School Garden News – Rochester, NY

An Outdoor Classroom Offers Lots of Food for Thought

A garden can do more than grow carrots and tomatoes. It can grow community, and self-reliance, and maybe even plant seeds of lifelong
health. That’s really the reason for Rochester Roots Inc., a nonprofit organization that does a number of “garden-based” educational programs aimed at teaching people how to grow good food (without pesticides or herbicides) and cook it, and how to protect the environment in the process.
This is the third year of a School-Community Garden Project, funded in part by a $270,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That money allowed Rochester Roots to hire some staff, buy a tiller, garden tools, fencing materials, seeds, greenhouse supplies, and a trailer to move materials around…
The program uses only heirloom vegetables, which have been in cultivation for at least 50 years without being hybridized — produce with striking names such as Imperial Star (artichoke), Climbing French (bean), Bull’s Blood (beet), Lunar White (carrot), Imperial Black Beauty (eggplant) and Blue Curled Scotch (kale).
Students and community volunteers, who work the garden in exchange for some produce, do market some of the vegetables during the summer at the South Wedge Farmers Market, “but we’re not trying to cut prices to sell all we have,” McDonald says. “Our main purpose is to show what we’ve done, talk to people about what we do and educate the community on how to grow healthy food.”
But, she says, “we do like the South Wedge Farmers Market theme — ‘the food less traveled.’ It’s grown close by. You can’t get any fresher.”Last year, the combined Community Food Project gardens yielded an amazing 6,344 pounds of produce — about 3¼ tons from 1½ acres of land.
“The children are learning about healthy foods, and how to prepare them,” says Susanne Willis, a retired city teacher who still works part time and volunteers at Clara Barton. “And we have older people who come out and work along with the children in the summer. That’s a real plus for them.”
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