Santa Rosa High School agriculture students headed to their garden in northern Santa Rosa early Tuesday morning to harvest watermelons, tomatoes and other produce destined for the plates of other Santa Rosa students.
In a twist on the farm-to-table movement, the students this year are learning to grow produce that will end up not in fancy restaurants but in grade-school cafeterias.
“I think this is a great way to show Santa Rosa our hard work,” said 12th-grader Takota Tuinstra, 17, as she pulled weeds from a pumpkin patch in the early-morning fog. “Other schools don’t have an opportunity to grow their own food, and maybe we can inspire other kids.”
She and other environmental horticulture and viticulture students were harvesting vegetables planted by a summer class of 15 students, who got credit for spending about 150 hours tending the 1.5-acre garden located between Highway 101 and Old Redwood Highway near Cardinal Newman High School.
They did so under the guidance of Riggs Lokka, the school’s new agriculture teacher, who decided to expand the garden, turn it into a year-round operation and focus on sustainable growing techniques.
Senior Kayla Bower, 17, was one of the students who spent their summer mornings planting and tending crops. She wants to become an agriculture teacher herself and said the experience was gratifying.
“I really wanted to see the farm get better,” Bower said. “I liked being able to see the plants grow from the beginning.”
The result was a bumper crop of cucumbers, squash, melons and peppers by the time school started. The program donated food to the Redwood Empire Food Bank and sold some to local restaurants, but Lokka still was seeking other uses for it.
When Debi Batini, director of career pathways for the school district, saw the amount of food the students were harvesting, she suggested selling some to Child Nutrition Services, the district’s food provider. Child Nutrition Director Bryan Nyberg jumped at the opportunity.
“It all came together really well,” Lokka said. “The students are very excited about it. They get a big grin on their face to know they’re producing not only something they can eat, but that their peers can, too.”
Nearly two decades after famed chef Alice Waters launched her pioneering “Edible Schoolyard” garden and kitchen project at a Berkeley middle school, the examples of schoolchildren growing or preparing their own campus meals are legion.
The first-ever garden supply deal for Santa Rosa City Schools comes as the country as a whole — with notable figures like first lady Michelle Obama carrying the flag — has put greater emphasis on the health of school lunches.
In 2010, the Healthy, Hunger- Free Kids Act set new nutrition standards for school lunches, such as requiring whole-grain pastas and breads and more fruits and vegetables, and provided federal funding to help make it happen.
But Santa Rosa City Schools started even earlier, buying local produce as much as a decade ago, nutrition director Nyberg said.
What began at that time with the purchase of Walker Ranch apples has expanded into partnerships with several local farms, including Bloomfield and Gabriel farms, he said. Nyberg estimates that as much of a quarter of the food he purchases comes from farms and food producers within 100 miles of Santa Rosa, and he’s hoping to continue expanding that share.
“Every year, we’re picking up more and more farms,” he said. “It’s all about the students. Kids deserve better.”
Nyberg said he spends about $100,000 a year on local produce. His overall food budget for the year is a little more than $2 million.
The result doesn’t much resemble your grandmother’s school lunch of mystery meat and Jell-O. Dessert is a local apple or fruit cup; salad bars are a staple; and last year, that quintessential school lunch item, the Tater Tot, was replaced with healthier potato wedges.
The produce from Santa Rosa High School’s farm will make its way onto that menu, Nyberg said. The heirloom tomatoes might be sliced and placed in sandwiches, the lemon cucumbers and Easter Egg radishes likely will end up in the salad bar, and the basil could be incorporated in a tomato or pesto sauce.
Nyberg says he keeps an eye out for deals on canned goods and staple items so that he can spend more on local produce. He’s paying full price for Santa Rosa High’s vegetables, he said.
“I’ve taken advantage of excess foods out there, which save me money so I can spend more when Riggs (Lokka) comes by with a cart of produce,” he said.
The proceeds will buy supplies for the agriculture program, Lokka said.
Nyberg said of the partnership, “We’re really thrilled. The whole thing is full circle.”
Professional Development That’s Fun!
We love introducing educators to birds and our wonderful resources. Where ever you are, join us for one of our free “Feeding our Feathered Friends” webinars or take our popular “Soar through the Standards” online course. With the help of our Ambassadors, we also host a suite of in-person workshops around the country. Check our events list to discover the opportunities available near you. We know you’ll learn something, and enjoy it too!
Back to School Savings
We’re kicking the school year off by offering 10% off our most popular kits. Use code B2S10 in our online store to get your discount on any of the following:
Get a Grant! Binoculars & Funding
We’ll help you improve habitat and monitor birds on your schoolyard. You can win a Habitat Hero mini-grant for up to $750 thanks to a sponsorship from Pennington® Wild Bird Food, and our sponsors at Celestron® optics are allowing us to award high-quality binoculars to help with citizen-science monitoring! All you have to do is share your existing actions on the BirdSleuth Action Map.
FREE Vegetable Starts from OAEC!
SGN has left about 10 flats of free vegetable starts at the Ceres Garden in Sebastopol.
There is mixed kale, rainbow chard, tatsoi, lettuces, calendula and broccoli.
The Ceres Garden is located behind O’Reilly Publishing at 1005 Gravenstein Highway North.
The garden is always open.
The starts are by the greenhouse on the ground under an apple tree.
Please do not take any plants on tables!
Send a message out through the community forum if you take the last plants.
There should be more coming next week.
Questions, call Laurel 707-508-9710
Steele Lane Elementary School is hiring a part-time Garden Coordinator! This is a contract position for the Steele Lane School Enrichment Foundation at Steele Lane School, offering critical support to ensure that Steele Lane School can maximize the educational potential of the garden. Click here for more information on the position or go to our job opportunities section on our website under About Us.
Western Growers Foundation (WGF) proudly partners with the California Department of Education (CDE) to award 100 K-12 schools $1,500 each—plus seeds and other materials to grow and sustain a fruit and vegetable garden. This program is made possible through a USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant, administered through California Department of Food and Agriculture, to WGF. The grants will be awarded in October 2014.
Why School Gardens?
Whole Kids Foundation believes that student involvement in a school garden fosters a relationship between students and their food. It creates knowledge of and respect for whole nutritious food, informing their food choices for years to come.
Since 2011, Whole Kids Foundation has invested over $4 million to support over 2,100 school gardens across the United States and Canada. Check out our online map to see where we have supported grants.
The School Garden Grant program
Created in partnership with FoodCorps, the School Garden Grant program provides a $2,000 monetary grant to a K-12 school, or a non-profit working in partnership with a K-12 school, to support a new or existing edible garden on school grounds.
2015 School Garden Grant application
Open: September 1st, 2014
Closed: October 31st, 2014
Review Period: Winter 2015
Notification of all applicants: March 1, 2015
Please note: this is an online application.
Important information and resources:
- Preview this copy of application questions and get started now! Make a copy of your application answers first then transfer to the online application once it’s available.
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Consult our Grant Writing Tips for tips on writing your grant application.
- Visit our School Garden Resource Center
- School garden must be an edible school garden (such as growing fruits, vegetables, herbs, grains, etc) and located on the grounds of a K-12 school (public, private or charter, elementary, middle or secondary)
- Applicant must be a nonprofit K-12 school (public, private or charter, elementary, middle or high) or a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization working in partnership with a K-12 school.
- Applicant cannot be a previous recipient of a Whole Kids Foundation School Garden Grant.
- Applicant must have the participation and support of a specific partner organization from the community (such as a nonprofit, a farm, a local business, a Whole Foods store, or a garden club) that brings added support and sustainability to the initiative. The applicant, if a nonprofit, may be the community partner for this grant.
Want more inspiration? Check out our School Garden success stories!
Whether you’re working to build a new school garden or support an existing one this handy guide produced by Food Corps and Whole Kids Foundation, provides step-by-step instructions, loads of creative ideas and a list of resources.
With the fabulous support from our community, Vicki’s Garden at Steele Lane Elementary School has been able to upgrade the infrastructure and teaching program this past year. While our program has improved student contact time and curriculum, we are also very excited about the help we have received from Sunrise Rotary. While we have had support from many organizations, our support form Sunrise has been pivotal. We wish to thank them for our new seven planting beds, four new picnic tables, new shade structure and a replaced shed. These projects could not have happened without them. In addition, all of these community organizations helped make these projects (and more) happen:
School Garden Network of Sonoma County
Slow Food Russian River
Whole Kids Foundation
Freidman’s Home Improvement Center
Benjamin Moore Paints
California Association of Family Farmers
The National Heirloom Exposition
Steele Lane Enrichment Foundation
and the Steele Lane Elementary School staff and administration!
Steele Lane Garden Before
Steele Lane Garden After
Free Downloadable Nature Journaling Curriculum by John Muir Laws
The second edition of the acclaimed curriculum, Opening the World Through Nature Journaling, is now available as a free download. The curriculum now includes more great kid tested sketching activities, poetry writing, and more detailed tips on drawing in nature (you will love the material on drawing plants). This is a great resource for teachers, outdoor leaders, and home school parents.