Working in conjunction with Davis Farm to School, Harper Junior High School has made several changes to its school garden program.
Garden coordinator Carrie Juchau spearheaded the transformation, which has included the addition of a new aquaculture system and water reclamation system, the renovation and expansion of the garden space, and a flourishing broccoli crop that will be contributed to the Davis Joint Unified School District’s central kitchen for distribution in school lunches.
The installation of the water reclamation system began in 2011 after Harper teacher Brian Donnelly successfully applied for a PG&E Bright Space Grant, securing $10,000 in funding for the project.
Donnelly proposed that the funds be used to collect rainwater for students, but struggled with where such a project would be placed on campus. Juchau suggested that the system, which uses four 1,000-gallon tanks to capture rainwater and runoff, be placed in the school garden where connections to outdoor education also could occur. These agriculture-oriented projects would give students hands-on learning, providing tangible life skills that they could later apply in the workforce.
According to Juchau, “Harper’s lunchtime garden club, Goin’ Green, is proving their commitment to sustainability by providing weekly garden maintenance and converting a train container into a winter work shed, refurbishing planter benches, boxes, bird houses and bird feeders.”
Juchau recruited two students from Davis High School’s Future Farmers of America chapter to add a new outdoor worm bin to begin vermicomposting, which uses worms to convert waste into a high-quality organic, nutrient-rich fertilizer. Working collaboratively with Davis High School’s Future Farmers of America allows Harper students to complete their required supervised ag experience projects, part of their academic grade.
The expanded garden further includes a communal space for Davis residents to rent to grow their own produce, which will be available in the future. Volunteers are needed to assist with its completion. As often as possible, garden activities have been incorporated into the curriculum, and teachers are encouraged to bring their students out to the garden, to think of it as an outdoor classroom.
The garden has proved to be particularly fertile, with more than 240 broccoli and romanesco plants growing and feeding the students in the school district. While large harvests are normally sent to the central kitchen, smaller ones can be used on site at the school immediately by home economics and special-needs classes.
The success of the crop, and indeed the garden’s expansion as a whole, is easily attributed to the care and attention given by students, staff and volunteers alike. Donnelly, Garry Pearson, the Goin’ Green club, and the fifth-period community service class have been instrumental in the expansion process. Principal Zena Ingles also played an especially crucial role in facilitating the project through collaboration with district administration.
Said Juchau: “None of this would have happened without her support. She quickly led the initiative through any difficulty which presented itself.”
— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at email@example.com or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy