We have had ups and downs over the last school year with our school garden initiative. The weather and time and energy constraints were key determinants to our success and lack of success. We had an incredible start to our growing season last year with a warm spring and were able to celebrate with a delicious harvest feast. Students picked, dug, and thinned produce from our garden. They were involved in cutting, preparing, and arranging our food for the feast. We made a garden soup, roasted potatoes, salads, and veggie plates. Students were also encouraged to bring in produce and berries from their own home gardens. The students were so excited to share and eat the food they worked so hard to grow.
Contrast this year with last year’s success and you have entirely different story. Our long and cold spring dampened our gardening spirits. Our early vegetable starters like beans and peas died or were stunted by the cold weather. Because of the colder spring we have been allowed about 5 weeks to grow a garden. The limitations of our school calendar have amplified the difficulty of growing a garden with a cold spring. We have also found that the initial enthusiasm for our garden has waned amongst our staff. With the day to day demands of teaching and all that is expected of us it has been hard to find the energy for additional projects. As a result we have not been able to run our garden as we originally envisioned. We are in the process of reaching out to our community partners to help us continue our growing journey.
We also had great expectations of drying fruit for our morning snack program. Students managed to dry a few batches of apples with our dehydrator, but we certainly did not use it as intended. The time and energy to collect, prepare, and dry fruit proved to be a much greater time commitment than we originally thought, especially at the beginning of the school year. Like with our garden, we are looking for community members to take on this project. Dehydrating food has great potential in helping us attain the goal of providing local food for our students all year round.
I think the lesson we have learned this school year is that many hands (can) make light work. We meet at the end of June to revamp our vision of providing local food for our students and how to grow our garden. One of the key discussion points will be how to grow our school garden team and bring more energy to what we have started. We are excited to see what the future holds.