A blossoming gardening curriculum from Early Childhood through High School is engaging students with important lessons around protecting, stewarding and nurturing the land we are blessed with. These efforts have already begun to bear fruit through the creation of a community CSA and food donations to local organizations, with plans to soon offer workshops and other educational opportunities to the wider community.
We are incorporating Biodynamics into our practice through the use of Biodynamic Seeds, Biodynamic composting, and the spreading of Biodynamic preparations. While we have always valued using our beautiful 75 acre campus as a classroom, it has been particularly rewarding during this difficult year: being in nature and working with the gardens has had a healing effect on everyone involved, most especially the students.
While students were remote this past spring and summer, a small crew of socially-distanced volunteers worked together to sheet-mulch garden beds - restoring old beds and doubling the size of the existing production garden. Sheet-mulching is a permaculture practice that layers organic matter—seaweed, leaves, grass clippings, manure, and compost—to mimic the layers on a forest floor, a technique that creates rich, nutrient-dense soils, and supports and builds soil health by building up rather than disrupting the bacteria, microorganisms, and mycelial networks that make healthy soil.
These beds were planted with a wide range of crops - three sisters gardens with delicata and butternut squash and Hopi blue corn, scarlet runner beans, cabbage, onions, leeks, melons, kale, zucchini, broccoli, sunflowers, potatoes and calendula. In addition, the food forest that was installed during a community workshop three years ago kept growing, and is especially rich in lavender, lingonberries, yarrow, echinacea, and bee balm.
Starting in August, we began to harvest! For six weeks we provided a full CSA pick up for seven families in the school who had expressed a need for extra produce with generous additional donations from Caretaker Brian Kessler’s gardens. We also began distributing food through immigrant community networks in Portland through the Resilience Hub’s community connections and were able to share food almost weekly into November!
When students came back to school in the fall, both first and third grade were involved each week in the work of the gardens by supporting the last of the CSA pickups. There was no shortage of work to be done as they began helping with harvest days. including potatoes for the whole school on Michaelmas, distributing melons and squash and many other crops, pulling dried corn stalks and using them to decorate outdoor classrooms, picking, drying, and learning about the medicinal properties of different herbs and eventually dividing those into tea satchels, shucking corn and grinding cornmeal, and harvesting basket willow and making dream catchers!
Even in the short days of January, ordering seeds for this growing season is exciting as we plan for installing rainwater catchment, building soil fertility, and growing even more healthy food to share with both the school community and the wider community.
Once COVID restrictions have been lifted we are excited to be able to host gardening workshops and other educational gardening opportunities for the entire community. If you have questions, or an interest in becoming involved, please contact Lynn Wetterhorn, Chairperson of our Farm, Field and Forest Committee, at [email protected]