First week of school (already?)

Welcome back!  School is officially back in session here at Julian Elementary, and we are looking forward to our best year yet in the school garden.  (Thanks once again to the Sage Garden Project for funding!  You folks are the very best!)

A few cool developments over the summer:

Our pioneer bed is exploding with veggies!

Emily finished up the signage for the native plant trail!

Emily also found an amazing volunteer to build a heavy-duty trellis for our grapes, creating a shady, whimsical tunnel for kids to walk through between the lunch tables and the playground.

In closing, I’d like to revisit the original objective was for this blog: to make a case for school gardens from every possible angle.  Here’s yet another compelling reason for a school garden:

On the first day of school we have an orientation for parents new to the school.  All of our administrators and program directors warmly welcome new families as we explain all of the resources we offer.  I had a few minutes to talk about our garden, and at the end of the meeting, I invited parents to go out for a short tour.

As I was walking around with one of the new families, the mom told me that they had seen the garden on their first visit to the school months ago.  They were won over by many things at our wonderful district but “it was seeing the school garden that finally convinced us that this was the place we wanted our kids to go to school.”

Not your parents’ school lunch

By FoodCorps Service Member Emily Horowitz for the Julian News

Everything you think you know about school lunch is wrong. There is no grumpy old lunch lady plopping slop onto styrofoam trays of hungry students, no half-frozen cardboard pizzas or lumpy mystery meat specials. School lunch has had a bad rap for over 50 years — rightfully so in some cases — but with new USDA nutrition standards and policy shifts, school lunch has been changing for the better.

At Julian Elementary School and Julian Junior High School, we are incredibly lucky to have school lunch made by chefs Donald and Shirley Hooper at the local restaurant Jeremy’s on the Hill. As parents to a first grader and a pre-schooler, creating delicious, locally sourced kid-friendly meals is a personal matter for the Hoopers. Donald has transformed Jeremy’s On the Campus lunch program by sourcing the most local ingredients he can find with the help of the generous suppliers at Sysco and local growers like Sage Mountain Farms. From San Diego free-range chicken to tomatoes delivered within four hours of harvesting, the ingredients in our school lunch are far from the frozen mysteries we used to serve.

If San Diego isn’t local enough for you, Donald is also partnering with Brigida and Josh Rasmussen of Down the Road Farm, and Stacy Peyakov of Wynola Flats Produce. Down the Road Farm is a 22.5 acre farm and orchard that uses organic practices and, although it is still relatively small, provides salad greens and herbs for both Jeremy’s on the Hill restaurant and the school lunch program. The Hoopers supplement dishes with these local greens and create sauces from “ugly” produce donated by Wynola Flats to form the delicious and healthy meals served at school everyday.

The National School Lunch Program has strict standards dictating the amount of sodium, saturated fat, sugar, number of calories, and servings of fruit and vegetables contained in each student’s meal. These requirements mean that children who buy school lunch may be more likely to meet their daily nutrition requirements than those who bring lunch from home. It can be difficult to make sure kids are eating nutritious and balanced meals, so why not ditch the lunchable or leftover pizza for some affordable restaurant-quality lunch that you know is healthy?

National school lunch programs allow children whose families may not have access to healthy food to receive the majority of their daily nutrition needs at a reduced price or even for free. In rural Julian, the need for affordable fresh food is especially high. Our school lunch program, Jeremy’s on the Campus, is famous throughout San Diego county as one of the most unique and progressive systems of its kind. The Farm to School movement, which strives to connect kids to healthy food in schools, is transforming lunch programs all over the nation, and we are proud to be a part of it. So next time you stress about what to pack in your child’s lunchbox, put down the hot cheetos, and let your child enjoy a beautiful salad bar and freshly cooked meal!

A first grade student enjoys a chicken sandwich made with meat from Mary’s Chicken in San Diego.

 Donald and Shirley Hooper receive the Julian Backcountry Collaborative April Partner of the Month Award.

“California Thursdays” lunch launch

On March 17th, our district participated in a statewide launch of California Thursdays, a program promoted by the Center for Ecoliteracy.  The idea is simple: districts sign on to serve a lunch every Thursday sourced only with California food.

To get ready for the big celebration, I worked with after school students for two months to create educational signage and decorations.

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Strawberries were planned for the menu, so I made them the “harvest of the month” and created strawberry lessons.  We examined strawberry plants, talked about “runners” or stolons, searched for plants in the garden with “strawberry facts,” whipped up strawberry smoothies and made little posters that later decorated the lunch area wall.

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One day before the event, I taught two flower arranging classes after school to make the lunch table centerpieces.  I found the plastic pots at a dollar store, and we made the entire arrangements with only plants and flowers found in the school garden.  They turned out beautifully!

Picking flowers…..

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…and arranging them!

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On the morning of our launch, the Garden Ambassadors came to school early to help me hang signs and posters.

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At 11:00 our special guests arrived—the farmers and ranchers who provided the food for lunch, representatives from our caterer Jeremy’s on the Campus, Jan Stone from the Center for Ecoliteracy and partners from North County San Diego Health and Human Services.  Our Garden Ambassadors greeted each guest, sat with him/her during the assembly and lunch, and provided garden tours.

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Our lunch consisted of sliders made with bison meat from a local ranch, salad from Farmer Phil at Sage Mountain Farm, and bread from California Mountain Bakery.  At the assembly right before lunch, junior high students showed a slideshow they created about California agriculture.  Ken Childs from Star B Ranch, the local bison ranch, spoke to the kids about raising bison and set up a table of bison-related items to see and touch.  Chef Jeremy, Farmer Phil, Jan Stone and Health and Human Services Deputy Director Jennifer Bransford-Koons also spoke about good, local food and healthy lunch!

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Then we all ate lunch!  A wonderful day, and an awesome concept—our district is proud to be a part of the state’s California Thursday effort!  (And thank you to Susi Jones for making this whole event happen—her vision always inspires!)

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September/October garden tour (aka photo dump)

Every month or so I like to walk around the garden and catch y’all up on new things, beginning this month with our “farm to school” banners which Mr. Wells just hung outside the after school club.  This set features produce grown in San Diego County in the fall.  They add a lively, colorful element to this outside eating/studying area.

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My Garden Ambassadors are a hardworking group.  These two take charge of lunchtime composting.

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They love leaving me notes—a habit I encourage by leaving them notes back.

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Mr. Copeland stops by as the K/1st graders were showing off our new set of gloves in after school garden class.

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Lots of cool season planting due to having lots of space due to our spectacularly lousy summer crop:

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In after school class, sometimes we just play games in the garden.  With everyone occupied with fun stuff at the table, I can pull one or two students out for small jobs or teachable moments.

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We have been making cinnamon maple applesauce in our longer format classes during the school day.

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I’ve been printing the recipe in Thursday’s bulletin.  If students make it at home, they send me a photo, and I invite them to enjoy lunch in the school garden with friends.

Grace and applesauce

At school:

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At home:

Ryder:applesauce

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Finally, I’ve slowly been collecting “seasonal touches” to decorate the garden.  I saw this years ago at a school garden in San Fransisco when our garden was just getting started, and it was too much to consider at the time.  But now, I’m ready. Garage sales are a great place to find decor out of season.  This came from the Methodist Church’s rummage sale, and I think it adds a lovely autumn touch.  (Also, I bought the over-the-door wreath hanger which keeps the arrangement in place.)

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Garden Ambassadors wanted to put up Halloween decorations so they hung webs and spiders—appropriate for the garden!

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Up next:  Why is Mrs. Tree crying?  (Possibly my favorite post ever, next time.)

Edible Schoolyard Academy (ES Part I)

Before I plunge into all that I learned, let me explain the basics of the Edible Schoolyard (ES.)  It is a project started 20 years ago by Chef Alice Waters at Martin Luther King Middle School in Berkeley, California.

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It has a one-acre garden…

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with a beautiful central teaching space: straw bales in a ring under a ramada with kiwi vines…

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…a small but efficiently run greenhouse with timed irrigation….

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….a compost row, when these very hot piles are turned every two weeks, resulting in finished compost in 8…

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…a well-organized tool shed (more on that later)…

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…outdoor oven…

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…and much more (veggies, flowers, fruit and nut trees, olive grove, rainwater harvesting, etc.)

They also have a beautiful kitchen and cooking education building…

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…a peek inside (more on this later too)

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..all of which is based on Alice’s principles of an “edible education,” spelled out on the side of the building.

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Take a look at the jaw-dropping dining commons…

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…where we ate delicious things such as…

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This program is run by a team of garden managers and interns, head chef and cooking instructors, program administrators and office staff, Americorps volunteers, summer interns, and consultants, all of whom we met the first day of the Academy.  They run the Academy once a year, for about a 100 attendees, to share all of their secrets.

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St. Alice also spoke, emphasizing her big, audacious idea: a free, delicious, sustainable school lunch for every child in America.

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Then we broke into three cohorts, by region, and spent one full day on each rotation: garden, kitchen, and administration.  We also had panels on fundraising, the farm to school movement and school lunch reform and one night went out for an a-w-e-s-o-m-e dinner in Oakland at Pizzaola.  Our days were full–example of garden day below:

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My next four posts will talk about the Academy thematically, starting with one of Alice’s main principles: “Beauty is the language of care.”  Stay tuned….meanwhile, happy, fuzzy picture of me by the lovely, handmade ES banner.

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My farm to school vacation…er, conference

Susi and I just returned from the first California Farm to School conference hosted by the California Farm to School Network.  Hands down, it was the best “school” conference I’ve ever attended.  Let’s start with the location: Asilomar, a historic, sprawling complex with grand lodges and cabin/motel-ish accommodations sitting right on the dunes sweeping down to the Pacific Ocean.

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And then there was the food.  I was sad when I turned in my last meal ticket.  Locally sourced, beautifully prepared, incredibly fresh—for a conference, simply delectable.

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And then yes, there was the conference itself.  Three days of workshops and plenaries on Big Ideas (the vision of feeding all kids good food) and smaller strategies (local procurement, school gardens, curriculum ideas, farm visits.)  The room was full of passionate, interesting, committed folks, and we learned just as much from our mealtime conversations about common obstacles, stunning successes, and good ideas. One highlight was hearing Farmer Bob’s story from Redlands, California (where incidentally, I grew up.)  A 4th generation farmer, his citrus groves are still producing fruit from 100+ year old trees.  As he explained, the fruit gets sweeter…and smaller…with age.  So since the market cares mainly for “size, price and appearance” and not much for “taste,” he was lacking a market…until he began selling to school districts who were happy to put those small, tasty oranges into little hands for school lunch.  Win-win.  Kids get good food; small farms get saved.

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One night we were bused to Monterey High School where we sampled menu items from at least ten different districts who practice “California Thursday”—a school lunch sourced completely from our state. Many of the most forward thinking districts are now looking at “the center of the plate” or sourcing local, responsible proteins like Mary’s Chicken, which we sampled. Monterey High School serves fish tacos filled with fish from their own bay.  The “cafeteria” was beautiful, and they threw in a high school jazz band.  Again, bliss.

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Pictured below: companies that sell/distribute California-made pasta and grains.

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I return to my own school and community, re-invigorated to keep at the work of “all the good things that happen in school gardens.”  Thanks for following our story.

February Garden Tour

Time for a walk around the garden.  Leave your jackets at home—it’s 76 degrees here today in Julian.

I picked up these banners at a garage sale in my effort to add holiday touches to the garden.

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Miss Lynn added these:

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Valentines Day is the rule of thumb for planting peas, and peas we did plant!

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Kale is our harvest of the month, and my parent helpers/Garden Beneficials cooked up kale chips at our outdoor kitchen for the fifth graders.  One thing I have become convinced of during my tenure as garden teacher—-NUTRITION EDUCATION WORKS!  These kids were gobbling down the kale chips, begging for more, asking for the recipe, declaring it to be one of their favorite foods….uh, kale chips!

Harvesting from our new 3×3 beds:

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Cooking in our new little convection oven at our outdoor food prep station:

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Munching away:

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A Farm to School project recently finished!  I had sets of banners made for the crops that are grown in San Diego each season.  The winter set now enhances the indoor area where children pick up their lunches.

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Next to the banners is one of the photographs taken by a student in our after-school photography program Kids with Cameras, identifying the chef behind the meal.

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Early start kindergarten and kindergarten students focus on a “letter of the week.”  I’m using these empty picture frames to teach garden vocabulary.  The students hunt for them, and we learn the name of the object framed.  D-d-d-d for daffodil!

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Lastly, our district recently received a Live Well San Diego proclamation from our county board of supervisor for our wellness programs.  Pictured left to right–County Supervisor Diane Jacob, School Board president Eileen Tellam, Superintendent Kevin Ogden, and me.  Also recognized were Teresa and Jeremy Manley who were also present at the meeting.

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