Wonderful School Gardens

A brief history of a continuing school tradition in America

In 1909 in Ventura, Calif., teacher Zilda M. Rogers wrote to the Agricultural Experiment Station at the University of California, Berkeley, then, a primary proponent and provider of garden education resources for schoolteachers. “With the love of the school garden has grown the desire for a home garden and some of their plots at home are very good…Since commencing the garden work the children have become better companions and friends…and to feel that there is a right way of doing everything…it is our garden…We try to carry that spirit into our schoolroom.”
School gardens have been common in Europe for quite some time, with the earliest records dated to 1811. It wasn’t until recently that their nationwide resurgence in the U.S. has become much more prevalent. My good friend and kitchen manager of Baker Place Elementary in Columbia County Georgia took it upon herself to get her students involved. She is loved by everyone at that school. I stopped by to see her shortly after she created this colorful start to her garden.
There is so much kids can learn from school gardens. From proper clothing to harvesting and finally being able to taste what they grew on their own school lunch lines!

One of my favorite blogs, “Ideas in Food,” created by Alex Talbot and Aki Kamozowa is, about allowing your imagination to look at new and creative ways of using food. But they never fail to look at what is obvious. Their daughter Amaya has been growing food with her friends at school.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Look at these lovely lettuces she was able to bring home and show to Mom and Dad.

Runnin’ Down a Dream

The Florida School Nutrition State Conference in Daytona Beach

I know, I know- a little bit much to start with. That’s me and my pal, Mike Burke. Mike and I are two of the very few fortunate people who are in the food service equipment industry that work as ambassadors to School Nutrition. Actually, he’s an ambassador; my title is “Guru.” So a little much is sometimes what we’re about. We’ve taken photos in this pose all over the country, but this one by far was the most “colorful!”

We were standing at the entrance of the main event at the Florida School Nutrition Conference in Daytona Beach. And it was fun and LOUD! We were all instructed to wear bright colors in order to pick up the dozens of black lights that surrounded the room.
It was awesome to watch. This conference, titled Runnin’ Down a Dream, is not only the name of Gainesville, Florida native Tom Petty’s tune, but it was Florida School Nutrition President Lori Drenth’s mantra for her year as chief.

See, Lori had a goal of upping the membership in the state of Florida. She will tell you herself the membership numbers in Georgia have haunted her. She swore at the beginning of her tenure that she was coming after Georgia and she did! Georgia boasts the best membership numbers in the U.S., but this year Lori’s hard work paid off. Florida has the distinction of being the fastest growing school nutrition membership in America.

Lori’s determination didn’t stop there. She was one of 50 school districts to apply for the Winston School Nutrition Grant. Ten pieces of equipment were selected to go to the winning district and Lori’s district, Hernando County was chosen. Talk about good fortune. I asked her to buy me some lottery tickets!
There have been some historic Florida Association State Presidents in the last few years that have dealt with really important issues from the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, children and family food insecurity, community eligibility and so much more. These two were among the best, Ida Daniels of Hamilton County Schools up in the panhandle and Donna Wolter of Osceola County Schools, south of Orlando.

I go to a lot of state school nutrition conferences and they are all great in their own way. Florida of course is Florida. And there’s just something about having to work at the beach that is pretty special!