Fairfield High School
The Fairfield High School garden was initially two abandoned raised beds that needed revitalization. This installation attracted around 70 participants from different sectors of the school. Participants included the Garden Club, students from the culinary class, Special Education and P.E. students wanting to support the garden. These numbers also include members from the public who volunteered for the school’s beatification efforts on Martin Luther King Day. Overall the installation took about two months, since we had a couple of long holidays over the winter and rain.
While mostly facilitated by the sustainable landscape designer, the Fairfield Garden Club was given a blueprint of the garden area and invited to create a design for the garden. This garden area was also an area that Special Education students utilize for comfort, and as such we engaged the Special Education teacher in the design so that her needs and the needs of her students for utilizing that space would be met.
Results and Impact
The installation of the Fairfield High School Garden proved to be an interesting one. Since a major goal was to utilize the produce grown at the garden for the culinary programs, the engagement of the culinary teacher was necessary. During initial meetings, he mentioned that they were in need of fresh herbs. While this was a great first step to engage the culinary program, there were challenges with the culinary program supporting the maintenance of the garden. As such, the garden club will support the maintenance of the garden, including harvesting the vegetables when they are ready. This creates a partnership of sorts that will be interesting to follow in the long run. It also begs the question of what it will look like for all these different groups to collaborate together in the long run.
The garden champion is a librarian with no gardening experience, but a commitment to making the garden a success and a love for supporting students in ways that go beyond the typical classroom education. Through her role as a librarian, she has been able to engage students with different interests and abilities. She is currently looking for ways to engage more individuals in the garden and to create more opportunities for them to learn outside with hands-on projects and activities. This approach, I believe, will extend the longevity of the garden.
Over the next five years this garden will create at least 331 pounds of food, which is around 276 meals. These meals will be prepared by culinary students.
Time after time, the need for a strong garden champion eager to support their students is necessary for a successful school garden. Equally as important is for that garden champion to brainstorm ways of including more people and more teachers in the current garden and future garden efforts. A successful and long-lasting garden will need a visionary champion that engages and includes several different portions of the school’s population and interests into the scope of the garden. Additionally, including all interested staff in the initial planning meetings and process is necessary in order to make sure all tasks are delegated and they do not end up falling on just one person. Lastly, figuring out best ways to keep students and staff engaged as we wait for the paperwork to be completed is also key.