Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Schools & Community Gardens

Walking my daughter to school each morning, I often looked wistfully at the huge expanse of yard next to Cardozo Senior High School and thought what a wonderfully productive garden it would make. All that space with a clear southern and western exposure. What a shame to pave it over with grass that no one ever used (except to fly a kite sometimes).

Well, the flattest part of the yard, actually a complex of asphalt basketball courts, recently was turn into a parking lot. Too bad. But there's still plenty of yard that could be gardened. Come to think of it, after the federal government, the District of Columbia school system is one of the largest property owners in the city. There are dozens of large campuses and hundreds of smaller school yards all over town. Why do we plant them with grass? Why not turn them into food gardens? Even better, why not turn them into community gardens that everyone could use to grow local food?

For the last couple of years I worked with an organization that was all about promoting school gardens and trying to integrate gardening into school curricula. It was a tough slog. But I think it might be more successful if, instead of trying to organize gardens strictly within the school, the efforts were expanded to bring in the entire community. Turn school gardens into community gardens.

Of course, someone's already done it. And here's an excellent article about a group in Petaluma, California, that is bringing community and schools together to establish gardens and a CSA to help feed the hungry. They also work with a group that focuses solely on gleaning, or collecting unharvested fruits from people's back yards.

Humans can be so resourceful when they put their minds to it.

1 comment:

Kate said...

Hey, you live just a few blocks from where I used to work! Anyway, I've worked on nutrition and gardening programs for schools from the inside, and I know just how difficult it can be. Even if a school has the space, they need buy-in from every level of administration as well as from the overtaxed teachers who are having a hard enough time keeping test scores up. And then they need the funding on top of all that.

I'm happy that school gardens are now a trendy topic, though. I actually am seeing a lot of enthusiasm from teachers, and there are more and more resources--for information and for funding--available to those willing to make the effort.