Friday, April 5, 2013

Broadening our Reach

In November, we flipped the switch.  Moments later, a soft hiss.  Then, a hundred tiny sparkles of fresh water.  Finally our drip irrigation system was finished, bringing water to the production rows.  It was time to plant.

In the four months since that day, the rows have enjoyed a hugely successful first season.  All winter long we've had loads of cabbages, collards, mustards, kale, dill, and onions to harvest; more than we knew what to do with.

Production rows, thriving mid-season
We sautéed mustard greens in class, gave cabbages away to LHA staff, and let scholars harvest after school.  Still, the greens just kept coming.

Fortunately we had a plan.  Since the start of the school year, we've wanted to create a Family Supported Agriculture (FSA) program.  In this program, families would periodically receive a fresh bag of produce from our garden, grown and harvested by LHA scholars.

Scholars prepare bags for the FSA
The FSA has been an opportunity for our middle schoolers to take more ownership over the garden.  Our morning class got to custom-design the bags, and each Friday they harvest part of what goes home.  Our afternoon class harvests the rest, places it in the bags, then delivers it to scholars to take home.

Middle school scholars celebrate another great harvest!
Even with the FSA, we still had more than enough produce to go around.  So we contacted the Marketplace at Armstrong Park and set up a partnership to sell our produce at their weekly farmer's market.  Now, our afternoon class has become a market-based course where scholars learn business ethics and logistics and take food to market every Thursday afternoon.  In our first two weeks, we made a combined $137 in sales!

Scholars practice the art of the marketing
The market and FSA programs have helped our scholars understand how gardening can have a positive impact on our school community and beyond.  Each of us has the power to grow and share foods that contribute to healthy lifestyles for ourselves, our families, and the broader community.

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