School and Community Gardens Grow More than Food

I recently came across two wonderful stories about community gardens.

Ground will soon be broken for the first New York school garden in the Edible Schoolyard project, which was begun by pioneering chef and school garden proponent Alice Waters. The garden, at Public School 216 in Brooklyn’s Gravesend neighborhood, will feature a solar-powered building with a kitchen classroom that includes space for the children to make and enjoy meals from the food they’ve grown. Also in the works are a chicken coop, a composting system, an outdoor pizza oven, a portable greenhouse, and rainwater collection.

The 460 students, grades K-5, will learn a variety of traditional subjects through the garden, and it is hoped that the school will become a center for environmental and agriculture studies. The school, in an area where children would not normally have ready access to gardens, represents the 6th Edible Schoolyard in the U.S. and the only one currently set to operate year-round. School Principal Celia Kaplinsky said she also envisions the garden as a place to build community, where children with many different cultures and languages can bond.

Read more about Brooklyn’s Edible Schoolyard in this New York Times article.

Another terrific story just surfaced about a series of backyard vegetable gardens in San Jose, CA. The project is spearheaded by a group called La Mesa Verde, which is part of the Silicon Valley Health Trust. Both groups encourage healthy eating and community enhancement through gardening, noting that growing ones own healthy food is not only a source of pride, but a surefire way to have access to good greens.

30 backyard gardens were recently planted in San Jose’s Gardner and Washington-Guadalupe neighborhoods, which are home to many relatively new Latino immigrants who comprise the city’s working poor. The neighborhoods, while blessed with an average of 300 sunny days a year, offer limited access to fresh food. Homegrown food has meant access, along with tremendous money savings, for many. Says one resident, “People don’t eat vegetables unless they are close by.”

La Mesa Verde founder Raul Lozano hopes to get about 70 more backyard gardens planted by spring, with help from community volunteers.

Read more about the San Jose backyard gardens in the New York Times.

Photo: Jean-noël Lafargue. ChickenFreak

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4 responses to “School and Community Gardens Grow More than Food

  1. School gardens provide such great learning opportunities for kids. And they can engage kids who don’t learn best through traditional classroom methods.

  2. Hi Mel! Great to see you. You are so right. There are many ways kids learn and we are all best served when they are all recognized.

    One of the things I found so inspiring about these two garden projects was the way they empowered school and community members by introducing them to activities and resources they may not have otherwise experienced. It seemed obvious that, in addition to the edible fruits of the gardens, participants were also gaining less tangible benefits like community, self-sufficiency, and pride.

    I really appreciate you bringing up the point about the different ways in which children (and adults) learn. I think we need to pay more attention to that.

  3. Hi Suz,
    I wanted you to know about a program that I was involved with. I started a school garden in Alameda when we lived there about 10 years ago. We bought the Garden of Learning curriculum from Kelli Wessman of Placerville. It is a terrific program which we used to build our garden program literally from the ground up. I used her lessons and wrote more of my own so that when I left Alameda to move to Sonoma county we had about 40 parent garden docents and two vibrant gardens at our school. It was hard to leave! That school is Edison Elementary.

    Another school that has a beautiful garden program is Harmony-Salmon Creek in Occidental. The garden is huge and is set in the most amazing spot. The school is on a gorgeous piece of land in Freestone. Laurel Anderson is the teacher there and she does an amazing job. There is also an overlook at Salmon Creek on the property where you can sometimes see salmon jumping up a waterfall to pursue their destinies.

    One last thing, your blog post reminded me of an article I read recently that I, personally, thought was outrageous. I’d be interested to hear your viewpoint.

    Thanks for your great blog!

  4. Hi Susie! Great to see you here. Thank you so much for writing and for your great work on the school gardens. Your blog and life on ThreeBoysFarm are a constant inspiration to me.

    I had heard about the article in the Atlantic, but hadn’t read it in full. Thanks for sending it. I agree with you that it’s outrageous to pin CA’s educational ills on school gardens, of all things. The article completely, and sadly, misses all the benefits that come from projects like school gardens at minimal costs. In addition to students being empowered to grow their own food (and learning the accompanying skill set to do so), they get to partake of the fresh healthy food, work cooperatively (something there isn’t enough of in school), see a project through to completion, experience the cycle of work and seasons, *and* apply a lot of their work in the garden to subjects around the school spectrum.

    That’s a lot of benefit from a few weeks in a school garden. Oh, and did I mention getting one’s hands dirty and experiencing growing things? Many students never have a chance to do either. (Also, at Anna’s elementary school, the garden was used for art, among other things, and students sold harvested seeds as a fundraiser.)

    There a lot of rejoinders to the Atlantic article (was the author trying to be inflammatory?) around the net. This is a good one:

    Thanks again for chiming in! See, you got me riled up — but in a good way. :)

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