When I recently came across a book entitled Edible Schoolyard, A Universal Idea by Alice Waters I was intrigued. Alice Waters, a successful restaurateur in Berkeley, California took on a dilapidated middle school transforming it into a school that fed the mind, heart and stomach. From the ground up, Waters worked with school faculty, parents and others to make a difference in the school's appearance and overall curriculum. Measuring ingredients became part of the math program. In History class, beans and grains helped to emphasize the types of foods that would have been eaten in different parts of the world from eras of long ago. Earth and insects were discussed in science class. The garden by all accounts became an extension of the classrooms.
The garden fulfilled needs that weren't being met at home. Kids that came to school hungry were sure to get a hearty, healthy meal once they arrived on the premises -- something they rarely or never got from home.
Children learned the very basics of where their food came from. Together they planted, harvested and cooked the food that grew right there on school property. Eventually the world took notice and even Charles, the Prince of Wales stopped by to see what all the fuss was about.
After reading this uplifting story it reminded me of my own upbringing. When I was growing up, my parents rented. Sometimes the homes we moved into were well kept and others, not so much. One parallel I noticed from reading Edible Schoolyard is how transformative a garden can be.
My father would take an overgrown, clearly neglected, backyard and transform it into a feast for the eyes. As if by magic, corn grew taller than me and my two brothers. Green onions had stalks the size of celery and bulbs the size of actual onions. Collard Greens grew into the deepest shade of green you'd ever seen. and eating cherry tomatoes straight from the garden after a long day of playing and climbing trees was a welcomed treat. My brothers and I always knew where our food came from and friends from our block always marveled at how nice our yard and garden was kept just like the Edible Schoolyard. Prince Charles never stopped by our house, but if he ever did, I'm sure he would have been impressed.
Here are a few more pages from the book:
Yesterday we planted strawberries. We just saw the tiny plants at our nearby grocery store and decided to give them a try. Who knows, we just may end up with en edible backyard of our own.