Schools ‘N Gardens

by Jeremy Taylor, Good Dirt Radio Intern, Fall 2013Jeremy

Students work on their "lasagna" garden.

Students work on their “lasagna” garden.

As an intern for Good Dirt Radio, I have been exposed to a handful of community projects and groups that I was not aware of in the past. While it is easy for us to become apathetic and disheartened by the plethora of negative news pertaining to global environmental issues, Good Dirt Radio strives to create a positive atmosphere surrounding these very same issues. Without such an atmosphere many of us tend to resist acknowledging our reality and many severe issues are left unsolved or unaddressed. Today I would like to talk to you all about a project happening here in Durango, Colorado that I think is a great example of a positive approach to a severe global issue: industrialized and globalized food systems.

The Garden Project of Southwest Colorado (GPSWC) provides necessary resources and services for schools and organizations interested in implementing a garden program or enhancing their existing garden program. Services include program facilitation, on-site consultation, sharing tools/educational materials, and organizing the recruitment of volunteers and work crews. *

Garden programs include building raised beds and compost bins, and transplanting seedlings to name a few. School gardens have been proven to offer local communities with a wide range of benefits that promote: environmental stewardship through academia, community development, land-based relationships, and overall well-being. *

One particular project started by GPSWC that has caught my interest is the school garden project implemented at Needham Elementary School here in Durango. Eventually, this garden will have 24 planter boxes, which is enough for every classroom at Needham. These planters will not only provide delicious nutritional food for Needham youth but will also provide outdoor learning opportunities for which they are very enthusiastic about.

While teachers and young students have been highly enthusiastic, many community members and organizations have shown interest in expanding and maintaining the garden project at Needham. Volunteers have been showing up on Saturdays to work on the garden in anyway possible and businesses in Durango such as Scapegoat Landscaping, Basin Co-op, Home Depot, and Durango Nursery & Supply have all done more than their fare share in supporting this project.

The level of community involvement in this project shows great initiative to improve the way Durango’s youth perceives local vs. industrial food systems. Such action is great for the local community and should be taken into consideration by any and all communities around the country that wish to improve the health of their present and future generations.

A few weeks ago, I actually had the chance to visit Needham Elementary where I saw how these kids felt about the garden project. One girl tasted a carrot and when asked if they tasted like carrots from a supermarket she replied, “these taste better than carrots, they taste yummy!” The level of enthusiasm and engagement of these young kids was certainly new territory for me.

Obviously, I have seen young kids get really excited about something but certainly not about vegetables or nutrition. I can remember being young and the last thing I would get excited about was gardening or eating healthy. Outdoor education at my elementary school was limited to P.E, recess, and the occasional field trip, which never had such a focus on nutrition. The only experience I had as a child that was even slightly similar was when my 1st grade class got to see how Domino’s pizza is made… Go figure!!

A lot has changed since I was young and I’m glad to say in this case it’s for the better. Honestly, I don’t think my school board would have ever had

such an idea cross their mind even in the slightest. Such a concept is going to do wonders for the health of future generations in Durango and by adopting this concept nation-wide, we can take away the power of industrial food systems and put the health of our youth back into the hands of local communities; the way it should be.

* = This information has been paraphrased, reworded and reorganized from text originally taken from the GPSWC website.

GDR's intern, Jeremy Taylor, talks to students about gardening.

GDR’s intern, Jeremy Taylor, talks to students about gardening.

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