Green Street School Garden Coordinator, Tara Gordon, spent her summer working for Food Connects to care for school gardens at 5 area elementary schools in the towns of Brattleboro, Guilford, and Vernon. This summer garden program was made possible in part thanks to a grant from Rise Vermont. Here are a few highlights from Tara’s summer in the gardens:
Teachers from Academy School met with Tara in the spring to orient her to the garden and show her some of the crops they were growing. This included popcorn seedlings donated by Wild Carrot Farm that needed to be hand-pollinated. Throughout the summer, Tara connected with families on the playground while she was working in the garden. School staff helped with watering and harvesting. Funding for school gardens and the supplies needed can be difficult, but Tara reached out to the Brattleboro community and they did not disappoint. She was able to get a bale of straw donated for mulching, needed to combat the weeds and help the garden flourish. Teachers and students are looking forward to harvesting from their beautifully tended garden this fall!
Green Street School had families and neighbors who helped in the garden throughout the summer. The harvest was bountiful over the summer and extra produce was shared with school staff and neighbors. Tara was able to process and save some produce for school year classroom activities as well. Green Street has an ongoing relationship with Yalla Vermont growing and harvesting cilantro, parsley, and calendula for the Yalla kitchen. Because of Tara’s and the Green Street School community’s work this project continued throughout the summer. Tara also tended heirloom peas as part of a project in collaboration with the Brattleboro Words Project. These peas are an early variety which was grown in Brattleboro in the late 1700’s, and seeds from this year’s harvest will be available next year through a seed saving project in collaboration with Brooks Memorial Library!
Guilford Central School has well-established gardens and a great core group of active families who came to the garden throughout the summer to garden and harvest with Tara. Surplus produce from the school garden was brought to the Guilford General Store a couple of times and the school garden was highlighted on the General Store’s menu! Guilford Central School’s Farm to School Coordinator, Sarah Rosow, was a great partner for Tara, with many garden systems already in place, including a well organized tool shed and a clear plan for summer planting. In addition to her work in the garden, Tara was also able to process some calendula and basil for Sarah to use this fall with her students.
Oak Grove School invited Tara to work in the garden with some classes in the spring to seed and plant, and learn about weeds. The Brattleboro Town School District summer school was based at Oak Grove this year, which allowed Tara to work with students and teachers regularly in the summer. Neighbors also showed support for the garden—in particular, a nice neighbor just across the street donated a bale of hay for mulch. The bulk of the food grown in Oak Grove’s garden will be harvested by students this fall and each class will cook a dish for the annual harvest dinner in October.
At Vernon Elementary School, the river bed soil is very rich and the plants flourished. The primary goal for the garden in Vernon this year was to provide families a space to grow and harvest over the summer, and crops were planted with summer harvesting in mind. Several families worked with Tara throughout the summer, and extra produce was brought to the Vernon pool to share with the community. Next year, this group hopes to have a Vernon School Garden Booth at their 4th of July town festival.
Community building was an essential of Tara’s work this summer. Tara created Facebook groups for each school garden as a tool to reach parents during the summer, and she made colorful flyers to spread the word about her weekly school garden parties. She also made connections with Edible Brattleboro, a local college student, and several high school students who used community service hours to help her tend these gardens. Many hands made the work a little lighter!
It was incredibly helpful to the schools to have someone care for their gardens and build community in the gardens over the summer, and Food Connects is pleased that we were able to offer this program for the third year in a row. Many thanks to Tara for her hard work tending gardens and building summer garden communities at each school, and a big thank you to Rise Vermont for helping to fund this important and valuable work!
Photos By: Tara Gordon