Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

Nov14

“Botany on Your Plate” and “Nourishing Choices”: Resources for a Healthier Classroom

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By Alyssa Casey

In the United States, the National Gardening Association educates students about the health benefits of eating plant-based food through a variety of publications written specifically for school communities. Resources such as Botany on Your Plate: Investigating the Plants We Eat and Nourishing Choices: Implementing Food Education in Classrooms, Cafeterias, and Schoolyards provide innovative plans and tools for bringing plant and nutrition education into the classroom, as well as connecting children to their local food economy.

Botany on Your Plate offers a series of life science classroom lessons targeted specifically at grades K-4. (Photo Credit: Amazon.com)

Botany on Your Plate offers a series of life science classroom lessons targeted specifically at grades K-4. Each lesson studies a different category of plant, such as fruits or flowers, or a different plant part, such as roots or leaves, with the aim of helping children develop a well-rounded knowledge of many edible plants. Students work in pairs or groups studying, dissecting, and recording observations about the plants, while teachers explain the functions of each plant part as well as the nutritional benefits that the plants can offer. The lessons also suggest plant-based snack items to feed students, exposing them to foods they may never have tried.

Botany on Your Plate incorporates diverse educational subjects into its lessons. Students enhance language and writing skills by learning plant vocabulary and journaling about observations and tastings. They gain scientific understanding when learning plant parts or thinking about a plant’s role in the ecosystem, and explore artistic skills when drawing and labeling plant diagrams. Each lesson offers step-by-step instructions and suggestions for tailoring activities to different skill levels. The book also contains a master list of supplies and produce for each lesson, a collection of plant diagrams and nutrition labels, and a glossary of terms that students can learn.

The second publication, Nourishing Choices, takes a broader approach, highlighting projects and procedures for bringing food, nutrition, and plant education into schools on a larger scale. From initial assessments, to the integration of food education into curricula, to the addition of healthier options in the lunchroom, the publication serves as a roadmap for schools and school districts. The abundance of ideas allows school communities to select programs that fit their size, scope, and needs. Profiles of successful projects around the country—including school garden programs, field trips to local farms, and even school food labs where students actually prepare lunch—offer ideas and advice to communities that are just beginning to implement food education programs.

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Nov01

Documentary Sheds Light on Thriving Community Gardens

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By Carol Dreibelbis

In A Community of Gardeners (2011), filmmaker Cintia Cabib offers an intimate look at the vital role that seven community gardens play in Washington, D.C.

Naasir Ali participates in the “Growing Food…Growing Together” program at the Washington Youth Garden. (Photo credit: Cintia Cabib)

At Common Good City Farm, a work-exchange program enables local residents to volunteer in the garden in exchange for fresh produce. One volunteer explains just how important the garden is for her: “The garden plays a big role in my life because it feeds me. I live out of this garden: whatever I get every Wednesday, that’s what feeds me for the whole week.”

At Fort Stevens Community Garden, an organic garden run by the National Park Service, gardeners from around the world grow fruits and vegetables that are native to their homelands in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. The National Park Service also provides land and water for the Melvin Hazen Community Garden, which was once a World War II victory garden.

Nature’s Retreat at C. Melvin Sharpe Health School serves as an outdoor classroom. This handicap-accessible school garden enables physically and cognitively disabled students to undertake a more sensory approach to learning. One student remarks in the film, “I plant marigolds and I water the flower bed. I just like the fresh air.”

The Pomegranate Alley Community Garden fills an alleyway once known for little more than drug dealing. Neighborhood residents transformed the space into a garden that currently holds 13 plots. Similarly, at the Marion Street Garden, neighbors and volunteers cultivate once-abandoned land. This intergenerational garden offers educational opportunities for people of all ages. (more…)

Jul17

Every Last Morsel: An Interview with Todd Jones

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Nourishing the Planet’s Carol Dreibelbis spoke recently with Todd Jones, founder of Every Last Morsel, an online platform that connects gardeners and urban farmers with their communities. Gardeners, once they’ve plotted their garden’s location on a map, can track the garden’s progress, sell or exchange produce with their neighbors, and share gardening tips with people throughout the community.

Todd Jones, Founder of Every Last Morsel (Photo credit: Todd Jones)

Why did you start Every Last Morsel?

Every Last Morsel began as a landscaping service, oddly enough. I would personally design, build, and maintain edible landscapes for individuals. Last year while I was working on this, I had the idea to build a platform for myself to manage those gardens—including their location, contents, and production volume. I realized that if I put those tools on a network, empowering people to do the same thing in their communities rather than doing it all myself, I would have a much larger effect on local food production.  That’s how the idea all started.

Every Last Morsel has evolved considerably since then. I realized that creating a network and a micro-marketplace for homegrown food is not a sustainable business model: there needs to be a greater volume of produce available. So, now there is the added ability to buy food from farmers’ markets and small farms, which also gives these growers more exposure.

There’s a social element to the website.  Why is that an important part of the project?

My goal is to empower people to educate themselves and connect with experienced gardeners so they can learn how to grow food. I think that one of the most beautiful things about the local food movement is that it allows people to create direct relationships in their community. So, I was inspired to create a social network that brings people together online as a means to get them together in real life. A lot of people have their own network of friends, scattered throughout city, but this is a neat way to inspire people to get to know their neighbors.

What resources will the website provide to people thinking about starting a garden?

Every Last Morsel provides people with a network of hundreds of people that they can learn from, as well as great gardening models that are already in existence. I don’t want people to have to reinvent the wheel to start a garden. One of the things that struck me as I studied urban farming in Chicago is that there are many fantastic, forward-thinking farming organizations; but, they don’t collaborate in finding best practices to make urban farming efficient, profitable, and therefore a sustainable part of urban living. (more…)

Jan24

Documentary Sheds New Light on Thriving Community Gardens

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By Carol Dreibelbis

There are an estimated 18,000 community gardens in the United States and Canada, according to the group Why Hunger, and thousands more worldwide. Designing Healthy Communities, a project of the nonprofit Media Policy Center, notes that community gardens “can play a significant role in enhancing the physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being necessary to build healthy and socially sustainable communities.”

Naasir Ali participates in the “Growing Food…Growing Together” program at the Washington Youth Garden. (Photo credit: Cintia Cabib)

In her 2011 documentary A Community of Gardeners, filmmaker Cintia Cabib offers an intimate look at the vital role that seven community gardens play in Washington, D.C.

At Common Good City Farm, a work-exchange program enables local residents to volunteer in the garden in exchange for fresh produce. One volunteer explains just how important the garden is for her: “The garden plays a big role in my life because it feeds me. I live out of this garden: whatever I get every Wednesday, that’s what feeds me for the whole week.”

At Fort Stevens Community Garden, an organic garden run by the National Park Service, immigrant gardeners from around the world grow fruits and vegetables that are native to their homelands in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. The Park Service also provides land and water for the Melvin Hazen Community Garden, which was once a World War II victory garden.

(more…)

Jun04

Yacón: Sunflower’s Sweet Cousin

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By Seyyada Burney

Despite its striking resemblance to sweet potatoes, the Peruvian Ground Apple, or Yacón, is part of the Asteracea, or sunflower, family. This herbaceous perennial grows to between 1.5-2 meters in height and produces both rhizomes, from which new shoots will continuously grow, and storage roots or tubers that are eaten or processed.

Newly harvested yacón can be eaten raw or processed directly. (Photo credit: Soren Holt, eattheweeds.com)

Yacón roots consist of mostly water and inulin. Inulin is a naturally occurring polysaccharide or fructose that our bodies cannot absorb and so is used as a low calorie sweetener for diabetic, hyperglycemic, or simply health conscious individuals. The crisp and sweet yacón root is traditionally eaten raw, but can also be grated and squeezed through a cloth to extract juice.

Until recently, yacón cultivation occurred primarily within native regions such as Peru and Bolivia where yacón plants along field borders provided yearlong refreshments and ingredients for natural remedies. Today, however, foodies and farmers alike grow yacón in regions as diverse as the United States, Japan, and Tasmania for a multitude of uses. Yacón syrup and other yacón derivatives are gaining popularity as sweeteners and antioxidants. They also act as a prebiotic, promoting digestion in much the same way as bananas and garlic.

Many specialty food or gardening websites and blogs now offer yacón rhizomes, root, syrup, and tea as well as helpful tips on how to grow yacón or make your very own yacón cookies!

Have you ever tried to grow yacón, or use yacón syrup in your cooking? Tell us about your experience by commenting below.

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Jun22

From Their Backyard to Ours: A New Model for Sustainable Local Food Production?

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Farmers in Vietnam. (Photo credit: Tran Thi Hoa / World Bank)

Using vegetable seeds—and gardening techniques—imported from their homeland, families in Village de l’Est, a primarily Vietnamese community in East New Orleans featured in Grist, are turning backyards and empty lots into lush gardens. They are generating income by selling the surplus produce to local restaurants, grocery stores, and at the Saturday open-air markets. Senior citizens cultivate the gardens, transplanting not only plants but also their traditions and sustainable agriculture methods to their children, grandchildren, and the community.