Edible School Gardens

“What we are calling for is a revolution in public education – the Delicious Revolution. When the hearts and minds of our children are captured by a school lunch curriculum, enriched with experience in the garden, sustainability will become the lens through which they see the world.” — Alice Waters           


School Garden Tour: Portland, Oregon

On August 10th we had the pleasure of attending the 2012 GROWINGGARDENS School Garden Tour and meeting Olivia Webster, the organization’s Youth Grow Coordinator.

The GROWINGGARDENS Youth Grow program consists of after-school garden clubs, summer garden camps, in school garden programs, teen service learning, parent/child workshops and garden educator training.   Before the school garden tour began, Olivia spoke a little bit about GROWINGGARDENS and then invited the rest of us to introduce ourselves.  Several teachers came from nearby Portland and even Vancouver (WA) to gather ideas for how to create an edible garden at their schools.

First Tour Stop — Earl Boyles Elementary 

Becky, an Earl Boyles teacher who has a passion for showing kids where food comes from, and Lynne, a parent of children who have attended the school, greeted the twenty of us as we stood in the center of the Earl Boyles Community Garden, a Portland Community Garden site developed by the City of Portland Parks and Recreation.  Typically, Portland Community Gardens aren’t used for schools, however, Becky decided to pay for a plot about 5-6 years ago and excitement about this creative use of space has continued to grow ever since.  Last year a garden committee was established and two main goals for the garden program were set: to 1) involve families in connecting with their food at its source, and 2) supplement the cafeteria salad bar for spring, summer, and fall at both schools.   The program today includes four plots, two of which are used by students of Earl Boyles Elementary and Ron Russell Middle School.  The other two plots are used to teach and empower parents to learn how to grow fresh, nutritious, and tasty food to feed their families.

Second Stop – Lent School

Jesse and Tom welcomed us to the Oliver P. Lent School Garden located one mile from Earl Boyles Elementary.  Talk of creating a school garden at Lent’s vast open space near the I-205 freeway began three years ago.  On a frosty winter day last December, phase 1 of the 5,000 square foot Lent School garden began.  Volunteers worked to construct eight 3ft x 8ft raised beds that are now filled with vegetables, fruits and flowers.  Later this year 4th and 5th grade students will help build a rain garden for collecting up to 30,000 gallons of Pacific Northwest rain water!  Jesse is a 3rd grade Spanish immersion teacher at the school and believes the heart of this project is community engagement.  Neighbors have been stopping by to say, “thanks for doing this.” Many local organizations have helped to make this schoolyard garden possible with donations and grants.

Third Stop – Kelly Elementary

Another mile away was the final stop of the day’s tour.  The school garden at Kelly Elementary was developed by SUN (Schools Uniting Neighborhoods), Kelly School Community, Growing Gardens, and Imago Dai Church.  The garden is situated in front of Kelly Elementary for neighbors and those traveling by to see what’s growing.  Christine showed us around the garden which now has 14 beds overflowing with vegetables and fruits.  Bees were busy at work, attracted by the beautiful flower bed.  Garden visitors can escape the sun and rest a bit in the shade inside a small shelter near the garden’s three-bin composting system.  Christine hopes to see an eco roof atop the shelter along with rain barrels in the future.  Soon native plants will be added to the backside of the garden.  3rd grade teachers have brought their students into the garden to enhance the science curriculum.  Summer garden camps for students were made possible this year and will happen again next year thanks to a STEM Grant.  Kids will also have the opportunity to help build another bed for their school’s garden due to this additional support.  A goal of the Kelly school garden is to grow enough food to incorporate into school lunches and sell at a local farmers’ market.

FarmMade celebrates a new, broadened definition of the Present-Day Farmer to include everyone who is growing food, raising farm animals or keeping bees…anywhere.  We want to thank Becky, Lynne, Jesse, Tom, and Christine, for their dedication to these schoolyard gardens and for helping to grow the next generation of farmers.  Thank you GROWINGGARDENS for your commitment to helping teachers, community members and parents grow long-lasting edible school garden programs.   

Together we are cultivating a brighter future!

Schoolyard Garden Resources

  • GROWINGGARDENS offers a 35-hour School Garden Coordinator Certificate Training to train school garden specialists.  For information about starting and maintaining a school garden check out the resources here.
  • Visit the Farm to School Network website to find a Farm to School Program in your state.
  • October is National Farm to School Month!  Click here for a listing of Farm to School Events.
  • Portland Public Schools Nutrition Services aims to incorporate fresh, locally grown produce in school cafeterias.  Learn about the Harvest of the Month program.
  • For photos and info about school gardens around the world visit FarmMade’s Schoolyard Farm Pinboard on Pinterest.

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