Kathleen, Larry and Elena taught a hands-on swale workshop to the Suisun Valley eighth graders in the spring of 2017 on how to use swales in storing rainwater in the ground. Now that the kids are back in school, designing the Demonstration Food Forest is the next step.
Principal Jas Wright is including the kids in the design of the food forest. To get them thinking about that design, I held five sessions, speaking with seven classes of, sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students. We had a conversation about Fruit Tree Guilds and the importance of choosing a diverse group of plants that benefit each other. Each plant should provide multiple functions.
The kids were engaged asking many questions. The one question that stood out in my mind: What is the opposite of a food forest? The answer is monoculture, the planting of only one type of crop in a given area. Our program encourages planting a polyculture and the importance of including plants that build the soil.
Fava beans have already been part of the Suisun Valley curriculum. Katie, one of the students was excited to tell me how they added nitrogen to the soil by planting fava beans as a cover crop. To prepare the demo garden site, Laura, the Garden Coordinator has already begun to sheet mulch. The site has two mature fig trees and an unidentified, mysterious fruit tree. These three trees will be included in the design.
Now the kids have a base understanding of what a fruit tree guild is. Each class will be responsible for the design, the installation and the care for one guild within the food forest. Over the next 2 weeks they will be naming their guilds and selecting the plants. On a side note, one of the classes is even working on restoring the California Native Plant Garden. So many opportunities to learn!