The biggest successes for the students were the design and execution of the pea trellis', the starting of all the indoor vegetable and flower seeds and the hard effort of spring garden prep. The biggest successes for the faculty and staff were the bumper crops of garlic, herbs, squash and zucchini and strawberries.
What challenges did or does your project face?
The biggest challenge I face as manager of the garden program is connecting healthy eating with local growing in the students minds. Theoretically the students understand the need to support local farmers, to become farmers themselves, and eat a healthy diet full of vegetables, but it's still too easy to make bad choices when they get to the dining hall. My next biggest challenge is keeping the students on task when the work gets hard. Many have never had to do real hard work, and the shoveling and blisters and kneeling in the dirt is new and sometimes unpleasant to them. Keeping the mood fun, being creative about rewards and managing negative attitudes is a difficult challenge.
How are you working to overcome them?
New this year I am starting a cooking club for both student gardeners and non-gardeners alike. The club will practice basic cooking skills in the kitchen while encouraging a healthy diet made of real food that was grown in the garden. Once a week students will be able to choose and research a recipe that uses seasonal ingredients produced in the garden, greenhouse or within 5 miles of the school. Together we will cook and share the food.
What did you or your project learn this season that might be useful to others as well?
Gardening with students in an exercise in patience. Gardening is by nature a goal oriented endeavor. Unlike a sport, where one practices the same skill repeatedly, gardening has very specific outcomes that are achieved by completing tasks. Not completing the tasks equals no desired outcome. But one needs to balance the goals with the students abilities, and sometimes that means keeping expectations low. Students in our program come from all over the world and have very different skill and motivation levels. Exercising patience, focusing on the process above the goal, creates room for unforeseen intangible benefits that are only discovered after the fact. Self worth, hard work, pride, these things can not be measured in how many carrots were harvested.