Farm to School and gardening in San Diego

I should have just pitched a tent at the San Diego County operations center last week because I was there for two different events, three days in a row.  Both make me glad I live in San Diego County where good things are happening in the farm/gardening world.

The first:  Let’s Go Local! Showcase.  This was a “meet and greet” between school district food service staff and local farms and distributors.  As I’ve discussed before, creating a Farm to School program is challenging because there are so many disconnected pieces to connect.  This innovative, model event sought to make the process easier by bringing the two sides of the conversation together—buyers and sellers in the transaction over school food.  Or as the Union Tribute* put it:

San Diego County has more than 6,000 small farms, including one-third that cultivate produce. But with no single broker between the growers and schools, the first step can be a logistical maze for districts.  The San Diego County Farm to School Taskforce, a subcommittee of the Childhood Obesity Initiative, helped bridge that gap on Thursday with a showcase at the county operations center in Kearny Mesa.  Representatives from about 30 school districts met with distributors and growers who set up booths that overflowed with produce in a farmers market-like setting on an upstairs patio.

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Then on Saturday, I was a plant schlepper for the San Diego Master Gardeners Spring Seminar.  This is a full-day of workshops, lectures, cooking lessons (there was a singing chef!) and a marketplace of plants, gardening tools and garden art.  It was incredible, and I was proud to be a small part of it as an MG.

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Master Gardeners are known for their birdhouse gourds

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Master Gardeners also has a committee that makes birdhouses from recycled bits and pieces that they sell at events

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Official t-shirt? Check. Name badge? Check. Broad-brimmed gardening hat? Check.

Union Tribune article

Collecting garden ideas in the Capital

As has become my custom, I took pictures of some sweet ideas for children’s gardens at the United States Botanic Gardens.

Upfront, they give permission to use the senses:

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Kids cranked on this old-fashioned pump to fill the pool…

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….and then kids filled up watering cans….

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….and watered everything in sight.   ( I imagine they’ve got the most well-draining soil imaginable)….

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Brightly painted details always add a touch of whimsy.

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If you’re reading this and you’d like to help me install a mailbox in our school garden, I would take you up on it.  I love this idea as a way to store how-to handouts for visitors (i.e. One of our beneficials is working on a one-page sheet on how to construct your own gopher cages to plant in.)

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We saw an exhibit on plants that traveled because of the Perry Expedition.  I’m completely intrigued by the worldwide migration of plants, and I think it’s a good hook for pulling kids in to both botany and history.

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Rooftop gardens are big right now, but how fun that this one on top of a playhouse is accessible and eye-level (at least for adults?)

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A common element in children’s gardens: little, green spaces to crawl into.  Here: a bamboo grove of one’s own.

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Another personal interest:  how do plants, trees and flowers contribute to our sense of place?  I know I feel more “grounded” every year in Julian as I learn my plants, note subtle changes in the succession of blooms, recognize patterns in the seasons, expect certain smells, etc.

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Another angle to explore in the garden:  food across cultures.  This was built for smelling!

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A few experiential stations were set up.  At this one we made seed balls with soil, clay and wildflower seeds to toss in a garden, vacant lot, etc.  The woman encouraged me to take it home, even though I live in California. I was on vacation, so I didn’t strike up a conversation about my classified work with native plants, and just politely gave it to my D.C. friend. 🙂

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