Garden Collage Goes Inside Edible Schoolyard
Here at Garden Collage, we can’t get enough of Edible Schoolyard, Alice Waters’ nonprofit that seeks to improve lower-income families’ access to fresh, local produce through the establishment and maintenance of school gardens.
A few weeks ago, we ventured out to their two establishments in New York City: Edible Schoolyard’s impressive inaugural garden at P.S. 216 in Gravesend, Brooklyn, and the Manhattan showcase school at P.S. 7 in Harlem. Both offered unique experiences that serve as testament to the program’s varied approaches to fighting food deserts, as well as the integral role that communities play in making such projects possible.
Edible Schoolyard’s Inaugural garden used to be an empty cement parking lot until 2010, when organizers transformed the space into a half-acre organic garden that now grows over 60 types of fruits, grains, and vegetables. Strolling between the child-friendly rows of carrots and sweet potatoes, we found ourselves amazed at how a barren urban wasteland could be transformed into a huge, prolific pasture. Gravesend has the third lowest percentage of green space in Brooklyn, so Edible Schoolyard’s half-acre urban farm isn’t just a nice place to visit – it’s a necessity, a beacon of hope for all those who seek to put an end to this dire problem.
The garden at Harlem’s P.S. 7 is housed in an outdoor courtyard, not far from where the kids have recess. It’s more modest than its Brooklyn counterpart, resembling the smaller community gardens one finds walking around the city. Cheery flowers peek out from atop brightly-painted metal tubs, surrounded by elongated, modernist planters. It may not be as much of a showstopper as the Brooklyn garden, but that’s the point: P.S. 7 makes careful use of every square foot of space to grow as many crops as possible, making it a fantastic model for other schools, which often face similar space constraints. It’s attainable, rather than inspirational, as program coordinator Annette Slonim told us.
When Alice Waters started the first Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley over a decade ago, the notion of a “school garden” seemed absurd – why should kids study marigolds, rather than math? Today, her dream of connecting children to food is alive and well, grounded in the attainable as well as the inspirational. She’s helped kickstart a national conversation on sustainability, food literacy, and the myriad benefits of working in the dirt – all thanks to her garden initiatives. And it’s not just kids who are benefiting: while visiting the Brooklyn site, we met a 90-year old neighbor who spends much of his time maintaining the space. Then and now, Waters was right: gardening is the perfect way to bring a community together.