Sowing Seeds of Community: Read for Seeds

The worms that wriggle in our living soil at Gaining Ground contribute outsized benefits to our hunger relief mission. Above ground, the bookworms are hard at work too!

For more than 27 years, local elementary and middle school students have raised money for Gaining Ground while strengthening their literacy skills, through a springtime read-a-thon called Read for Seeds. 

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to teach what it means to be a changemaker,” said Nancy Fell, Grade 2 teacher at Belmont Day school. 

This spring—thanks to students like Nancy’s—the program celebrated record-breaking outcomes, from the number of young readers who pledged their pages for the farm, to the total amount raised! 


100% of read-a-thon proceeds go toward an important line item in our budget:  seeds! 

In 2024, under the leadership of Volunteer and Outreach Manager Avery Indermaur, Read for Seeds raised an all-time high of $16,145, and more than tripled the number of youth involved, from 130 students in 2023 to 415 students in 2024!

As part of this community fundraising effort, students are introduced to sustainable agriculture and the realities of food insecurity in the region. Each Read for Seeds campaign begins with a special visit from a Gaining Ground farmer and closes with a field trip to Virginia Road, where children help us compost or mulch, and enjoy a tour of our no-till production farm. 

Special thanks to our friends at:

🌱 Alcott Elementary School – 2nd Grade

🌱 Belmont Day School – 2nd Grade

🌱 Fenn School – 4th & 5th Grades 

🌱 Nashoba Brooks School – 2nd Grade

🌱 Tenacre Country Day School – 6th Grade

🌱 Thoreau Elementary School – 3rd & 5th Grades

Your enthusiasm and commitment make Read for Seeds possible, and we are thrilled to know that Read for Seeds is a memorable part of your school year!

Nancy at Belmont Day School has a special connection with the program, as her own three children, Sam, Lucy, and Jack, participated in the campaign when they were students at Thoreau Elementary School. Now Nancy plays a vital role in carrying on the Read for Seeds legacy. 

“Read for Seeds has become a cornerstone of second grade at our school,” Nancy said. “It has taken on a life of its own in a wonderful way. When older students run into the second graders, they ask, ‘When’s the read-a-thon?’”


Read for Seeds thrives at the intersection of education and action, designed to help students make the connection between their efforts and the impact we yield collectively at Gaining Ground. This work begins in the winter, when Avery visits each class to discuss our mission—and play Guess that Seed, if time allows.

“Kids are like sponges,” Avery said. “They don’t have that many preconceived notions about how the world works, and they’re learning and absorbing so many things. It’s the perfect time to plant seeds of knowledge that can bloom into ideals of care and respect for the land, and connection with the place they live and the people around them, in their community.”

Later in the season, when seeds have given rise to flourishing crops, children come to work and learn with us on the farm during highly-anticipated field trips that usually begin with students running up the dirt driveway at Gaining Ground, shouting hello to Avery and Maddie Weikel, our Assistant Grower and Education Coordinator. 

“Instead of the usual intro for students, we start the Read for Seeds visits with a little review to see what students remember,” Avery said. “90 percent of the time, their answers are spot on. That tells me they were listening, they care about being on the farm, and their schools support our work. I know that during the read-a-thon, educators are talking with students about these concepts, and helping them sink in.”

At Belmont Day School, Read for Seeds integrates within a second-grade curriculum on environmental and food justice. Throughout the year students learn about equity and equality, inclusion, and access. They also complete their first-ever research projects on environmental changemakers who identified problems in their communities, created solutions, and inspired others to help. 

“By the time we get to Read for Seeds, they’re well-versed in concepts that tie to Gaining Ground’s mission,” Nancy said. “They transition to see themselves as the changemakers.”


Food security and sustainable agriculture are big concepts—even for adults. Avery says that intentional, age-appropriate language is the key for helping students of all ages access complex ideas. 

“There are a few things we really focus on, like getting them excited—building enthusiasm for nature and the environment,” Avery said. “Unless you’re excited about something, and care about it, you don’t want to protect it.” 

One way to generate excitement is by revealing a throughline from the farm to a student’s life—like how the energy you need for soccer practice comes from food, and nutritious food grown in healthy soil is the best source of energy. Lessons on the farm also align with the grade-school science curriculum.

“It’s all happening here,” Avery said— from symbiosis and the water cycle to pollination, and IDing parts of a plant. “We bring the concepts into kids’ lives in a way that feels tangible. We help them understand that taking care of the land is taking care of ourselves, our friends, and our families—in terms of growing food in a healthy way, and promoting a healthier environment for everyone.”

Most of all, Avery said, it’s about having fun in community. 

“So many people who volunteer or work at Gaining Ground grew up in the area and visited the farm for the first time when they were kids,” Avery said. “Read for Seeds is building a root system of connection to our mission.”
Want to get involved with Read for Seeds 2025? Email!

[Photos of Thoreau Elementary School students volunteering on the farm by Tony Rinaldo Photography]

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