The Edible School Yard


The Edible School Yard
Farmer Ben, the gardener at my youngest son's school, gave him a little milk carton a few weeks ago with some dirt and a strawberry plant in it. After intense watering and sunning, a single strawberry arrived. My son harvested it. it was pretty good. And that pretty much sums up what it's like to be a child in the Berkeley Public Schools when you go to the edible school yard with your class to find out where the food you eat comes from.

In the garden, the children taste things they've helped grow. They feed the chickens. They learn about what fertilizer does. Did I mention that they taste things? It's a big deal for all of them — they're in there being asked to put a tomato, or a pepper, or a piece of chard in their mouths. At home, they are unlikely to ever do this. At school, they do it at least half the time, if not more. At least half of THAT time, they discover a new taste they like. The other day my son told me, out of the blue, that he likes mint. 

This is supposed to create an openness among the children about trying new foods and to make a difference in the fight against obesity.  A mixed diet, full of new flavors, is a healthy one.  I'm watching. It's early still but I certainly do like how the garden looks.

This year, the school moved part of the garden into the center of the yard. There are lots of beautiful raised beds, full of flowers and leafy greens. On one side, there're corn and beans growing up a frame. Grape vines are beginning to grow along the top of the fence.

The garden is enclosed by a low and very nice redwood fence. So far, even though they could easily damage it, the children who've grown up around the garden, and gone to school here, and eaten Farmer Ben's strawberries, seem to respect it. The kids who come to the yard when the nearby junior high lets out, seem younger and more innocent the second they step into the yard. I think this is because the garden transforms the school yard into a green world, where all of us have good will and want to keep our garden clean.

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4 thoughts on “The Edible School Yard

  1. Yes. And also that food doesn’t come in a package. The children do a lot of cooking too, with stuff grown in the garden. People in Berkeley generally vote for taxes that allow the schools to offer things like that. It’s a generous thing for them to do. And it’s a beautiful garden.

  2. Brings back too many bad memories of planting "popcorn" seeds (and yes, Lily…we all went through that with mom as her idea of "planting" something for school). To this day, I can't look at popcorn without thinking it grows into a long green plant.

  3. Yes, how traumatic was that!? On planting day, every other kid in the class brought a cute little plastic pot and a seed pack with colorful pictures of things like zinnias and daisies on them — and we brought the popcorn seeds in the plastic bags and huge terra cotta pots left over from our garden.

    You don’t have to bring seeds or pots to the edible schoolyard. It’s all there already, thanks to Farmer Ben. The children just bring their labor and their willingness to try new things.

  4. Odd lesson in there somewhere…how many kids know that popcorn seeds don’t just pop but in fact are real live seeds that can grow…hmmm…perhaps even in a bad situation something good can arise (if one considers knowing that popcorn seeds grow is something of value)…Farmer Ben has no doubt saved many a parent. Don’t know if you have a memory of this–but Dad had a green thumb. In Germany, we had a beautiful garden/yard. In Tacoma, Dad actually grew veggies in the what little back yard there was…I always thought that was pretty cool.

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