I'd like to take a break from on-the-farm talk and share a bit about the bigger picture of garden education in this area. Today we had our annual local garden educators meeting, where people from a variety of local organizations get together to network and share resources.
The School Garden Project has been taking the lead to coordinate the meeting each winter. They are a small non-profit offering science-based education in school gardens, and they partner with county elementary schools that want to include their gardens in classroom curricula. They also run farm to school field trips for a nearby elementary school at the Youth Farm, so I've had the pleasure of working directly with several of their educators over the past few years.
There's also the Bethel Farm, which launched two years ago by the Bethel School District and is based at an alternative high school in that district. They work with the high school students, host field trips, and are in the process of establishing a CSA program and other outlets for produce. I have yet to visit, but I've heard they have a beautiful new barn and have a lot in common with the Youth Farm.
Bountiful Bethel is another project in north Eugene, and is run collectively with community members who plant, tend, and harvest together. I used to work a lot in the Bethel area with OSU Extension nutrition education programs (teaching cooking classes for kids!), and there have been many nutrition related projects over recent years because of the high rates of students who qualify free and reduced lunch (a gross measure of low income levels in a given district). With all the education surrounding nutrition and health underway in that area, it's encouraging to see more garden education programs popping up to complement them.
There were also a few individual gardens and farms represented: Phoenix Farm Enterprises, a for-profit farm with an educational focus; The Village School garden, a charter school in Eugene that incorporates a lot of experiential learning; and Unity School, a young childhood program with a learning garden. There were several people from other organizations there, and several others that weren't able to come: Huerto de la Familia, which manages the community garden next to the Youth Farm geared primarily toward Latino families, and Laurel Valley Educational farm, part of an alternative high school and Northwest Youth Corps, where I worked in 2012 and first got connected with this network of garden educators.
Needless to say, there is a lot of interest and activity in garden education beyond what I've been involved with! We are all in need of volunteers and are looking for ways to get the word out to more people about opportunities and events. Chances are, there's at least one or two like-minded organizations in your city or town-- whether it's a network like this, a single project connecting kids to gardens, or a local school that's trying to revive and maintain an old abandoned garden. There are so many ways to support this push toward nature- and garden-based education, so many avenues to awaken people's minds and hearts to the pure delight of seeing seeds sprout and grow and produce roots, leaves, stalks, buds and fruit that we can EAT. I invite you to look into it, try it out, make some new friends in farmy places.