“Be Wise” partners with our Farm to School efforts

“Be Wise Ranch”* is an organic farm in San Diego that runs a CSA program (community supported agriculture.)  In a CSA, members buy boxes of produce, often organic, directly from a farm on a regular basis.**  For a couple years I have been a member of “Be Wise”, and our little Julian group takes turns in picking up all the boxes once every two weeks and then delivering them to the other members.

Today I called and asked if, in conjunction with our regular pick-up, the ranch would be willing to donate an extra box of produce to our emerging Farm to School program.

Within minutes, they wrote back and said “absolutely.”

Let me list the ways in which this is a very cool development for our F2S efforts.

  • I can use produce in my Farm to School lessons, as in the citrus class I recently held.  Financing these lessons is a challenge, but now we will have a regular donation of organic food to use.  It’s a great start.
  • Garden Ambassadors love doing taste tests!  I can imagine receiving our box, and then working with them during lunch and recess to either cook with it or prep it raw.  Every month we will have a wide variety of fruits and vegetables to introduce to the children in small bites.  For example, this week’s box includes bok choy, cauliflower, carrots, collard greens, grapefruit, kale, romanesco, lemons, lettuce, blood oranges, tangelos, radishes and strawberries.
  • All of the food is already sourced locally and certified organic.
  • Working with Be Wise helps us get the produce efficiently.  Our rural isolation is proving to be one of the biggest challenges in implementing F2S programs, and so it’s a relief to use an “existing channel of distribution” (i.e. our group already picks up regularly “down the hill.”)
  • Even though we will continue to use our garden produce for classes and taste tests, there are many things we will never be able to grow at our altitude that we can still introduce to the kids through the Be Wise produce.
  • We have a short growing season, and donated produce means we can keep the flow of fruits and vegetables coming even when our own growing space looks like this:

Taken today!

*For more information on Be Wise Ranch, please visit http://www.bewiseranch.com

**For more information on CSA’s, see http://www.bewiseranch.com/csa.htm

From Julian to the MOPA

True:  Four Julian students currently have photographs hanging in the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park.  This is a great story and my dear friend Ann recently wrote it up for the Julian Journal, and her account from the November edition is reprinted (with gratitude) below.

Julian Youth Exhibit Photographs at MOPA

Trustees and members of the Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA) filled its atrium last month as guests of honor, four students from Julian Junior High, arrived for an artist’s reception to open “Photo/Synthesis,” the 7th Annual Youth Photography Exhibition.

Seventh-graders Taylor Cole, Trevor Denny, Ethan Elisara and Kaleigh Kaltenthaler enjoyed appetizers and music, and mingled with the public, sharing a love of photography nurtured by their involvement in “Kids with Cameras,” an afterschool enrichment program.  Some of the students had never been to MOPA before.  For others, opening was a new experience.  For all of them, it is the first time their artwork was on display in a venue that is nationally recognized for its contribution to the world of photography.

The theme of this year’s youth exhibition, environment and sustainability, is a subject right up the alley of these students who spent most of their time taking photos in the school garden and on Volcan Mountain.  The show was open to students from throughout San Diego County.  Applicants submitted original photos and an artist statement.  A panel of five experts in the field of photography reviewed about 300 entries to select 100 images for the show.  Jurors considered the quality of the image, how it fit into the theme and how well the student’s written words supported his or her photograph.

Deborah Klochko, executive director of MOPA, spoke at the reception saying, “We live in a visual world; how we see that is important.”

She encouraged guests to take a moment to talk with the artists, saying that their voice plays an important role.  Klochko considers photography to be the most important media of the 21st century.

While she says, “Creativity is important,” she also emphasized the importance of visual literacy.

She spoke of the volume of images in the world today, saying that until one understands the structure of an image—how it is made and how it can be manipulated—one can be controlled by the image instead of being in control.  This is why the museum embraces the philosophy of lifespan learning, with programs for children and adults.

“The museum is proud to showcase the work of the youth, which is exciting for the audience as well,” she says.

In the gallery, the photos are arranged by sub-topics within the theme.

Hung with a group of floral photos is Trevor Denny’s close-up of a bee on a flower petal.  Denny, who thinks “It’s pretty cool” to have his photo in a museum exhibition, never thought about how complex bees are until he examined one through the lense of this camera, focusing on details like the patterns in their wings and the hairs on their bodies.

For Ethan Elisara, who “feels really good” about having his artwork in the show, it was capturing the moment when a cattail stalk released its seeds into the air that caught the attention of the jurors.  Elisara’s photo, which hangs with a group of “not your typical nature images,” has a mysterious quality that engages viewers.

Just a few of the photos on display used portraiture as a way to approach the subject, and that’s where Taylor Cole’s dramatic image of a child’s shadow on the bark of a tree burned in the Cedar Fire is found.  Cole, who “felt like a V.I.P.” at the reception, juxtaposes in her photo the contrast of the tragedy of a natural disaster with the playfulness of a child.

In a group of photos that show mankind’s effect on the earth, Kaleigh Kaltenthaler’s artwork is the lone example of a positive way in which human beings have impacted the environment.  Kaltenthaler said she was “fired up” to be surrounded by all of the photos as she talked with people about her image of a grinding stone and mortar.

Klochko publically credited Jeff Holt with doing a great job with a talented group of students.

The show, beautifully organized by Lori Sokolowski, continues through January 27, 2013.

All students pose with instructor Jeff Holt

3 reasons to invite your community into your school garden

1.  People like knowing good things are happening in their community.  Every year our school hosts an open house for Global Youth Service Day.  Last year our “Garden Ambassadors” led garden tours for community members as part of the program.  We had neighbors, business owners, school board members, fellow gardeners—even the librarians walked up to the campus in shifts.  More than one adult approached me with tears in their eyes, saying “This is so wonderful.”  Seeing kids poised, knowledgeable, and proud of a project they’re involved in…..well, it just feels good, and makes you happy to know that it’s going on in the place where you live .

Garden Ambassadors orients visitors at our bulletin board

2.  If people are going to support their local schools, they need to be connected to them. Last Spring the women’s group from my church asked for a tour in conjunction with their monthly meeting.  Some of them had not stepped foot on campus in twenty years (when their kids were students); some of them had never stepped foot on campus.  And once they did….they noticed our beautiful murals….and our commanding view of Mt. Volcan from our playground…..and the fact that we have a full-time PE teacher!  I had to keep coaxing them back to the garden, as they were caught up in looking around with excitement.  As we were sitting at the table starting our tour, one of the teacher aides walked up with a quilt.  She had sewn a beautiful quilt for a raffle to support the tsunami victims in Japan. Seeing the women assembled, she asked if she could show it and explain the fundraiser.  Naturally I invited her over, and the dollar bills started flying across the table–“I’ll take two tickets,”  “Here’s a donation!” “I’ll take a ticket, keep the change.”  Sometimes people simply need to know what’s going on to be a part of it.

I love these ladies!

3.  You never know what connections and possibilities these visits may produce.   After a visit, a neighbor donated a small solar panel unit.  A retired school teacher brought by three asclepsis plants for our habitat garden (each one had monarch eggs, a chrysalis and even caterpillars) and then gave a wonderful presentation to the first grade students.  And then…….

Last summer a parent volunteer invited her neighbor to tour the garden.  An artist, the neighbor also runs a local business.  After visiting the garden, she decided to create a mosaic sculpture for us.  When I called to thank her and ask why she made such a generous and spontaneous donation, she cited everything from the “beautiful yellow snapdragons” to the fact that some of her clients work at the school, and she wanted to do this for them.  I was on vacation when the piece was delivered, and I was amazed to see it sitting in the garden when I returned—a unexpected grace note.  We held a ceremony and unveling, with the Garden Ambassadors assisting, and it sits in our butterfly garden today.

The artist Coco Leeras with "Gardens Grow Magic"

Kids with Cameras: An exercise in place-making

This article will appear in next week’s “Julian News.”

“Kids with Cameras,” a 4-week after school course in photography, wrapped up on November 16th with a photo shoot on Volcan Mountain.  With an emphasis on art instruction, place-making, and relationship building, this project demonstrated the best of what community collaboration can look like, to the benefit of Julian and its kids.

The idea began with Jeff Holt.  A board member of the Volcan Mountain Foundation, Holt leads the Education Committee with a passion for getting kids up on our local mountain.  Also an accomplished photographer, Holt initiated a conversation with Tricia Elisara, Garden Club president at Julian Elementary, about running an after school enrichment program focused on photography.  Always looking for ways to grow the school gardens, Elisara fanned the flame by suggesting that before trekking to the mountain, the kids do three photography workshops on campus, putting in to immediate practice what they learn by taking photos in the school gardens.  After acquiring some technique and practicing at school, the students would then take a trip to Volcan Mountain to put it all together.  All that was needed, then, was a time to work with students and instructors willing to donate their time to teach the classes.  Both pieces quickly fell into place, and the concept roared into reality.

Enter Dana Pettersen, who organizes Club Live, an after school program on Fridays at Julian Junior High which promotes positive and healthy youth development.  She offered to run the course in conjunction with her program, attending to all of the details from advertising the class to collecting necessary paperwork.  Holt drew on his network of local photographers to recruit instructors.  Bill Bevill, a now retired photography teacher at Ramona High School, and Anne Garcia, a well-known Julian photographer, graciously signed up, along with Holt, to teach the course and ultimately accompany the children to Volcan for further hands-on instruction.  Bevill focused on the use of the camera, and Garcia worked with the children on composition.

In his opening lecture, Holt inspired the kids to use photography to create relationship with both people and place.  By being “site-specific,” the young photographers were challenged to go out and document “their” gardens at both Julian Elementary and Junior High, seeing them in fresh ways and capturing them at the current stage of development.  Likewise, the course culminated with young people going up on our own mountain to initiate or deepen their connection to the beautiful place where they live.

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On Thursday, December 1st at 4:00, we will be celebrating this project with an artist reception at the Julian Library.  All are invited.  After brief remarks from all of the project partners, we will be unveiling photos from each of the participating students.  The collection of prints will remain on display at the library in December. Reproductions of these selected works can also be ordered at the reception for a donation to the Volcan Mountain Foundation.

Additionally, photo cards, using the best images captured in the garden and on the mountain, will be on sale to benefit the ongoing work of the school gardens and the Volcan Mountain Foundation (for $2 each!) In this way, students who have benefited from the generous contributions of local artists and school staff have a chance to put their artwork to good use in supporting important local projects—from school gardens to a wilderness protection organization—that make Julian such a great place to live.  We hope to see you there!