Written by Mckenna Lenhart, AmeriCorps Fellow 2018-2019
This year, Laguna Middle School received a grant to both inspire healthy eating and cultivate a better understanding of where our food comes from. The funds were used to purchase kitchen equipment to ensure freshness, install a hydroponic tower, facilitate an outdoor education teacher training, and re-build the campus garden into a culinary herb garden. While each of these elements are equally important, I want to share with you a story about the garden. What currently stands, safely tucked away behind the campus, is the result of efforts made by community members, students, the food service staff, teachers, and so many more.
The garden began as a weed infested, ground squirrel kingdom... pretty much a barren land of nothingness. Numerous teachers had tried to rehabilitate the space, but with the lack of extra time on their hands, nothing stuck. I spent about one hour on the first day of rehabilitation staring at the area, wondering where to even begin. As time went on, students began to take notice of the slow transformation and curiosity drew them in. I even had a few eager volunteers shoveling hard, compacted soil from each bed, often in the pouring rain! Over the next 5 months we lined each of the planter boxes with hardware cloth and built fencing for protection against critters. We amended our soil with compost, removed weeds, spread mulch, painted the shed, designed an outdoor classroom, built a greenhouse, started seeds, transplanted starts, authored a Garden to Cafeteria Manual for the Public Health Department, and installed a composting system. By the end of May, One Cool Earth had hosted over 130 garden club meetings as well as both a Family Cooking Night and Teacher Training, and multiple classes including Math and English as a Second Language had frequented the garden for a lesson.
This summer we are going to nurture our baby plant starts into adults, and return in the fall with vengeance for our Garden to Cafeteria program. Laguna Middle School will be serving flavor enhancing herbs as well as funky and interesting veggies to its students. We will also be hosting a handful of after-school farmers markets, and weekly garden club meetings.
It has been quite a year! When you receive the opportunity to observe kids light up when they see that a seed has sprouted, or that they can actually eat bright orange Nasturtium flowers, it makes all of the hard work worth it. Please join us in achieving our mission of powering healthy, happy and smart youth!
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