Our Ever Growing School Garden Tour

Our annual fall School Garden Tour takes a look at the ever-expanding network of school gardens in the District. Each school offers a proposal for a new project and the tour concludes with a vote to decide who receives the crowdfunded donations. Our first stop was Cleveland ES in Shaw. 

Sarah and Jasmine help manage the garden as well as a variety of related programs. At Cleveland ES 99% of the student body is eligible for free or reduced lunch and for most students this is one of the few places to access green open space. Every Wednesday is a Garden Market, where students run stands to learn business skills. 

We sampled some cream cheese made with chive, garlic, and radish from the garden. There is an emphasis on family and community involvement. Students can learn recipes to take home and share. They've hosted a pop-up restaurant with some of the garden edibles. Jasmine hopes to use donations for more signage incorporating art in the garden, as well as signs to display information in Spanish and English.  

We depart to our next stop, Tubman ES in Columbia Heights. 

Tubman ES's garden is 6 years old and all 500 students are involved. Together they have 12 raised beds, mostly of edibles. 

Garden Coordinator Rebecca plans to use funds to remove rodents and pests from the north side of the garden and install a pumpkin patch. 

We helped install signs painted by students and volunteers. The beds are class or grade assigned, which give students ownership over projects. 

Fresh tomatoes from the garden. Tubman ES has a number of garden-focused after school programs, such as their Cooking Club and Junior Gardeners for pre-k. 

Tubman ES has been compositing since the garden first began. Rebecca describes the steps taken on the newly designed bins to keep pests away. 

Ward 3 Council-member, Mary Cheh, has been a longtime proponent of programs like school gardens. In 2010 she helped author and introduce the Healthy Schools Act, a transformative piece of legislation that is influencing the way both Public and Charter Schools in District deal with issues such as "growing poverty, poor nutrition and environmental degradation." There is a strong emphasis on increasing access to nutritious locally sourced food. 

We head west to Adams Morgan, happy to have some neighborhood kids cheer us up the hill. 

Marie Reed ES on 18th Street was visited by Michelle Obama and other lawmaker's spouses as part of a focus on healthy schools. The garden has undergone some rebuilding recently. 

The team at Marie Reed ES: Amelia, with Food Corps. Carolyn, School Health Coordinator. Principal Katie Lundgren. Community member and volunteer Jeff. Lundgren, who's in her first year as Principal at Marie Reed, is proud to be part of the Monarch Sister School program. The program gives instruction on building butterfly-friendly gardens and allows them to Skype with a partner school in Mexico, the winter home of Monarch butterflies. Marie Reed donations would be used to construct a compost system.

Our ride leader, OSSE School Garden Specialist, Sam Ullery and his daugther Ophelia. Ullery oversees all 108 school gardens in the District, and Ophelia hands out snacks to ride participants at the stops. Garden programs grow every year. When we began these rides two years ago there were around 80. 

Our group heads back towards downtown for our final stop.

Aptly named, The Farm at Walk Jones Education Campus, a DC Public School pre-k to 8th grade, at 1125 New Jersey Ave NW, is one of the largest gardens in the district. 

The Farm is managed by Sarah, far left, and her team of volunteers at DC Greens. DC Greens is a teaching and training program focused on “connecting communities to healthy food.”  They offer monthly professional development workshops for school garden coordinators across the city. 

It once sat vacant for 10 years, but now The Farm can produce 3000 pounds of produce. Sarah's goal is to make the space as much about the community as the school by recruiting local volunteers and opening up the space for various markets and classes. 

The Farm is bustling with activity in the fall. Lots of community members drop by to volunteer. 

After dining in the outdoor classroom, our group voted for a project to fund. Marie Reed ES in Adams Morgan will receive all of our participants' donations to help create a compost system.

Thanks to Sam for his work managing the program, and to all the School Garden Coordinators in DC: enjoy the harvest!

Thanks to Whole Foods Market P Street and Chipotle for supporting this event.