ve torn down abandoned row-houses invited me to teach on a street corner in downtown Baltimore.
A “fair trade” store for their Earth Day celebration.
I taught a core group from a homeless shelter. Two years ago I gave them a 2’x2’, Mel’s Mix, a book and some seeds and transplants. I asked them to “pay it forward.” They loved it so much that the residents sold donated items to get money to make more raised beds for the other semi-permanent residence homes.
Hopefully I’m going to work with an organization that helps settle refugees. They are housing several in a small old motel that went out of business years ago.
A street corner in downtown Baltimore where an abandoned row house had been demolished.
This is just my preference, but when teaching a church mission group, homeless shelter residents, teachers and many kids’ groups I teach them free. If they’re friends and I know they can’t afford it I teach them for free and ask them to handle registration and book sales for me. If they can afford a little, I teach them for half-price if they bring a friend (who also pays half price).
Getting with Boy/Girl Scout troops is really great. After giving them a free class, and building a relationship with them, they may be a great source of labor for you if you do a community garden or install a raised bed at an assisted living facility.
Giving a free, or discounted class to teachers may result in them asking you back for a fundraiser. It fell through at the last minutes but a charter school wanted me to teach a class and sell books and we would split the profits.
My Chamber of Commerce hosted a class for members recently and fourteen students showed up. For this class the director asked me to charge more for the class to cover the cost to provide everyone with a container that we filled with Mel’s Mix and planted a tomato or pepper plant (that I grow from seed for no cost).
So where are you going to teach your next class?


Thursday, May 7, 2015


By Kim Roman

Do you charge for giving Square Foot Gardening classes?  How did you decide how much to charge? Do you feel embarrassed for charging money for something you love to do? Is it uncomfortable for you to bring up the subject?
When I first started teaching SFG I found that people would SAY they were interested in attending one of my classes, but when I didn’t charge, many times only one person would show up . . . or none. When I put a store on my web site and started insisting on pre-registration, the number of students increased.
Of course if I know someone really wants to come to my class but it’s clear they can’t afford it, I carry around a few “coupon cards” for a free class. At the 2015 Maryland Home & Garden Show a woman came up to me and said how much her mother was looking forward to hearing my seminar but the icy weather kept her from coming. Of course I had her daughter invite her to come to a class free of charge.
Mel teaching a SFG class
I often give free classes when I’m asked to speak at a small community garden on a corner in downtown Baltimore. But the host is told in advance that an “offering” would be appreciated – people can give what they can afford. I make it clear that if they can’t afford anything that is fine and no one should feel pressured to give. People realize that you need to at least make gas money and are usually pretty generous.
Why charge for classes even if you don’t need the money? If you have a legal business there are expenses you incur – copying handouts, gas, tolls, etc. Here in Maryland I have to pay $300 annually in Personal Property tax even though my business doesn’t have any “property” or “equipment” associated with it. Yay Maryland! I also pay to get a booth at the Home & Garden Show and of course I have to pay my accountant.
Have you heard the term perceived value? It is defined as: “The valuation of good or service according to how much consumers are willing to pay for it, rather than upon its production and delivery costsUsing a perceived value pricing technique might be somewhat arbitrary, but it can greatly assist in the effectivemarketing of a product since it sets product pricing in line with its perceived value by potential buyers.”
Charging a fee puts a value on what you’re teaching. This goes back to what I said earlier – when I didn’t charge for my classes fewer people showed up, but if they paid for it, it suddenly becomes a priority to them to attend.
How did I figure out how much to charge? I looked at other classes being offered in my area and actually lowered it to make it available to more people.
I hold classes at my house every month from March through June and I can fit up to 10 people. There is a SFG 101 class in the morning from 10-11:30 AM where we talk about the 10 Basics. From 1-3 PM I hold a SFG 201 class. People can take just the 101 class and, if they’ve read the All New Square Foot Gardening book and convince me that they understand what they’ve read, they can take just the 201 class.  Sometimes they pay for both classes but take 201 on a different date.
My fees for these classes are:
One class, one person - $20
One class, two people (they can bring a spouse or friend) - $35
Two classes, one person - $35
Two classes, two people - $50
If they end up purchasing a book at the class, I’ll discount the class by $5. I also give a military/first responder/educator discount.
This year I’ve begun something new. If the dates or location of my classes don’t work for them, if they gather a group of at least 5 full-paying students, I offer to hold classes at their house. Actually the minimum number of students depends how far they are from my home. If they get over a certain number of students I’ll give everyone $5 off of the class – a great incentive for my host/hostess to get more people.  If they get X number of people, they get to take the class free. If they get 10 people I’ll give the host/hostess a book for free.
What about when garden clubs or other organizations ask me to speak? If the organization has a membership fee, part of that is specifically to pay for speakers fees and programs. Don’t be afraid to ask if they offer a stipend. At the very least it should cover your travel expenses. This is best done before they ask, “How much do you charge?” When I arrive and it’s obvious that it’s in a more affluent neighborhood, I’ll accept the check. If it’s in a poorer area I may discount the fee or even donate the check back to the organization.
Be generous, but don’t put a burden on your family’s finances – unless you and your spouse agree. If you are running a business, eventually you will have to make a profit or the taxman will consider it a hobby and not allow you to take business deductions. Basically you have to make at least a modest profit to take tax deductions. Classes are almost pure profit – mileage and the cost of printing handouts are valid business expenses.
So why do I charge for my classes? I gave you a list of my expenses above so I need to cover those, but charging a fee allows me to turn around a give away free Square Foot Gardening raised bed kits. One example was that I was able to give a homeless shelter a complete kit (Mel’s Mix and all) plus a book and teach a couple of the residents the method. The residents loved it so much they gathered donations and had a yard sale so they could buy the materials for more SFGs at the other residences. They now have FOURTEEN SFG beds and want more.
Don’t be ashamed or uncomfortable about charging money for classes, but don’t forget to also be generous. Your kindness will surely come back to you.