Fall Grow It! – 4 Workshops, 4 Unique Garden Sites

VCGN visited four sites with unique compost systems for this Fall’s Grow It! workshops:

A Connected Schoolyard Equals Amazing Soil and Meaningful Learning

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Garden bounty – BEMS

Bakersfield School and Community Garden

For the last 9 years the Bakersfield School and Community Garden has been bringing food and farming alive for students.  Tending to the schoolyard vegetables, fruit and nut trees, and berries helps students see and participate in the full cycle of gardening through the year. According to Rachel Huff, Bakersfield Elementary Middle School’s (BEMS) Farm to School Coordinator, the proximity of the gardens to the compost bins and the back door of the school kitchen makes it “Easy for kids to see how it all connects.  “A great site for learning a little of everything.”   Rachel shares that with these simple connections and a “humble and effective” compost system:  “We create some amazing soil, veggies and learning opportunities with very little financial input—anyone could do it.”

It Takes a Village to Build a Compost Shed

The Orleans Elementary School (OES) Garden

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Compost shed – OES

The last 10 years of gardening at the OES Garden are in part owed to the many layers of support and involvement from: an active food service staff who harvests and serves garden produce in the cafeteria; Green Mountain Farm to School staff who provide cohesive lessons across the grade levels using the garden; students who plant the garden and prepare and cook garden produce to serve their parents at an annual Harvest Dinner; and families and staff members who volunteer to care for the garden over the summer.

The school’s composting system is also an example of a community effort and, according to OES principal, Kim Hasting, is in line with the a culture of “actively looking for ways to expand our system every year.”  Five years ago CES sixth graders worked with high school students in the local horticultural program to build their school compost shed.  This successful system is managed by Green Mountain Farm to School staff, lunch program personnel, classroom teachers and special Compost Student Monitors.

Universal Agricultural Education

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Student harvest – WUHSMS

The Woodstock Union High School Middle School (WUHSMS) Garden

WUSHSMS is committed to agricultural learning.  Gardening since 2011, students at WUHSMS grow and harvest their own produce that’s sold to their own school café and Woodstock Elementary School, used in an agricultural class Locally Grown, donated to the local food shelf, and sent home with their classmates.  The school has its own department dedicated to agricultural instruction, making food and farm-related classes available to students across the school.  The garden is also used as an outdoor classroom for Life Science, Horticulture, and English.

The scope of the outdoor garden classroom includes a big in-ground garden, raised beds, 3 greenhouses, and a 4-bin compost system. Their insulated compost system is managed by students through science and horticulture classes, an environmental club called Earth Beat, and school staff.

When asked what she’s most proud about regarding their school garden, WUHSMS’s Place-Based Learning Coordinator, Kat Robbins shares: “I think we use our garden in a lot of different ways, from production to learning to creativity. We also try to approach creating a relationship between students and food in lots of different ways, from hands-on WORK, to making maple syrup, cultivating mushrooms, field trips, various readings, visiting food shelves and so much more.”

Feed the Soil, Feed the Community!

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Student farmers – CSJ

College of St. Joseph (CSJ) Provider Patch

The farm at CSJ has been feeding its community for 4 years now.  The Provider Patch is a no-till farm with vegetable production gardens, an on-site greenhouse, and compost system.  Kimberly Griffin, CSJ’s Farm Manager shares the farm’s philosophy: “We feed the soil rather than disrupt it.  That means we rely on compost, mulches, and lots of hand cultivation!”  Run by Kimberly, the campus GECO (Grow, Eat, Compost Organically) Club, and community volunteers, the gardens provide food for CSJ students through the dining hall and for younger students in the community through CSJ’s Marble Valley Grows Farm to School program.  CSJ employees can purchase veggies from the farm and additional produce is donated to the local Community Cupboard.  The gardens also offer an opportunity for both CSJ students and local K-5 students to get outside and get dirty, have fun, and learn new things.

Click here for more info and online registration for this October’s Grow It! workshops!