Soon after taking a position as Director of Food Services for Framingham Public Schools in Massachusetts, Brendan Ryan stood in the courtyard of the high school and had an idea. It had recently come to his attention that many students had no idea where food came from; “most suburban youth have no idea how a vegetable grows!” he says.
Ryan looked out across the nearly two-acre courtyard and envisioned a garden that would not only teach students where their food comes from but highlight the importance and deliciousness of healthy eating.
This Spring the garden at Framingham High School began its seventh season.
It is more than half the size of a football field and is one of the largest in the state. More than a dozen beds are home to San Marzano tomato plants which produce a bumper crop that will provide enough tomatoes to supply all of the school district’s elementary, middle and high schools with tomato sauce from September through April.
The garden isn’t just about tomatoes, though.
The 100% student maintained garden also produces butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, peppers, watermelon, blueberry and raspberry bushes and has a small herb garden. All of the produce is used in lunches in the district’s schools. Late harvest crops are a favorite so that they are ready to be picked just as the new school year is starting. The garden also uses organic farming practices and is pesticide free. Methods that deter pests, such as planting gladiola and onions, are used instead.
Framingham isn’t alone in having a school garden.
More than 200 schools in Massachusetts are reaping the benefits of growing their own healthy food. Thinking of encouraging your school district to start their own garden? Brendan Ryan thinks you should go for it “There is no cookie-cutter model from one location to the next…make a plan as to how you are going to utilize what you grow so that you plant crops that meet your needs. As for resources, just google school gardens and you’ll have a few hundred useful resources.”
Read more about Framingham's efforts as featured on their local news:
“This all has to do with sustainability, farm-to-fork, plow-to-plate, all those catch phrases, and it’s all about that whole movement and getting back to what real food is and to minimize processed foods in front of students and at least the younger generations, you know,” said Ryan.
Savvy Women's Alliance Chapter Ideas:
This is an incredibly impactful project. With a little planning, partnership and community love, your chapter can lead or encourage a garden in your schools.
- Collaboration is key. Work with the parent-teachers associations, Boy Scout or Girls Scout troops, etc to join forces.
- Learn from others like the story above. Intentionally planting a fall harvest? Smart move!
- Schedule out and rotate duties such as weeding, especially over the school breaks.
- Intimidated by a full garden? Start with a small butterfly garden.
- Don't limit yourself to schools as local pre-schools might have more flexibility.
- Start with organic seeds. Keep it organic.
Not part of a Savvy Women's Alliance Chapter?