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.”

Food, ready for its closeup

Under Mr. Pierce’s instruction, today’s afterschool photography program Kids with Cameras class tackled still life, starring fruits and vegetables, to go with our “food focus” for this semester.  Stacey Peyakov from our local produce stand Wynola Flats donated produce for us to work with (thank you, Stacey!)


I threw in my own week’s groceries as well as every basket, platter, small bowl and linen in my house.  Other instructors added vases, spools of yarn, a jug of paintbrushes, bowls, shells, lanterns…..  We ended up with a great selection of props.



Mr. Pierce gave an excellent short presentation on the concept of “still life,” and then outlined a few things the kids should be thinking about: light, texture, color, shadow, etc.


Then the kids went for it.  And I loved it.  100% of the kids, 100% engaged, for 100% of the class.  I was in pedagogical heaven.

Selecting materials:



Our ratio of instructors/adults to students was almost 1:1.  The kids consulted with the teachers, and the teachers helped to set up their shots.


One of the students suggested we tip over the tables to make areas to create the arrangements This worked great as a way to hang linens or butcher paper for backdrops.




Watching the students exercise their creativity was a joy.  They’d work with one set of items they collected, arranging and re-arranging, and after getting their photographs, they’d head back and try something totally different.  I’d say they were definitely “in the zone.”




These faces say it all!  A great day!


Farmers are outstanding in their field, being photographed

Kids with Cameras, our afterschool photography class, is off and running again (I’ve written about it hereherehere and here if you’d like to know more.)  This semester we’re focusing on food, so we took kids to “Down the Road” Farm–one of the places sourcing Jeremy’s on the Campus with fruit and vegetables.  Farmer Josh, Farmer Bob and even Chef Jeremy were on hand to be photographed.  The idea is that we will enlarge some of the day’s best shots and use them in the cafeteria to help students make a connection between their food and the people/farms that grow it.

The farm is set at the base of Volcan Mountain–a stunning site.


A student chats with Chef Jeremy.


The greenhouse provided nice, diffuse light on an otherwise very bright afternoon.


We found that the kids were a bit shy about approaching the farmer/chefs so one of the instructors set them up in stations, so kids went down the line, interacting with them while shooting–a bit more directed approach.  Here Eva talks with Chef Jeremy by the amaranth.


Chef Jeremy by the amaranth.


Farmer Josh had a surprise: extra 2 inch models.

Image 3

Photo courtesy of Anne Garcia


A van full of happy children loaded down with flowering root vegetables!


Coming soon: what the children photographed that day.  I’ll leave you with something that caught my eye!  Ah autumn!


“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

**For more information on CSA’s, see