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.