While most of us are throwing out perfectly good produce because we’re too picky or too disconnected to our food, CCSD kids have their hands in the soil, growing their lunch.
Las Vegas-based environmental nonprofit Green Our Planet recently built their 123rd school garden at Valley High School. The garden program has been adopted across the school district for grades pre-K through 5, along with middle school and high school special needs programs, since March 2013. Each grade has their own garden duties, but it’s fifth graders’ job to host a farmers market at their school.
“Last year we had 165 farmers markets in schools across CCSD and we had this idea of, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to bring the kids together?’” says Green Our Planet co-founder Ciara Byrne.
The first large-scale student-run farmers market was held at the Zappos campus in May; it was a success. “Everybody said let’s do more,” Byrne says.
That’s exactly what they’re doing on November 16. The event will feature 29 booths and about 280 kids selling this season’s harvest at the Zappos campus, located at 400 Stewart Ave., from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Byrne believes it could be the largest student-run farmers market in the nation.
Hewetson Elementary fifth grade teacher Meghan Feasel’s class will be there for the second time. She blends Green Our Planet’s garden curriculum with economy lessons.
“When you turn 9 and 10, the students are too cool for school,” Feasel says. “But then I say, ‘Hey we’re going to the garden’ and they’re all like, ‘yay!’”
Feasel says they determine what to grow by asking the kids what they would want to eat and what’s possible to grow for the season.
“I’m from Ohio so I didn’t know the growing seasons here,” Feasel says. Luckily, Green Our Planet supplies teachers with a guide of what and when they should plant in the desert climate. Each school also has their own Green Our Planet farmer to teach students and teachers about gardening and help out when things go awry.
Farmer Emily Beamguard works with the Hewetson students and 19 other schools. Unfortunately, farmer Emily’s green thumb was no match for the elementary school’s bottleneck gourd situation.
“We had a rather large [harvest] of these bottleneck gourds that you can grow and use as decoration. You don’t really eat them,” Feasel says.
The inedible gourds took over some of the other edible plants, but Feasel turned the accident into an art project and let the kids paint the invaders. The vegetable art will be available for purchase at Thursday’s market. “We won’t be selling all 50 of them because I can’t carry that many,” Feasel says.
During the farmers market, a lot of schools will also be selling Thanksgiving-type veggies such as sweet potatoes (“Some of them as big as your arm, like ginormous sweet potatoes,” Byrne says.), leafy greens like swiss chard and kale, and a lot of herbs.
All of the produce is grown organically. “If the students at Hewetson find aphids on their vegetables, they spray them with soapy water or work with farmer Emily or get ladybugs—the process is organic,” Byrne says.
The produce is ultra-fresh, too. The Hewetson fifth grade class will harvest their veggies that morning.
Green Our Planet already has another school-run market planned for the spring. In between, schools will continue to hold individual markets, since they harvest throughout the year.