The School Community Organic Farm will serve as an educational center, mentoring space, and a hub for a system of home-based gardens.
Partners for Education, Agriculture, and Sustainability (PEAS) at Cunningham Elementary
Partners for Education, Agriculture & Sustainability (PEAS) is a collective of educators, students, parents & community members building and operating the School Community Organic Farm at Cunningham Elementary. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to get involved.
Author and farmer Wendell Berry, says, “A good community, as we know, insures itself by trust, by good faith and good will, by mutual help. A good community, in other words, is a good local economy.” He also states, “Eaters must understand that eating takes place inescapably in the world, that it is inescapably an agricultural act, and that how we eat determines, to a considerable extent, how the world is used." The creation of a School Community Education Farm gives members the opportunity to participate in the creation of and be a part of a “good community” while learning how to better use the planet as they enjoy and care for themselves.
The benefits of community gardens are myriad, but the intention of this project is not just to replicate the traditional idea of a community garden. With enough space, like that which is available on school campuses like Cunningham Elementary in Austin, the notion of a community garden can be grown to become a school and community education farm. The PEAS School Community Farm at Cunningham Elementary will serve as an educational center, mentoring space, and a hub for a system of home-based gardens.
Traditionally, community gardens have been a space where members rent one plot and take care only of their assigned space, leaving other plots to their respective owners, who may or may not have the time to keep up with them over an extended period. In order to more easily sustain the school community farm, the community will work collaboratively to farm the whole piece of land as a group. Working side by side with neighbors to meet a common goal creates a true community.
Benefits to School
There are many studies which affirm the benefits of community gardening for students. The authors Ober Allen, Alaimo, Elam and Perry wrote that “garden programs provided opportunities for constructive activities, contributions to the community, relationship and interpersonal skill development, informal social control, exploring cognitive and behavioral competence, and improved nutrition. Community gardens promoted developmental assets for involved youth while improving their access to and consumption of healthy foods.”
Additional benefits to the school are that the farm:
Provides an outdoor learning lab where lessons are easily aligned with state curriculum standards for science, economics, and health.
Promotes the mentoring of youth by providing healthy lifestyle activities and an outdoor space for positive relationships to develop.
Brings community members to the campus and offers potential for building partnerships with local businesses and relationships with people who will care about the school.
Is managed by the Community Farm Committee, so it is not “one more thing” for the teachers and/or school staff.
Exposes students to career opportunities in the local food system.
Provides access to healthy fruits and vegetables for student consumption.
Offers teachers, faculty, and staff a place for solace.
Benefits to Community
The PEAS School Community Farm will provide “edutainment” (educational entertainment) for the entire community. Community experts will be invited to present hands-on, experiential classes to the community on a variety of topics such as gardening, composting, cooking, canning, and pickling. Classes will be accessible to community members of all ages.
Additional Benefits to the community are that the farm:
Provides an opportunity for community members to learn how to grow their own food.
Enables community members to understand more about the career opportunities in the local food system.
Offers a source of inexpensive, nutritious food.
Generates collective food security.
Creates a place of visual beauty and inspiration.
Provides volunteers and garden members with a feeling of accomplishment.
Phase 1 – Seeding the Community (in progress) – A steering committee has been formed to take on the primary responsibilities as outlined in the Community Garden Information and Permit Application put out by the City of Austin. The committee will work with the City to obtain all required permits. Committee members will also take part in community outreach and fund-raising activities. The first steering committee meeting was Thursday, May 26th. The next meeting will be in the early fall. Contact email@example.com if you are interested in joining.
Prior to the groundbreaking, announcements will go out to the community inviting them to an Education and Information Night to learn about the project and to recruit volunteers for the building of the farm. The ground breaking of this sized area will help generate curiosity among community members who may not have heard about the project previously.
Phase 2 – Building the Farm (Fall/Winter 2011) – The building of the farm will involve collaboration between volunteers, community partners, and professionals. The farm foundation will require preparing the land (with a mini excavator and hand tiller), installing an irrigation system, and building a fence to discourage animal grazing in the garden. A lockable tool shed will also be purchased for storing all tools. Once rows/beds are installed and infrastructure is in place, the planting can begin.
Phase 3 – Community Farming and Events – Planting, watering, weeding, and detrimental insect removal will necessitate continuous care. The Community Farm Committee will oversee the scheduling of school and community volunteers to assure that the farm will thrive and will organize workshops and events for the community. Additionally the committee will make weekly site visits to assist volunteers with questions and verify that the farm is receiving adequate care.
Phase 4 – Harvest and Sale of Produce – The Community Farm Committee will determine the prime time for harvest, distribution, and potential sales of the surplus produce. A Community Harvesting Day will be scheduled and the produce will be divided among shareholders. Surplus shares that are sold will generate generate revenue that will be used to maintain the farm.
Phase 3 and 4 will repeat indefinitely.
 Ober Allen, Julie 1, Katherine Alaimo 2; Doris Elam; and Elizabeth Perry. 2008 Growing Vegetables and Values: Benefits of Neighborhood-Based Community Gardens for Youth Development and Nutrition. Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition, Volume 3, Issue 4 , pages 418 - 439
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