Tag Archives: School Garden News
School’s gardening way yields national attention
By Rhonda Bodfield, arizona daily star, azstarnet.com
Primary school teacher Molly Reed can cook, but she’s no Rachael Ray in the kitchen.
So imagine her surprise to be flying to New York as a special guest on the cookbook queen’s daytime television show.
Reed herself brought the limelight to Borton Primary Magnet School, even though she jokes that she’s now appealing to her principal for help in picking an outfit for her national debut.
She sent an e-mail to Ray last fall, explaining how the school’s community garden is being used to tackle poor nutrition and obesity at Borton, 700 E. 22nd St.
The school, which has a focus on inquiry-based project learning, long has incorporated some small gardens into the curriculum. In fact, by Principal Teri Melendez’s count, there are a dozen gardens at Borton, most of them small plots belonging to specific classes.
Last year, Reed had a class garden, which culminated in a harvest celebration, including a stir-fry using the veggies they’d grown. She was there to guide their first experience with tofu.
Inspired, she successfully wrote a grant and the new schoolwide garden was built with community muscle, technical expertise from the Community Food Bank and a lot of soaking and digging, digging and soaking.
Although a run date hasn’t yet been determined, the film crew already spent a day out at the school late last month, capturing the students in the garden and as they ran the occasional farmer’s market where students washed, packaged and sold their harvest, including lettuce, arugula, radishes and broccoli.
Their last effort sold out in two days and brought in $60, which helps support the garden.
Students improve literacy by writing factoids about each plant — carrots, for example, apparently come in seven colors. The project also helps teach math, with students adding purchases, making change, weighing vegetables and charting growth.
There are a million lessons to be taught. They’re learning that just because eggs are blue or brown doesn’t mean they’re rotten; that the tall leaves are clues to unearthing carrots with a little heft; and how to harvest broccoli — which, if you’ve ever seen it grow, is a legitimate question.
A confessed “chocoholic,” second-grader Alexandra Holiman said her family subscribes to Ray’s magazine, which she finds amusing because there’s a recipe every month for folks who cook for their canines.
Fortunately, she’s also a carrot-snacker, which is why she likes harvesting. “They’re really sweet. They are so good I want to eat them all.”
The new project is an extension of the school’s overall focus on good health.
Two years ago, the school started offering salads with nonfat dressing as a lunch choice.
It has a walking club and schoolwide jump-roping in the morning.
“We want children to know what’s healthy for them so that they can make good choices as they go through life,” Melendez said.
Reed’s students have an even clearer picture of how food affects health. She won a mini-grant last year to set up a student-powered bicycle generator to show students how it takes energy to make energy.
Initially only able to pedal about 10 seconds because of the high levels of friction, they learned about how they need to eat well to be strong. On Monday, one student pedaled for 280 seconds.
Second-grader Allie Tucker attributed some of the growth to the garden. “Sometimes, we eat from there, and the vegetables help make our bones strong.”
Reed said breakfast for her students at the beginning of the year all-too-often consisted of sugary cereals or hot cheese puffs. But after months of sampling the edible plants and herbs grown in the garden, she’s seen a big change.
“I never thought I’d hear a 7-year-old say, ‘I love chard,’ or ‘I prefer kale over greens.’ “
by Leslie Cole, The Oregonian
Schools embrace healthier kids with locally-grown foods
Mention school lunches, and it’s hard to find someone who’s not hungry for change.
Maybe you can’t see, smell or taste it just yet, but the shape of public school meals is shifting, in the Portland area and beyond.
Food costs are climbing, money is tight and results that resonate with families across the state will take time. But right now, the future of the school cafeteria looks promising.
Some recent developments:
• Two years after a splashy pilot program of scratch cooking and gardening began at Abernethy Elementary in Southeast Portland, Oregon has new positions in two state agencies dedicated to what’s known as “farm-to-school.”
Cory Schreiber in the Department of Agriculture and Joan Ottinger in the Department of Education are charged with connecting farmers with school cafeterias, encouraging students to eat more local fruits and vegetables, seeding a statewide school garden program and getting lessons about food into classrooms.
• Local purchasing has taken a big leap forward. More than 32percent of Oregon schools buy some of their food for school lunches from farmers and processors in their communities, according to an Oregon Department of Agriculture survey. Recently relaxed rules in the 2008 federal farm act encourage more local purchasing. School districts that buy more than a certain dollar amount must get bids on food purchases. For many years, it was impossible to cite a preference for local products (meaning Washington, Oregon and Northern California) when soliciting bids. Last year, that restriction was removed.
Despite other hurdles — and there are many — school food service directors are buying fresh fruits and vegetables from nearby farmers when they can, with little or no additional federal or state money in their pockets.
A yearlong grant from the Kaiser Permanente Community Foundation has given enough oomph to two public school districts — Portland and Gervais — to put not just locally grown produce on lunch trays, but also monthly hot entrees in Portland schools using Oregon products.
Doug BeghtelThe food that students grow end up in the cafeteria and could someday, school officials say, defray as much as 20 percent of the cafeteria’s produce costs.
“We want to use it to demonstrate what could be possible statewide,” says Deborah Kane, vice president of the food and farms program at Ecotrust, which supports farm-to-school activities around the West.
What’s missing is permanent funding. Oregon is one of only a handful of states that does not provide money for public school meals. School districts need more resources, say a coalition of food and public health activists working on farm-to-school issues, to create programs that reach every student.
Farm-to-school supporters are gearing up to ask for it: State Reps. Tina Kotek (D-Portland) and Brian Clem (D-Salem) plan to introduce legislation in 2009 requesting that the state match a portion of the federal dollars if districts purchase Oregon foods. If the bill is enacted, the state would kick in as much as 15 cents for every lunch and 7 cents for every breakfast to purchase foods produced, packaged or processed in Oregon. The proposed legislation also would provide up to 150 grants for complementary food- and garden-based education, up to $10,000 a school year for each of two years.
Meanwhile, some Oregonians aren’t waiting. School gardens are taking root in pockets around the state, helped along by community members, passionate teachers and parent volunteers. With grants and donations, a new culinary arts program is getting off the ground in the Centennial district, with the hope of introducing at-risk teens to a lifetime of more healthful eating.
Stay tuned. Meanwhile, sample a few stories of change, below.
Ecotrust (events, program overviews, assistance and legislative updates),
National Farm to School Program
Portland Public Schools’ Local Lunch program
Growing Gardens’ school garden resource page
(click on Resources, then School Gardens)
Bend/LaPine farm-to-school program
(click on Parents, Nutrition, Menus, and Farm to School)
Centennial Learning Center
L.A. Unified’s gardening program may be uprooted
The effort that has flourished among students could get cut amid the district’s budget woes.
By Jennifer Oldham, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
The seeds of a thousand lessons are sown in five acres of North Hollywood dirt, tended by a man named Mud.
Here in this little-known oasis, Mud Baron and urban teenagers with a heretofore unknown penchant for rare flowers toil under a blazing sun to raise lemon verbena, tomatoes, lettuce and other greenery that hundreds of Los Angeles schools will use to jump-start their gardens this fall. They also cultivate exotic plants, including exuberantly colored dahlias the size of dinner plates, to sell at farmers markets.
Jesse Sanders, 18, a recent graduate who supervises his peers and sports a Mohawk, lip and ear piercings and black clothes, recounts how learning to make colorful floral arrangements from plants he raised himself kept him from getting kicked out of school.
“When I first saw a flower, I just saw a flower. Now I see so much more,” Jesse said, plunging his gloveless hands into the dirt. “I don’t think I would have graduated without this class senior year.”
Mud and the school’s veteran agriculture instructor, Rose Krueger, took an interest in Jesse and enrolled him in floral arranging and agriculture classes.
For several years, Mud volunteered his services before administrators used a $1.7-million state grant to hire him and several other gardening experts last fall to help teachers revive gardens at schools from South L.A. to Sylmar.
“I’ve learned what city kids can do if given a chance to grow in the garden,” said Mud, 38, the son of a Mercedes-Benz dealer who has semiretired as a cabinetmaker. “I’m much happier than I was building kitchens.”
Mud doesn’t hold a teaching certificate, but his expansive knowledge of plants prompted his students to nickname him “Discovery Channel.” A fast talker who quotes Arnold Schwarzenegger and John Lennon in the same conversation, Mud devotes so much time to school gardens that the yard at the 1920s bungalow he shares with his wife and 8-year-old son languishes.
But district money is running out. Mud distributes Razzmatazz dahlias like cigars at events around town in hopes of garnering donations to fund the program — and his job — past June 2009. It’s a tough proposition: Administrators face a $460-million budget gap and the prospect of increasing class sizes and reducing programs.
District officials are not optimistic.
“I don’t see us at this moment picking up that program,” said Senior Deputy Supt. Ramon C. Cortines. “I will, if he talks to me, try to help him get some philanthropy dollars, or other dollars to continue the program.”
But Mud and his crew aren’t deterred. With their colorful bouquets in hand, they try to teach administrators and politicians the value of outdoor education.
In the last few weeks, the teenagers have raised $830 hawking sunflowers, roses, herb bowls and other freshly cut plants at the downtown farmers market — and at an impromptu market at district headquarters.
Farmers market manager Susan Hutchinson said the students provide “definite competition” with the other flower sellers outside City Hall.
The students, who have not yet decided what to do with the proceeds, probably will stay through September — working weekends and afternoons after school starts — to help fill the North Hollywood garden’s greenhouse with seedlings for about 526 schools. Funds solicited from Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s summer jobs program to pay the students are running out.
While they’re downtown, Mud and his apprentices are also cultivating relationships with Los Angeles City Council members, department heads and their staffs — who often gladly accept unsold greenery. The crew recently chatted up council staff from Encino, Van Nuys and South L.A., and commissioners from the Department of Public Works.
The hands-on business lessons for the teenagers, who already work at the garden during their own time on weekends to raise additional crops, are new for a district that until last year largely relied on motivated teachers and parents to donate money and time to help its gardens thrive.
The plots often died when benefactors left, said Tonya Mandl, a teacher advisor who administers the grant funds.
“There is no Los Angeles Unified gardening program — we’re it,” she said.
Even though state educators called for a garden in every school in the mid-1990s, little public funding has been available to create organized programs. In districts throughout California — most notably at Berkeley Unified, with its Edible Schoolyard founded in part by local chef Alice Waters — teachers have found that gardens help raise test scores by linking math, science and history lessons with hands-on learning.
With his trusty plastic cart with buckets bursting with amaranths, gladioluses, roses and his signature dahlias by his side, Mud has also charted some wins for the district’s gardening program. He persuaded a recalcitrant Board of Education to pass a measure last fall encouraging schools to plant gardens to entice kids to eat more fruits and vegetables. The motion also urged administrators to save gardens from being paved over for parking.
“Mud came to me and said he was concerned because with all the school construction programs and adding on additional buildings the gardens might be jeopardized,” said board member Julie Korenstein.
She added that preserving gardens is now board policy but acknowledged that board members can enforce it only if someone lets them know a garden is threatened.
Earlier this month, Mud and his crew began a new project: a farmers market served up in the cafeteria at district headquarters, where he hopes to persuade administrators to include money to retain existing gardens and build new ones in a $7-billion school construction bond scheduled for the November ballot.
“The market is a demonstration of what we can do to an audience that is very, very removed but potentially receptive,” Mud wrote in an e-mail soliciting donations from gardening teachers. “You’ve got to stand up and have your green beans counted.”
He and his crew also plan to sell produce and flowers at a downtown street festival today. All of these events prompted Jesse Sanders to borrow Martha Stewart magazines to study how to create expensive bouquets.
Showing off his newfound knowledge of gardening terminology, Jesse ducked under a 6-foot-high amaranth recently as he demonstrated how to cut the red quill-like flower “under the terminal bud” so it would produce more blooms.
Mud, who says his hobby is “giving away flowers,” is often asked to cater events with his dahlias and other flowers. At a recent luncheon hosted by state Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles) in South El Monte, for example, he said his 15 bursting buckets were “stormed upon at the exit by all these Latino and Chinese grandmas. It was a free-for-all.”
Mud says he still has a lot of ground to cover in his quest to provide aid to more than 1,000 teachers who tend school gardens and to persuade administrators not to pave them.
“It’s a huge district,” he said. “People don’t even know I exist.”
Click here for photos.
Kids’ summer garden project
Produce being gathered for school soup day
Posted By JEREMY ASHLEY, INTELLIGENCER.CA
A small group of west hill youngsters have found a way to enjoy the summer weather while making their school and community a better place.
Several times a week, a few of the neighbourhood’s kids wander down to the vegetable garden in front of Prince Charles Public School on Ritchie Street.
Sometimes they pull weeds, other times the group works to harvest any bounty and hand it over to teachers for storage. To date, the crew has gathered tomatoes, potatoes and lettuce.
“It’s something we just do without thinking — our school is about teaching us not to be couch potatoes, to get out and get active,” said Kacie-Anne Murray while taking a break from pulling weeds Monday.
“We come here all the time … it’s actually our summertime hangout,” added the Grade 5 student. “So maybe those kids who are sitting around should get up and get active — it’s working for us and we always have a lot of fun.”
Prince Charles Grade 1 teacher Nancy Anderson said it was encouraging to see children take such a proactive role in keeping the garden going despite being in the midst of summer vacation.
“It’s really wonderful to see them here all the time,” she said while surveying the work completed this week.
The garden, she said, was started in the springtime by the Prince Charles Gardening Club after a number of vegetable plants were donated to the school by either parents, teachers or “just people in the community.”
Anderson said the plan is to use the harvest gathered over the summer and fall months to make a batch of soup large enough to feed the entire school body.
“It’s going to be a great event, a school soup luncheon,” she said.
Click here for complete article.
Edible School Gardens
by Bess Mucke, slowfood.com
Slow Food convivia from Sicily to Veneto have developed more than 130 school vegetable plots across Italy in recent years, involving more than 5000 young students and their families and 1,500 teachers in growing produce and taste education programs.
Home to thirty-three of these gardens, Piedmont has been the region quickest to take up the project. In the city of San Mauro Torinese, just outside Turin, more than 600 children from four primary schools and one pre-school are tending seven gardens together with volunteers – primarily the students’ grandparents.
At the Slow Food Italy Congress in mid 2006, the school garden project was given the name Orto in Condotta and a goal was set to establish a national network of 100 gardens in which local Slow Food members work together with teachers, parents, grandparents, students and local authorities in a Learning Community.
The Italian school garden project is based on a three-year cycle, which deals with food and environmental education through activities in the classroom and the garden: sensorial education in the first year; environmental and food production education in the second; and food culture and regions in the final year.
Outside of Italy, Slow Food convivia are initiating school garden projects and other educational activities with students around the world. In Slow Food USA’s Garden-to-Table program – ranging from after-school cooking classes to farm tours and schoolyard gardens – convivia are supporting hands-on projects that create a direct connection between children and their food source, emphasizing the pleasures of taste and the table.
American chef, educator and Slow Food international vice-president Alice Waters has been a key promoter of school gardens since the mid 1990’s when she founded the Edible Schoolyard project in California. Waters was responsible for introducing a new food education approach to schools, based on practical activity in school gardens alongside sensory and culinary education using the resulting produce.
Agriculture and education: a winning combination
Issue Date: August 6, 2008
By Kelly Cormier
Successful farmers from Southern California stressed the important link between agriculture and education during this year’s National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference that took place in late June.
While some of the conference attendees have been involved in agriculture and their states’ Farm Bureaus for much of their lives, more than half of the 550 attendees have no personal connection to the agriculture industry.
Orange County farmer and conference panelist Glenn Tanaka spoke of his school tours as the ideal way to combine agriculture with education. Each year, Tanaka Farms hosts pre-school, kindergarten and first grade classes. His work with local schools began in 1984 as a community service. Now, tour groups comprise 30 percent of his gross annual income.
“The emphasis on our farm tour is to get the children to taste the different fruits and vegetables that we are growing at the particular time,” said Tanaka. “We all know that there is absolutely no better way to get students involved than with a hands-on learning experience. I’ve heard many a child tell their parents that they want to be a farmer when they grow up while they are at the farm.”
After attending the AITC National Conference, Tanaka said he is pleased to see that there are teachers across the country working to spread agricultural awareness. Like these teachers, he agrees that the best place to start introducing children to their food source is in the classroom.
“Educating the public is educating our neighbors,” he said. “Many farmers all over the country now have housing developments right next to production fields, whether it be a dairy ranch or a vegetable farm. The more that our neighbors know about our operations and understand our issues that we deal with, the less fear and anxiety they will have and the more peaceful we may coexist.”
“For the most part, teachers who attend this conference understand the importance of teaching their students about agriculture, but most of them have limited knowledge of the daily lives of farmers and ranchers,” said Judy Culbertson, California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom executive director. “We wanted to give these educators a glimpse into what it means to be an avocado grower or a dairy producer, for example. We wanted to introduce them to real people who make this industry work, day in and day out, and allow them to put faces and names to the term ‘farmer’ in order to build a better understanding of the lessons they are teaching in their classrooms.”
In addition to the farmers, top state officials from both the worlds of agriculture and education, along with teachers from across the United States gathered in Costa Mesa for the four-day annual event.
California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell and California Secretary of Food and Agriculture A.G. Kawamura both addressed the audience of 550 teachers, administrators, nutritionists, after-school coordinators and Farm Bureau representatives.
“We’ve laid a solid foundation for the study of agriculture to thrive in our classrooms,” O’Connell said.
As the chief educator of California’s public schools, O’Connell is responsible for overseeing the education of more than 7 million children and young adults in more than 9,000 schools.
“I will continue to build on this because our students must be keenly aware of this industry’s impact on our state and how it affects their health, fitness, and, in a word, their lives,” he said.
O’Connell described the California Fresh Start Program, the nation’s first program earmarking funds to increase consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables in a school nutrition program. He also spoke of his department’s “Garden in Every School” Initiative, applauding the use of California’s 3,000 school gardens to help enhance students’ education and health, and acknowledged the growing Farm-to-School movement, which links schools with local farmers to provide fresh, seasonal, local produce for use in school meals.
The conference created opportunities for further growth in the Southern California area for teachers as well as the agriculture industry.
“I would absolutely be on board and willing to assist to get increased ag education in my daughter’s school,” said Terri Cook of Village Nurseries, whose daughter is entering fifth grade in Anaheim. “Those of us in the industry understand that if we don’t get the word out, we will face a shortage of people to carry on the farms and ranches that are so vital to our economy. We need to get young people interested early. Right now you don’t hear kids say they want to grow up and be farmers. I would say that’s probably not even on the radar screen.”
Cook said that prior to the conference, she was unfamiliar with CFAITC, yet, upon hearing about the organization’s goals, programs and resources, she volunteered to host conference attendees during a tour site stop at her Riverside County facility and growing grounds. Village Nurseries, a retail and wholesale nursery with locations throughout the state, also loaned, delivered and strategically arranged nearly 100 Queen Palm trees and other plants within the conference facility.
“We need to get the word out and show youngsters what agriculture is all about. You don’t see video games about farming or ranching. It’s not a profession with the glitz and glamour and instant gratification that so many in this society have come to expect. While rural life seems great when we’re older, the younger kids long for other things,” Cook said.
Now, with the knowledge of Ag in the Classroom, Cook said she has a renewed sense of direction and an avenue through which to spread agricultural awareness.
Other farmers played an important role during the conference by serving as members of a panel session.
Luawanna Hallstrom, an active California Farm Bureau Federation member from Oceanside, and chief operations officer of Harry Singh & Sons, her family’s third generation tomato growing operation, was joined on the panel by fellow farmers and Farm Bureau members, Charley Wolk, an avocado farmer from Fallbrook and Brad Scott of Scott Brothers Dairy in Riverside County.
Next year’s National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference will be held June 23-27, 2009 in St. Louis, Mo. Learn more about Agriculture in the Classroom by visiting www.cfaitc.org or www.agclassroom.org.
(Kelly Cormier is communications coordinator for the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom. She may be contacted at email@example.com.)
Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.
Giuliano Perez digs spreading green message to young minds
By Graham Readfern, CourierMail.co.au
“SORRY – I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve not had lunch,” says Giuliano Perez before reaching to pluck a ripe cherry tomato from a vine, followed up with a fresh basil leaf – a kind of on-the-go bruschetta without the bread.
I have already politely declined the offer of some tiny seeds from a ruby red amaranth plant, a native of South America, which look like small black plastic balls.
“Full of vitamin C,” Perez assures me, before swallowing about 20.
We are sitting near the worm farms and compost heaps, across from a scarecrow and in front of the herb spiral on a patch of land which, this time last year, was a bit of lawn next to the Ashgrove State School carpark.
Thanks to Perez, the area has been transformed into an edible garden, packed with vegetables like potatoes, cabbages, lettuce, peas, beans and beet.
But Chilean-born Perez has his eyes on a much larger revolutionary cause than transforming bits of unused grass.
“This garden helps the kids to become active with the environment,” he says in his clipped South American accent. “A whole new world opens up to them. It’s right there in front of their eyes.”
Perez is co-founder and schools co-ordinator for a not-for-profit organisation called Growing Communities, which aims to bring permaculture gardens to schools and neighbourhoods across Queensland – and anywhere else that will have them.
The 42-year-old grew up in a poor family in Chile’s capital Santiago, but came to Australia as he turned 20 and the country’s military president General Augusto Pinochet was still clinging on to power.
“I was at uni doing mining and engineering – totally against what I do now looking at sustainability – but they were the skills Chile needed. But there was a fair bit of political unrest in the north of Chile. The Australian embassy had opened up. There was an opportunity there. I bought a one-way ticket and when I got here, I had $70.”
After spending many years working in the arts as an actor, designer and writer, the West End resident came into gardening through a multicultural garden he helped create at Northey Street City farm in Brisbane’s north.
Now he is a fully fledged, contagiously passionate environmentalist with concerns about climate change, peak oil, child nutrition and availability of local food that’s not been driven half way around Australia.
Budding green thumbs
At Ashgrove State School, the kids want to be gardeners “like Giuliano”.
“If the kids know how to grow their own food, and take control of the seeds and grow these things locally, then we start to address these issues. And we’ll still be able to eat. Truly – what will we do when petrol hits $8 a litre – how much is it going to cost to get that lettuce up from the south of Australia? “The kids grow their own vegetables – they see the cycles of life and the way that tiny seed becomes a plant.
“We use the garden as a vehicle to make the whole school more sustainable – now they have composting systems and a water tank and the scrap from the tuck shop goes into the worm farm.”
What comes from the no-dig raised beds is organic, but the garden uses permaculture principles which while not great on the eye, mean they work with nature, rather than against it.
Father-of-two Perez remembers making a video – now available on YouTube – in which a primary pupil describes why he enjoys harvesting in the school garden.
“We made some salad,” says the boy. “I thought it was so nice. I’ve never eaten salad before.”
Another segment shows kids slicing open a large green marrow-like fruit.
“Whoa . . . it’s red inside,” exclaims one, obviously new to the inner workings of a watermelon.
Perez says it was then he realised how significant his work was. “It was having a real effect on the wellbeing of this new generation,” he says.
“A lot of kids really don’t know where their food comes from. I’d go to a new school and ask them where lettuce comes from, and they all shout Woolworths.
“For them to see that these things don’t come from the supermarket, but from a tiny seed, is just so important for them.
“Vegetables and fruit stop becoming a commodity – kids see that food has a life and a history.”
He insists that he has witnessed young pupils developing “close relationships” with tomato vines.
“You couldn’t get them away from it,” he says. “They tender it and water it and they watch it grow – and they eat the fruit. They are learning to care for each other’s plants and each other’s property and that makes them more careful on the outside world.”
Last month Perez orchestrated the first national school gardens gathering, attracting representatives from all Australian states. But he says since the first pilot project to create two school gardens, Growing Communities has had no government support.
When the Federal Government announced last year that almost $13 million was to go to establish school gardens, Perez was delighted and hopeful. His balloon of enthusiasm was quickly popped, when it emerged all the money would go to the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Gardens program and its focus on healthy eating.
But there has been good news. Perez has just been awarded a Churchill Fellowship to fund an eight-week trip to Argentina, England, Cuba, US and New Zealand to research how edible school gardens are becoming hubs for community food production and environmental learning tools.
“I feel some responsibility – I have to make sure that what I bring back from the trip helps the school gardens movement to grow,” he adds. “We need a garden in every school and people to show kids how they are part of the environment.”