Would you consider being yarrow? Or a live oak?

Our garden and nutrition program is nearly 12 years old.  That is ancient in school garden years.  Often what happens at schools is that a garden springs up due to the excitement and energy of a “champion” or a group of “champions.”  The garden flourishes for a couple years but then the champion moves on (usually because her/his kids graduate the school.) It happens a lot.

Not us!  In our twelve years, we have never really lost momentum.  The volunteers and staff have changed, priorities have shifted, some projects have come and gone and been replaced by new ones, but the garden has never stopped being a fruitful, exciting space with lots of children learning.

Now we are at a crossroads.

We are in our fifth and final (glorious) year of partnership with FoodCorps.  We have already been fortunate to have some of the big funding grants like Sage Garden and USDA Farm to School.  We’ve received many of the smaller grants out there, and we will continue looking for those.  A common issue with these grants is that the orgnazation like to fund stuff, and although stuff is good, what we really need is funding for a garden educator.

You can have all the seeds and tools and raised beds in the world, and all the good things that happen in school garden won’t happen without a teacher.  We have seen firstthand how importat a dedicated garden teacher is to plan lessons, teach, maintain the garden, recruit volunteers, inform the school and community, and on and on and on.  To be clear, this will not be me but someone else!  (I have my eye on someone specific, and very amazing, for sure!)

So we’re hard at work on a plan to fund this position.

In upcoming posts you will see more amazing garden merchandise we are creating to sell at Julian Pathways and in local stores. (See the last post about our Julian pride sweatshirts.)  We are planning some sort of gala event.  And we are introducing a donor program.

Would you consider becoming a donor at one of the following levels?

Yarrow: $25

Manzanita: $100

Coulter Pine: $500

Live Oak: $1000 

You can donate using the PayPal button and specifying “garden program.”  One time or recurring monthly or annual gifts are deeply appreciated! We’ve copied the link here: https://www.julianpathways.org/home/gardennutrition Look for the Paypal button to the left bottom of the green box and use pull down menu to find garden program.

Thank you!

Wear some hometown pride!

Sometimes I have an idea that springs up, goes underground and then pops back up later when the time is right. (Almost like a dormant seed, since this is a gardening blog.)

When I first moved to Julian, the local grocery store was selling t-shirts that read 92036–our zip code. I bought one and have been wearing it ever since, even with the small piece of gum stuck in the sleeve I cannot. get. out.

Every time I wear it people ask about it but it hasn’t been sold for over 20 years.

In an unrelated development, my son started a small business sewing felt letters on to sweatshirts, specializing in spelling out friends’ favorite surf breaks. He set up an Etsy shop and sewed these during late night duty as an RA for his dorm. He has recently stopped making them so…

I fused the two ideas into our latest fundraiser. Check out these Pathways (role) models! We are selling them for $50 to the general public and $38 to locals. We launched the idea yesterday and have already received a dozen orders. Proceeds go the funding our garden educator position for the 2022-2023 school year.

September/October Garden Tour

Re-introducing the garden tour!

Every month or two, I take you on a stroll around the garden. All of the photos in today’s virtual walk are taken by Mati Moon and used with her permission. We are so lucky to have a garden educator that not only does magical things in the garden, but also captures them so beautifully!

Baby Dinosaur kale! Whimsical signs always add so much to school gardens.
We had a late start but still managed to get a lot in the ground!
One of Mati’s first ideas was to add a bookcase of garden books for children to use in the gazebo.
We grow beauty!
3rd grade students organized, planted, mulched and watered newly planted beds.
Mati worked with the students to plant French Breakfast and Giant German radishes. Radishes are great in school gardens because they take about one month to grow.
If you see this on Instagram, it’s a video shot from the ground looking up at all the bee activity.
Look at all that green and all those attentive students!

If you’d like to follow along with us on Instagram too, please find these and more amazing pictures at #julianelementarygarden Thanks for joining us on the tour! More to come….

Meet Mati!

We were thrilled that FoodCorps generously extended a fifth year of partnership to us. Part of this last year of funding and support is designed to write a sustainability plan to propel us into the next ten years of garden and nutrition education at Julian Elementary. So we needed a new service member with amazing skills in the garden to restart it after Covid. We also needed a creative teacher with a deep love for children. And I also needed a partner to dream big with as we figured out this funding/sustainability question.

I found all three in Mati Moon!

A local, Mati comes to us with extensive gardening experience, incredible artistic/creative skills, a sincere love for helping children to learn and thrive, and a commitment to this school and Julian. So we are off and running! Stay tuned for photos (her own, amazing) of some of the things she has been doing in the garden. If you are like me, you. will. melt.

We’re back!

Welcome back!

Although this blog has continued to receive a lot of traffic, I have not posted anything new in a loooooong time.  Part of this was due to the fact that we had already documented/recorded/archived nearly all of “the good things that happen in school gardens” and we were happily just continuing the ongoing work.  The second reason: Covid.  As with everything, activity in the garden slowed to a trickle.

But now we’re back, dreaming big dreams about the next 10 years.  Mati and I (you’ll meet Mati soon) are reflecting on the last 12 years of garden and nutrition education at Julian Elementary and writing a 10 year sustainability plan that will carry us into the future.  A small part of that plan is to report on what we’re doing now, and you’ll hear all about that in future posts.  

But first I must back up and introduce Sammi, our amazing FoodCorps service member who finished two (2!) years of service at the end of the last school year. If you look back on older posts, you’ll learn more about our AMAZING partnership with FoodCorps.  We were blessed to have Sammi in this position.  I wrote this about her once:

Sammi has a warm, engaging, upbeat, kind personality that makes her a great colleague and a well-liked garden teacher.  In fact, she is a born teacher!  She is a problem-solver, quick to jump in to help and brainstorm when an issue arises.  She also has a huge heart for children and families which she puts into her work.  In simple terms, she cares for people well.   She has a positive and important presence on our campus, leading good activities and promoting good choices in the cafeteria. 

Thank you Sammi for two years of service to our district and the children of Julian!!

This turkey is no chicken

A belated Thanksgiving post follows.  We all know gratitude isn’t seasonal!

We give thanks for our partnership with FoodCorps.  I feel very fortunate to work with this incredible organization that lent us Emily for a whole year last year and now Cam. FoodCorps volunteers bring so much to our school through their garden/nutrition lessons in school and after school, daily work in the garden and cafeteria, and participation in various on-campus programs for children’s health.

Here’s Cam, demonstrating his good sport, unfailingly positive, ready-for-any-challenge attitude.  Our after school program has an annual Turkey Run during which kids chase a costumed adult turkey around the playground.  The first to grab a flag takes home a full turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, and everyone else who participates gets to choose an item (yams, canned soups, cranberries, stuffing) for their families as well.

Thanks Cam!  Julian Elementary and Julian Junior High are very grateful you are here!

Portraits in school lunch

Our school district participates in California Thursday, an initiative in which we try to source all of the ingredients in our school lunches on Thursday from California.  Most of our food is sourced from California all week anyway, but on Thursday we really focus on it.  One tool we have recently acquired with our California Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Grant is a very large, write on/wipe off map that we hung in our cafeteria behind our salad bar.  We can point out to students exactly where parts of their lunch is sourced.

On Food Day, Chef Donald of Jeremy’s on the Campus planned a particularly beautiful California Thursday lunch as part of a state-wide day of collective action.

-Chef Donald’s Garden salad: romaine [california), grape tomatoes (California), organic tri colored juicing carrots (California)

-California fruit salad

-Melons from California
-Chef’s whim pasta salad made with whole wheat penne and donated produce from Down the Road farm in Julian and a balsamic dressing
Chef’s California Stir fry with local organic free range chicken, (Chula Vista) and assorted squashes and produce from California with a California citrus Ponzu

Look at this beautiful food and these happy faces!

Thank you to Dave Palmer of Dunk Tank Marketing for these beautiful photos!

Another Delicious Day: Food Day 2018

This is a long one, but very tasty…..read on!

On October 25th, Julian Elementary and Junior High celebrated their 6th annual Food Day with a full day of fun, experiential workshops about cooking, nutrition, backyard gardening and agriculture.  Our theme was “California Grown.” Garden Ambassadors helped me decorate the school early in the morning while our food-themed soundtrack blared.

Nine presenters delivered the following 30-minute lessons at the elementary school:

Eat the Rainbow: Getting kids active with physical education activities, the UCSD School Wellness team taught kids how fruits and veggies of all colors help our bodies.

The workshop ended with a persimmon taste test!

A Seed is a Backpack: Our yearlong FoodCorps service member, Mr. Cam taught kids the parts of the seed and then let them examine various seeds with microscopes and magnifying glasses.

Bees, Flowers and Veggies in Our Connected World:  For the sixth year Camp Stevens has been an important part of our Food Day. This year they taught the kids to make “bee hotels”—a collection of nesting tubes for native bees.

Cooking with Chef Joey and Chef Greg:  Back by popular demand from the Healthy Adventures Foundation, our two chefs worked with the kids to make ambrosia salad and fruit roll-ups.

Growing New Food from Old:  Another longstanding partner with Food Day, the Resource Conservation District instructed students how to make their own pots out of newspaper, fill them with soil and plant potato pieces!

Composting with Worms: A new presenter at Food Day and a wonderful new addition to our event, the Solana Center for Environmental Innovation spent the day teaching students all about vermicomposting, including a chance for the kids to dig through castings to find the red wrigglers.

My Cheeseburger Came from a Farm:  Well-known and loved by generations of Julian students, retired teacher Kathy Cauzza and team brought an amazing lesson on farming and ranching, an educational program of the Cow Belles.

Apple Growers of Julian:  Teak and Kaitlan Nichols, with Harvey Arntson, are six-year presenters with the Julian Apple Growers Association.  Every year students learn about Julian’s apple heritage while pressing their own apple juice.

Food, Fiction, Facts and Fun!:  We were pleased to have the Julian Library join us this year, making crafts with students, reading stories and sharing fun food facts!

At the Junior High, another set of six classes was offered to students:

Bounty Bags–Keeping in Sustainable:  Artist Teal Young walked students through the steps of turning an old t-shirt into a reusable shopping bag as she educated them about the perils of plastic bags and wildlife.

California Conifers–Forest Food:  Representing the Volcan Mountain Foundation, Janice Smith and Kat Beck taught students about conifer wildcrafting in the backcountry, offering samples of Douglas Fir shortbread cookies and toasted pine nuts.

We Grow it ALL in California!:  High school agriculture teacher Mr. Martineau brought over his FFA students to discuss the primary crops of various California counties, offering food samples from each region and displaying handmade visual aids.

Rethink you Drink: Back for a second year, Daniel Barajas of Health and Human Services challenged students to think about their sugar intake and the various health effects.

How does it grow? Food Films:  These four to six minute films that focus on different crops are beautiful, interesting and memorable. Once again, Mr. Pierce showed the films and facilitated discussion.  For a sample of these wonderful short films, click here.

GUTS!  Your Second Brain:  A new presenter, Ms. Fiendisen of Smart Care educated students on the importance of healthy gut flora, ending her presentation with tastes of sauerkraut and kombucha.

In addition to the workshops, students at the junior high were treated to plates of homemade salsas, whipped up by the Pathways weekly parenting group.  At the end of the day all students also got a chance to sample many different foods from Julian and around the world in a large tasting rotation.

On both campuses, all presenters, staff and volunteers enjoyed a lunch provided by our amazing partner, Soups and Such, and delectable cookies by California Mountain Bakery. Chef Donald of Jeremy’s on the Campus also brought a tasty, beautiful California Thursday lunch for the children.

Finally, the fifth grade garden ambassadors went on a fieldtrip to Down the Road farms to finish the day, learning all about organic gardening from Farmer Josh and Farmer Bri. Here we are standing in front of the oldest apple tree in Julian!

Clearly, it was a full and wonderful day, packed with fun and learning.  Thank you to the parent and community volunteers who helped to make it happen!  Also thanks to Dave Palmer of Dunk Tank Marketing and the Farm to School Collective for many of the photos above!

In praise of volunteers

This morning I scrolled back through the blog in search of pictures for a project.  Remembering all of the things we have accomplished over the last ten years is overwhelming and encouraging. NONE of it would have happened without the generous help of volunteers.

This year I am working on building up our group of core volunteers, and we have had some amazing people step up.  Danielle is a mother of four children in our district and a recent addition to our school board.  She checked in with me at one of our new “Watering, Weeding, and Working Wednesdays.”  I was showing her some of the deferred maintenance projects, and she lit up at the mention of our cedar legacy table.  If you don’t know the background of our AMAZING table, please click here.  It’s one of our best stories.

The Legacy Table:  A Little Tale of Reinvesting, Rebuilding and Reinvesting

The table was in need of a little TLC.  It has been a long time since we have cleaned it and treated it with rosewood oil.  Danielle, along with all of her kids, brought out a sander and tools, and they restored it beautifully!  She said teachers were coming out to thank her for her work on it, and when I profusely thanked her, she said she was happy to do it because her family loves our school so much.  And we love them.  ALL THE GOOD THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN SCHOOL GARDENS!

August/September garden tour

As we occasionally do here at “What’s not to like?” take a stroll with me through our garden program in August and September.

For the first time in our HOTM efforts, we chose the avocado for August.  Our taste test was avocado toast, and naturally it had a near 100% approval rating at recess.  This sign met students off the bus in the morning.

I caught this snapshot of Ms. T opening up her day the first week of school at the garden table.  What a peaceful, beautiful place to connect with students and set the tone for the week.

Introducing 8 out of 10 of our new 5th grade Garden Ambassadors.  This is a long-running program that is original to our school, and we’re very proud of it.  To learn more, see this or this or this or this.

On September 11th, we held a Day of Service and Remembrance in the school garden.  Emily, our beloved Food Corps volunteer from last year, brought over a crew of friends from Camp Stevens.  We got a lot done with their help and positive energy!

We have an amazing parent (Garrett Huffman) who is working with Mr. C to build a shed we have on order.  Garrett built this platform this week.  I cannot wait to better organize our garden materials in a big shed.

Mr. Cam is starting a new program called Tastebud Tickets. At snack recess, he walks around giving tickets for kids “caught” eating something healthy.

Then on Monday morning, he put all of those tickets in his garden hat and had a garden ambassador pull one name.  That student got to choose a friend with whom to share lunch in the garden that afternoon.

Now in September, we are focusing on apples for our Harvest of the Month.  Our Garden Ambassadors offered bread with locally made apple butter at recess.

Good food, happy kids!  Til next time…..