Weird weather plus school gardens equals busy students
Alissa Pearce, Sonoma Garden Curriculum Director, focuses on lesson plans that provide students with hands-on experience in the garden.
Thanks to fantastic weather and community support, The Sonoma Valley Education Foundation has made greater strides in its garden initiatives this winter than anyone could have anticipated. Hundreds of Sonoma Valley students are getting a jumpstart on spring planting thanks to the weird “June-uary” weather that just keeps chugging along.
School gardens are usually muddy, weedy and quiet this time of year. Instead, students are getting plenty of outdoor time and the hoses are getting plenty of use. This is also a good time for structural improvements. El Verano’s garden now features crushed rock pathways and a new layer of compost, thanks to a donation from the Meeks family and enthusiastic parents. Next, fruit trees and spring veggies are going in.
The shears were out at Prestwood as Stone Edge Farm’s Colby Eierman helped with a big pruning project on the established trees in the school garden. Nice new “haircuts” for all. Mike McGrane, of the Dirt Farmer, led a big Prestwood clean up project too.
Dunbar students learned to install drip irrigation and also made adobe bricks for the mission project. Next, a native habitat trail is in the works. Sassarini students are designing a perennial butterfly natives border, and are drawing up plans for six more planting beds.
A survey of our school garden site coordinators found the following crops all going strong right now: crimson flowering fava beans, garlic, onions, purple tatsoi, bok choi, arugula, kale, sprouting broccoli, radishes, carrots, mustard, beets, peas, lettuce, strawberries, herbs, cabbage, broccolini and potatoes, plus tomatoes and peppers in the greenhouses. A pretty inspiring array.
The harvest was so bountiful at Sonoma Charter that school garden veggies were served at the annual spaghetti feed earlier this month. Altimira hopes to add a second aguaponics tank soon, with more talapia swimming around happily and sharing their water under a nice fresh layer of veggies.
Students tell us the school gardens matter. One eighth grader at Altimira put it this way: “I like to eat what we grow and now I understand that it is actually a lot of work to grow food.”
Another offered this observation: “I just
know much more about science now. I learned it hands-on.”
The Sonoma Valley Education Foundation seeks and channels community donations for the school garden project, which was founded by Kathleen Hill and the Sonoma Valley Unified School District. Stone Edge Farms, Speedway Children’s Charities, the Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Alliance and the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn are key supporters, along with and many local residents and garden enthusiasts.
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Laura Zimmerman is executive director of the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation and Alissa Pearce is garden curriculum director for the Sonoma garden project.