Monday, October 26, 2015

Welcome Back to the DreamKeeper Garden!

So many things have happened in such a successful summer and fall of 2015 season we have almost been too busy to update the blog!

Matt Durham is returning this year as Lead Garden Educator, entering his fourth year at Langston Hughes Academy and his first year as our fearless leader! Amy Nau has certainly not left the LHA garden altogether, but she is stepping into a different role as site gardener where she gets to work through the Edible Schoolyard network not only at our site but at all of the Firstline Schools helping out a fantastic ESY garden crew. Amy is also taking on something she is really excited about, a pilot program combining gardening and therapy as a Horticulture Therapist for students all throughout the K-8 charter.  She also is teaching a "Garden to Table" cooking class with 4-8 graders in the industrial kitchen. So far they have made pizza, pesto and delicious smoothies!

Eloise Reid is returning this year as an Assistant Garden Educator, taking on a full-time position as her commitment to the LHA and ESY team and children grows and grows! New on the garden team this year is Jane Madden, an educator who has been working in gardens and with youth all around the teacher in places like Baltimore, South Carolina, and now New Orleans! We are thrilled to have her in her role as the other Assistant Garden Educator as she brings experience, joy, and passion to the LHA Dreamkeeper Garden.

As students came back through the double doors this August, many of them inquired as to how the garden was doing, and especially the goats, chickens and rabbits. The trio of goats is alive and well and enjoyed a hot New Orleans summer with the help of ESY volunteers providing food and water, Donkey, Mama Goat, and Oliver couldn't wait to spend time with their favorite scholars.

The Rabbits, Simba and Cherry, just received a new hutch and stayed shaded and cool all summer and fall with many new treats, including a beautiful water bottle, and a healthy change in diet. They are excited for Ms. Eloise's after-school garden class to build them a food forest in their own little enclosure.

Ms. Jane has been gracious in caring for our most stinky, and fragile resources- the chickens! In a new and improved home, we revived our flock this summer with 15 chicks! Unfortunately a raccoon or possum reduced that number to 8. With three brand new layers, including two silkies, we are back up to 11 and producing roughly two dozen eggs a week.


Watermelon Week!

This year was all joy and excitement for the K-4th grade students who took a trip to Wacky and Wonderful Watermelon World! They experienced a seed-spitting contest, got their muscles working while making a watermelon smoothie on a bike blender machine, and used their beautiful creative minds to make watermelon beaded bracelets and face paint their faces! Pre-K got a surprise visit from Mr. Watermelon! Middle school enjoyed a watermelon eating contest as part of their JOY celebration, and many teachers and staff were able to walk away with a watermelon or two with a little bit of extra harvest from Farmer Ben's Mississippi stock.

Before we get into the chilly season of New Orleans, scholars are always enjoying planting seeds, and learning all about their senses. First and Second Graders are diving in deep to the heart of garden creatures' life cycles, third graders are learning how to be observant, patient, and curious scientists, and fourth graders are learning all the ways to propagate plants!

Thanks for reading the epic post for the beginning of the 2015 year, and stick around for a Family Food Night post from our resident journalist, Mr. Matt!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Farmer's Market Update

“Hi sir, are you interested in some of our fresh vegetables? We grew them in the organic garden at our school, Langston Hughes Academy in Gentilly. We have collard greens, different kinds of kale, lettuce, tat-soi, herb bundles and bouquets!”

My memory isn’t exact, but that was essentially the pitch that one our garden interns repeatedly gave to anyone within earshot last week at the Crescent City Farmers Market. Unprompted, he began to reel in customer after customer and our sales began to mount. We brought our scholars to the tents set up for the blossoming farmers market located in the French Market downtown. They exceeded all expectations while there, easily outselling many of the other more seasoned market veterans.


Our 7th and 8th grade interns have spent the last few weeks learning skills that served them well when the market rolled around: how to properly store and harvest greens, tying together herb bundles, and piecing together bouquets with the scant survivors of New Orleans’ most recent freeze. The morning of was spent putting the finishing touches on all of the above with the hope that there would be patrons brave enough to be out in an open market on such a windy and dreary day. Scholars minds were focused on the weather. Would it be too cold to sell? Would anybody be there to buy?

And yet with a surprisingly unbridled enthusiasm our scholars served as noble ambassadors of both our school and our garden. Duties were split among those who described our produce to consumers, those who handled the money, recorders of every transaction, and a revolving cast of scholars devoted to the upkeep of our table. Both garden teachers were thoroughly impressed with the diligence and perseverance they showed from start to finish.


Taking scholars to the market brings a sense of closure and finality to our work as garden educators. We take our oldest students, who have been with the garden the longest to the market. And just like our departing produce, they’ll soon be moving on to the next phase of their life - high school. And in the same way our garden will replenish itself with veggies and flowers for a new season, they’ll be a whole new crop of scholars waiting to take the place of our market all-stars.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Family Food Night! What a Healthy Success

Around 250 people strolled into the brightly lit cafeteria after enjoying the magical Middle School Afterschool Showcase on a chilly December evening at Langston Hughes Academy. All types of folks from Edible Schoolyard, including both the garden team and network team had been busy prepping a
nd preparing for “Family Food Night, Give the Gift of Health” for weeks, and our hard work showed! The cafeteria was transformed into an indoor farmer’s market style venue, with families, students and teachers floating around the room tasting delicious, homemade morsels at each station. We had lovely volunteers from LHA helping with set-up and staffing tables! Mr. Matt and Ms. Eloise of the Edible Schoolyard made a delicious vegetarian lasagna that was a hit with all ages. Ms. Zuri, of ESY, and Renee Williams, a local herbalist, created different blends of teas and medicinal drinks for all to try, including a fantastic hibiscus tea made with the Dreamkeepers Garden own hibiscus flower! Amy, or Ms. Z, held it down for the third year straight with everyone’s favorite Green Smoothie Machine!

As families traveled from a homemade granola station, to the freshly cut sweet potato fries, to our librarians create-your-own snack table, they filled out a raffle card.  Upon completion they were entered into the raffle! Prizes were given including brand new ESY aprons, cook books, and Dreamkeeper garden bouquets. We had a few different lucky winners. Giving the gift of health is a top priority of the Edible Schoolyard and the Dreamkeepers of Langston Hughes and we were all excited at the numbers of people who cycled through Family Food Night collecting recipes, tasty treats, and delicious memories.  

Enjoy your own granola snack from this recipe below:

3 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut*
3 tablespoons (packed) brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon (generous) salt
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup assorted dried fruit


Preheat oven to 300°F. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Mix first 7 ingredients in large bowl. Stir honey and oil in saucepan over medium-low heat until smooth. Pour honey mixture over oat mixture; toss. Spread on prepared sheet. Bake until golden, stirring every 10 minutes, about 40 minutes. Place sheet on rack. Stir granola; cool. Mix in fruit. Enjoy!