Tag Archive for: School Gardens

Humboldt Elementary School Garden

Today we have a wonderful story that was sent to us by one of our customers who spearheaded the rehabilitation of an elementary school garden in a small Arizona town.

What this story means to me are the far reaching impacts of positive ripples. Small actions that are taken thoughtfully and with full intention can have far reaching and amazing results, most of which won’t be seen by the person starting those ripples.

When we consider the potential results and implications from this small school garden, we can see effects on the young students, the parents and the faculty and staff. From something as simple as the garden brightening the day of a student or teacher; the crunch of a freshly dug carrot enlightening a parent on what good food should taste like, to the foundational change of a student’s life to pursue agriculture as a result of the experiences, tastes and memories of their first school garden, we cannot imagine the number of possibilities or the cumulative effects that they can have.

This is the perfect example of what we talk about in many different ways – that of personal choice, taking responsibility for our own actions, and helping to create a more positive, better and more healthy world through our daily lives, even if it is small things.

Bart wanted to make sure that we mentioned that all garden work takes place during recess, not instructional time, and that all expenses are paid from donations and not school funds. Here’s Bart’s story about Humboldt Elementary and their school garden!

Humboldt Elementary School GardenThe school garden at Humboldt Elementary School in Humboldt, AZ was started about 20 years ago by Linneal Nick, one of our former teachers, who raised some money to have the ground leveled and a raised bed built.  She is now retired and the garden has not been used for several years.  It consists of a raised bed, 40′ long, 8′ wide and two cement blocks high located on the south side of a warehouse building on the edge of our campus. 

   I teach music at the school, and wanted to start a garden club because of my own love of gardening, which began in the early 60s, despite my role as an “indentured weed puller” in my father’s garden.  A few years later I had a 4-H garden, and in college I worked in a greenhouse growing willow leaves for a professor doing research on subspecies of White Admiral butterflies.  As an adult, I’ve gardened in upstate NY since 1973, and here in Arizona for the last four seasons.

Humboldt Elementary School Garden   My wife (retired math instructor from NM State, Las Cruces) and I started the garden club in August, with 3rd graders, because my lunch period corresponds with theirs.  We have 20 minutes during the recess that follows lunch, 3 times a week, to work in the garden.  Unfortunately our ordinary Arizona soil was used to fill the original bed, so our original task was digging up the beds with pick and shovels, and shoveling the dirt through a homemade screen to sift out the rocks.  We mixed in peat-moss, compost and natural fertilizers, and planted radishes, beets, beans, peas and zucchini.  In flats, we started buttercrunch and romaine lettuce, onions, marigolds, and red and green cabbage.  We bought and transplanted a variety of herbs and three cherry tomato plants, and periodically the children get to transplant various plants into 2 quart pots to take home.

Humboldt Elementary School Garden   Every work period we have a variety of tasks to do:  watering the plants, weeding, planting, picking up litter, eating peas and radishes, tending the birds at three feeding and watering stations, sifting soil, planting bulbs for spring, and–our biggest project–digging the hill next to the garden into four terraces, just like farmers around the world have done for centuries.  This, believe it or not, is a favorite job.  Third graders LOVE to swing picks, rake rocks, and shovel dirt!   We lay out perpendicular lines using a knotted rope to make a 3-4-5 triangle, just like the Ancient Greeks did.  

   On another side of the garden, we dug a bed for pole beans at the base of a 15′ high retaining wall, topped by a chain link fence.  This gives us room for a 20′ high trellis, so come spring, we’ll see how high a beanstalk can grow.

   Other plans for the future include a compost bin, worm bed, cold frame, pit greenhouse, gazebo, roof water catchment, shallow pond, and a 30 seat rustic amphitheater for use as an outdoor classroom; also roses, grapes, berries, fruit and shade trees; along with native plants to provide food and shelter for the birds.

   Parents and community members are welcome to help out, but I have done no direct organizing in this respect as it is not one of my strengths.

   We had few nights of vandalism by two kids new to the area.  Three school windows were broken, two of our garden pickaxes were stolen and used to destroy our soil sifter and a door, a portion of the garden was trampled, and plants in flats were strewn about.  The perpetrators were soon caught by our sheriff’s deputies, and we don’t expect further problems from them.  The garden area and school is surrounded by chain link fencing to afford some measure of protection.

   Anyone who would like to volunteer, donate, or ask questions is welcome to leave a message at my school phone, 928-759-4436 or contact me by email.

Humboldt Elementary School GardenThe bulletin board is in the teachers’ workroom.  I change it every couple of weeks to let them know what we’re doing.  The garden, unfortunately, is on the edge of the campus, and off the beaten path.

Humboldt Elementary School GardenAnother update to the school garden!

Humboldt Elementary School GardenOur compost bin made out of pallets tied together, with the original school garden in the background.

Humboldt Elementary School Garden

How about the choreography of those two pickaxers?  They’re digging up a bed for pole beans next spring, at the base of this 15′ retaining wall, which has a chain link fence on top, so that allows for a 20′ trellis altogether.  How high will beanstalks grow?

Humboldt Elementary School GardenChecking out the progress of recently planted seeds. Watch them grow day by day.

Humboldt Elementary School GardenTransplanting time! Learning how to carefully move the fragile seedlings into a larger container so it can continue to grow.

Humboldt Elementary School GardenMore transplanting fun!

Humboldt Elementary School GardenThe original school garden growing some fresh veggies once again!

Humboldt Elementary School Garden

The logic of the plantation is the logic of today’s industrial food system.

Real Food Challenge

Is the logic of the chattel slave plantation the foundation of today’s industrial food system? There are some compelling parallels here. The logic of prioritizing profits over human, animal and environmental well-being for one. The complete disregard for the quality or health of the food produced is another. It is becoming increasingly clear that the industrial food system just simply doesn’t work for those that are involved with it, the notable exception being the shareholders. The workers in the system have no health or financial security, the teenagers and young people have serious health issues – diabetes the lead concern- and the farmers and food producers are getting pushed off the land as superfarms continue their consolidations. So where does real food enter the picture?

The industrial model may work for some things, but… it doesn’t work for food.

There is another logic, however. The logic of the Real Food Challenge, founded on respect and balance. Profits that are shared fairly with the workers and producers bringing the food to our tables. This project is one aspect of a much larger movement seeking a just and sustainable food economy. College students are driving real, healthy, measurable change in campus cafeterias. They work with administration in the existing budgets and spending programs to shift the dollars spent into a more sustainable, responsible and local direction. This becomes an investment in a real food economy. After all, students are paying customers of their respective schools, so they should have a say in the foods that they are served.

In three years, the Real Food Challenge has built a network of over 5,000 students at more than 350 schools across the country. They have won more than $45 million in real food purchasing commitments, including the entire University of California system. They predict that in the next 10 years, that number can exceed $1 billion. That’s starting to get into some real money!

One of the biggest successes isn’t just the dollars that have been re-directed, but the small scale, local producers that are able to stay in business and even thrive with the Real Food Challenge. Students are advocating for local producers, then using their examples and farms as studies in classes that help to close the circle. Instead of a negative action of avoiding or boycotting an industrial food producer, this project takes a positive action by redirecting existing dollars in a positive direction while improving several parts of the cycle at the same time. School food is improved, students and faculty health improves, energy and money is saved on shipping and storage costs and the producers are able to make a liveable wage while seeing where the results of their hard work goes.

This is a prime example of thinking outside of the box while engaging the existing system, to the benefit of many of the participants in the food system. We see more and more of these ground-breaking examples happening, a very promising light being shined in an otherwise uncertain time.

A Critical Mass for Real Food by Anim Steel

Humboldt Elementary School Garden

NYC School Garden

Starting small, sophisticated New York City school kids are reconnecting with their food. From a small rooftop school garden that has grown into a 1/10 acre lot, Columbia Secondary School kids are eagerly spending time working, weeding and growing in the garden. The garden is proving its sustainable concepts in not only education and gardening, but life skills and social lessons that present themselves in the most unhurried and real ways, sometimes without the students realizing the enormity of the education they are receiving every day.

The students started with a neglected lot, clearing, weeding, planning and constructing the garden long before the first seed was sown. Building their soil with a compost project that they designed themselves, they are seeing success with the garden producing fresh vegetables that supply Garden to Cafe lunches in the school. The careful use of observations and expected harvest dates help drive the garden planning and succession planting that moves the school garden forward. Business plans are created to help maximize the Thanksgiving herb sales fundraising event. Leadership skill, teamwork lessons, community engagement and food and garden activism are all being ingrained into the fibers of these budding student gardeners. These lessons, learned in a natural and involved way while engaged in the garden will have life-long benefits that will continue to enrich the students lives long after they are adults in this complex and connected world.

These young people are our future. They will make critically important decisions to their own lives and others as they grow and make their way through life. I can’t help but be encouraged when I learn of these school garden programs, and all that they are doing to prepare young people to make a profound and lasting connection to the world through the simple act of gardening and growing food. This is one of the major reasons we support school and community gardens through our Membership Program, where seeds, advice and knowledge are given to help further these experiences and lessons.

Why School Gardens Matter