Posted on Wed, September 15, 2010 by Intern
8 Comments | Categories: Farms and Farming, Food Justice, School Food, Take Action,
by intern Claire Brandow
Between a line of trees and the softball field at the Avoyelles Charter Public School in Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana, is an abundant garden. Cauliflower, lettuce, and shallots grow. Corn, squash, and beans grow together as the “three sisters.” Sunflowers and rose bushes represent the flower population here, and a few fruit trees mark the beginning of an orchard. It’s hard to believe that just over a year ago, this space was an empty field. Thanks to the work of the faculty and students of Avoyelles Charter Public School, Slow Food Avoyelles, and the wider community, the once-empty space has been transformed into a vibrant and lively Edible Schoolyard. From seeds-and-dirt to fork-and-plate, the 700 students of ACPS are now engaging with their food from many different aspects.
In August 2009, after approval from school director Julie Durand, Paige Rabalais and Polly Boersig, officers of Slow Food Avoyelles, began the work to turn the space into the impressive program it is today. Community donations of time, labor, and resources resulted in the construction of a shed that serves the dual purposes of tool storage and outdoor instruction. Next, a winter of “lasagna gardening” helped to ready the space for planting. In “lasagna gardening,” a cover crop is planted over a thick layer of compost in one quarter of the garden. The planted quarter is then rotated over the entire garden, depositing vitamins and nutrients into the soil.
The latest facet to the students’ food education is the addition of a kitchen to the curriculum. Painted in vibrant hues and stocked with Anolon cookware donated by the company as part of its “Creating a Delicious Future” initiative, students are now learning to cook what they’ve grown in the garden. Cushaw, a squash favored by local Cajun traditions, was recently given a few culinary treatments. It was baked with butter and honey, pureed for soup, and the seeds were roasted for a snack. The students have created many other delicious dishes like fluffy omelets, fresh squeezed orange juice, okra fritters, and even an herbed gazpacho with homemade garlic croutons.
The ACPS Edible Schoolyard has hosted a number of events in its first year. Notable among them was the 10th Anniversary of the ACPS. In attendance were chef and Slow Food International Vice-President Alice Waters and chef Joe Truex. Joe sautéed greens picked straight from the ACPS garden. Taking a bite at the feast, one student declared, “Boy, I love my school.”
On Saturday September 25th, the ACPS Edible Schoolyard will host a Dig In event. Everyone is invited to “break ground, break bread” during a community workday and potluck lunch at the ACPS Edible Schoolyard.
Interested in finding a Dig In near you? Do you want to start your own Dig In? Find more information at our homepage.