It’s been a long while since we’ve posted here about our school garden. The good news is that we continue to grow and thrive in 2022. Some of the kids weeding in these June photos are the children of parents who weeded our garden once upon a time, as students.
Notice our designation as a Food Connects school!
Its was a hot dry day when I took these photos and the 3rd, 4th and 5th graders cooperated so well. In teams, they weeded the rows of corn and garlic, carefully preserving the sunflowers planted earlier by the Kindergarten and pre-school. They know that their work will help feed students through our cafeteria. During the fall they’ll participate in the harvest.
The weeds were gathered and fed to the chickens. Nothing that can be recycled goes to waste. (There are 11 newly hatched chicks nestled in the school quad waiting to grow a little bigger before being introduced to the senior members of the flock.) The chickens somehow survive our Vermont winter. Students collect the eggs for our cafeteria during the school year. In this renewable cycle, the chickens not only contribute eggs, but they also contribute compost for our plants.
Some of the veggies planted this year are garlic, kale, chard, scarlet runner beans, lettuce, corn, tomatoes, basil…do you see any others?
Below you can see some weeding teams and Mandy Walsh, our amazing garden coordinator and school librarian pitching in with the students. Mandy models the best practices of an integrated studies teacher. We are very lucky to have her expertise! We’re also lucky to have the support of staff and administrators. . A community of farmers and parents contribute invaluable resources to keep our garden growing!
Early in June a large group of community members came together to plant our school garden. Mandy Walsh, our garden coordinator and school librarian, had organized groups to plant sections of the garden. Some were dedicated teachers, some parents and children, friends and other community volunteers.
The garden had already been generously fertilized and tilled by area farmers and sets of plants were also donated. We are so lucky to live in a supportive farm community!
It was a very hot dry day and watering cans were filled by a brigade of children. Each plant got a little drink of water before being placed into the ground. Mandy mapped out specific plots for the veggies. Some of the more tempting crops were fenced off from visiting animals. Black plastic had been laid down to keep weeds away and holes were cut into it for planting tomatoes. This will keep the young tomatoes warm and weed free as they get established.
At our school everyone is involved in and supportive of the garden. Our custodian, Adam visited to talk with Mandy about watering during the dry summer days.
COMING SOON: Chickens at the garden and growing updates!
Here is our garden in all its splendor as the children viewed it when they came to visit during the first weeks of school. The rainy summer brought plenty of weeds. We had to make do with less help maintaining it than we’ve had in the past, but you can see a number of enduring crops decorating the landscape. In the foreground are kale and cucumbers. In the back you can see our popcorn and the sunflower house.
One hundred children came out on Tuesday with their teachers and Librarian, Mandy Walsh, to harvest tomatoes for pizza at lunch, dig potatoes for future lunches and to weed, helping our growing produce get the sun it needs. Thanks to Harley Sterling, our school Chef, for imaginatively using all produce provided by our garden.
After we mapped out a plan for where seedlings would go, each class came out during the day to look at the garden map and to plant a crop. In the summer and fall we’ll harvest for our school lunch program and for study projects. We need to thank Paul Harlow and the generous farmers at Harlow Farm as well as Dan Harlow at Harlow farm stand for their donations of labor and seedlings. We also thank the Goodell Farm for composted manure. Without their help we wouldn’t have our incredible school garden. What an amazing community!
You can see that there was a lot to clean up from last year’s garden. We all worked together to create a big burn pile and then made a fire. (Please contact your local fire department before trying this.) First we dug a fire pit and made sure we had a hose at the ready. We also alerted our friends at the fire department.
Among the chores for getting our garden ready was cleaning up the greenhouse. Thanks to our hard working custodian, Adam Hallock, we have a new cover for the school greenhouse. Mandy and a class had planted spinach that we discovered growing like a weed…a nice surprise for early April. We weeded it and took our harvest to the kitchen. Later we found it at the salad bar. Thanks, Chef Harley Sterling!
We also trimmed last year’s raspberry canes down to the ground and we pruned the apple and pear trees.
By February, we’re starting to dream about melting snow and signs of spring. Although those dreams are a bit far from reality, we can still plant little seeds of hope that winter will soon be over. In the library, classes learned about starting seedlings. They got a close-up look at different types of seeds using hand held magnifying glasses. Then they planted their own marigolds, tomatoes and basil. These flats of seedlings will take a “vacation” at the Harlow Farm greenhouse for a few months and then they’ll be planted into our school garden.
examining a marigold seed
learning about seeds in the spring with Librarian, Mandy Walsh
You can see that most of our lush green garden has died back with the frosts that come early to Vermont. In November, we’re harvest the last of what is growing and bringing it indoors. Our school has a Thanksgiving tradition involving a community lunch for parents and students. It’s one of the school’s best attended events. We try to incorporate as much of our garden produce as possible. Below are some Thanksgiving photos.
Among her many passions, Mandy Walsh, our part time school Librarian, has a special place in her heart our school garden. She’s co-coordinating the garden work with me this year and I couldn’t ask for a more innovative energetic partner. Pictured above is a page from the children’s book, Little Yellow Pear Tomatoes, by Demian Elaine Yumei. Mandy enlarged all of the pages of this wonderful book and created a “book walk” through our garden for the Kindergarten classes. This book beautifully encourages the reader to examine the cycle of life in a way that is suitable for all ages.
Additionally, Mandy has taken advantage of other books to make garden connections. Pictured below are the ingredients for making salsa and sweet Mandy herself.
OK, one more thing: Our greenhouse is up and running thanks to Mandy’s husband, Chris, who tilled it for us last month. Thanks, Chris!
What a great COLD morning for harvesting squash and sweet potatoes. These brave third graders and their teacher, Jennie Perry, were out harvesting at 8:30 when the temperature hovered at somewhere below 35 degrees. The cold didn’t stop their enthusiasm for digging up the buried treasures that had been growing in our school garden all summer. Students planted our sweet potato slips in late June. This variety must really like Vermont soil. The size of these ‘sweets’ was breathtaking!
sweet potato harvest
On their way back to class third graders dropped off their harvest at the kitchen, where our chef, Harley Sterling, will create something magical with them for school lunch.
There’s a lot going on this month, some of which I’ve recorded here. Many teachers have taken advantage of the good weather and the kaleidoscope of images in the garden to visit with their students.
Keene State University Dietetics Post Grads visited one morning with their professors. Our chef, Harley and his assistant, Melissa frequently incorporate our produce into their menus. You’ll see some extra tomatoes bubbling into sauce in one of the photos below. At recess time, kids love a run out to the garden to see what’s happening and to taste a few ripe raspberries.
We said “Good-Bye” to our hard working garden crew. They were able to get in a few cooking lessons in before they left.
Washing and spin-drying produce.
Visiting KSU students.
Chef Harley and Melissa.
Our awesome teen crew and their leader, Meghan Licciardi.