Today was our last day of the semester, working in the Jefferson garden with Ms. Kelley’s art class. Surveying the scene, you might not have thought much of our progress this spring. Several beds are barely sprouting seeds, new trellises have JUST become upright, and the thirty plus kids (you know about those super-sized LAUSD classes?) to some observers, might not seem super engaged; they drag their feet at the start of each new day, mumbling about getting their shoes dirty, complaining they aren’t getting paid. They say unkind things about the worms.
For those of us who have been out with these kids for the past three months, THIS is what we see:
The kids making tacos near the greenhouse? They run that culinary show. After two weeks of our staff trying to enlist them in some orderly cooking session, we instead turned all the food prep over to them and it became more organized than we could have imagined. The kids took turns, picking menu items, setting up and dismantling the cooking space, and assuring that every kid in the garden got a taste of the day’s fare. Tossing their scraps in the compost bin, they can explain now, how those nutrients will go back into the soil.
Seven raised beds have been filled with a combination of compost, (carried in wheelbarrowful at at time by the kids) and an intricate mix of soil amendments, carefully measured out, scoop by scoop. The compost bin was filled, it did it’s work on our food scraps and brown waste, and the soil WE created, returned also, to the beds. Weeds, not the ones we see today, but the ones that would have taken over the garden entirely, have been eradicated. Mulch has been hauled over also, to make paths between the planted plots.
This last day of the semester, we found in the areas we did manage to plant the past few weeks, two little tomatoes, nicely formed and waiting to vine northwards on those new trellises. Lettuce and cucumbers and snow peas and radishes will be harvested over the summer, and next fall, due to all the soil amendment work the kids have trooped through, we will simply be ready to plant, harvest, and eat. Next year’s class is going to OWE this year’s class, big time, for the less sexy bits of gardening prep work they took on.
The very best thing about what happened this spring? (Keep in mind we’d all had disagreements, frustrations, and flat out work strikes throughout the semester.) When we passed around a sheet of paper today, and asked the kids, “Who wants to stay in touch with us over the summer, sign up here?” The kids didn’t say much. We figured at least two or three may express interest. When the piece of paper came back, twenty names were clearly written on it. The student who handed it to us had even taken the effort to re-write the list after the first one got cooking oil on it. They all wanted to be sure we could read their names.