Sunday, September 2, 2012

Guest article: GIAC Preteens Help Grow School Food

Audrey Baker, from Woods Earth Living Classroom, shares an update about one of their new programs:

GIAC Preteens Help to Grow Food for the School District at Wood's Earth Living Classroom

It was July, already endlessly hot and dry as winter predicted. A new group of young teens from the Greater Ithaca Activities Center appeared around the corner of the field, pressing their faces to the windows. The Summer Conservation Corps directors waved as they approached—Jody smiling as he drove, Jess turning her heard to issue wise warnings to her adolescent employees. I waved from beside the pond, where our first work day would begin with a tour of the irrigation system.

The GIAC Conservation Corps pays youth to get to work in various environmentally-focused, community organizations. At Wood's Earth, the 11, 12, and 13 year-olds designed and installed the children's garden. They mulched, fertilized, and trellised field crops. They worked through long, hot afternoons every week to grow food for their school district—either directly sold or donated to school food programs, or sold at market to support Wood's Earth.

Midday sun baked the earth as these kids plunged their fingers into the crust, pulling weeds from the roots around young bush beans and squash. "That weed looks just like the squash! How am I supposed to tell the difference?!" exclaimed Toniqua. "I'm gettin' that big one, watch me," Rashid announced as he thrust a garden fork in the soil. A couple hours later, the plants were nestled in mulch to "stop more weeds from growing and keep in the water!" they repeated back to me, again and again.

The same beans have produced over 50 pounds, and ICSD bought 30 pounds to freeze for use during the school year. Denise Agati, school food director, can't wait for the winter squash. Megan Begert dried summer squash leathers for the BJM snack program. All made possible by a lot of hard work by kids to grow food—for kids.

Much thanks to the Sustainable Tompkins Neighborhood Mini-Grant Program for supporting our educational programs.

Audrey Baker
Director of Programming
Wood's Earth Living Classroom

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