Growing School Gardens Summit Part 1: Join us for the first in a four-part series (in English)

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00:00:28 Michelle

Welcome to the farm to school podcast where you will hear stories of how youth thrive and farmers prosper when we grow, cook and eat. Delicious, nutritious, local foods and schools.

00:00:37 Rick

We’re your hosts, I'm Rick Sherman

00:00:38 Michelle

And I'm Michelle Markesteyn. We are farm to school coordinators coming to you from the state of Oregon.

00:00:45 Rick

OK, so last week Michelle, I was on assignment at the 2nd biannual growing school Garden Summit In San Diego, CA. We were blessed with really good weather right by the beach, a gorgeous setting. This conference had over 500 attendees from all over the USA and even 500. It was at jam packed. It was a great conference and yeah. Some from even around the globe.

00:00:55 Michelle

Lucky. That's amazing.

00:01:15 Rick

So these are one of those conferences where you'll get inspired by the wonderful people that do amazing things in the school gardens and across our country. As one guest told me, you could have probably grabbed each one of the 500 guests and you would have had a different amazing story every time.

00:01:34 Michelle

Well, right. So I mean, who were these folks? I mean, my sense is these are the school garden leaders from around the country. And like you said, even some from out of the country.

00:01:44 Rick

They were. They were the school garden leaders. They were people that were just volunteers. There were Principals, there where all walks of life, all the you know, CEO's of different nonprofits and corporations. They were there just wanting to learn about school gardens or there to share. And so I just set up my stuff off in a corner of a hallway and grabbed people, and sat them in a chair and gave them headphones and said tell me your life story and tell me what excites you about school gardens and teaching kids about local food, and every single time I had a wonderful story to share.

00:02:28 Michelle

So, so a hallway at a conference. So. So basically the on assignment means these are going to be really high-quality audio, super clean...

00:02:31 Rick

No, no, no. You will hear people laughing and off to the side. And it is what it is. I it's I think it's going to be fine also was fighting a cold so there's the odd time when I was coughing off-mike as best as I could so I apologize doe that.

00:02:54 Michelle

And we earlier in another podcast episode, we interviewed John Fisher from Life Lab in school garden support organizations.

00:02:55 Rick

Yeah, we did.

00:03:05 Michelle

How is that?

00:03:07 Rick

This was his baby, his brainchild, and I was very fortunate. I got to see John again and say hi to him a bunch. And he took some pictures of us doing some of these. So I'll share some of those in the show notes and things like that. But yeah, there was just there was too many people to mentioned you know, I just, I grabbed some of these people that were keynotes and I said you have got to be on our show so. So I have enough content here for four episodes and that's what we're aiming for. You'll see on the on the thumbnail, this is what we're trying to do is part one of four. And so we have a lot of content.

00:03:48 Michelle


00:03:51 Rick

I have to get going on editing so I can let's get started with our first episode!

00:03:55 Michelle

OK, thank you. This is wonderful.

00:04:01 Rick

So I am here with Jessica Eves at the growing school garden summit in San Diego, CA and I just had the pleasure of touring your school Jessica and I was blown away by your school. How beautiful it is as a courtyard garden. Can you just tell me about your journey, how you started, started your garden there?

00:04:28 Jessica Eves

All right. Well, thank you for inviting me on today. So we the garden came out of an idea from an after school club. I started about five years ago and they wanted a school garden and crazy enough about before I became a classroom teacher over 20 years ago. My first job was a garden teacher. But it was part time and it wasn't a garden that I started. I kind of just filled into a space that needed a teacher. So, when the kids said they wanted a school garden, I was like, I can do this. So I started writing grants and we got our first grant and I was like, oh, wow. All right, this is exciting. And I just kept writing grants and...

00:05:08 Rick

And you had a green thumb and you knew everything about gardening?

00:05:10 Jessica Eves

No, not at all. I knew nothing. I mean, I knew some, but I mean, I had actually worked on organic farms in New Zealand when I studied abroad. So I had a love for gardening. Yeah, but I never done anything to this level where we're at now.

00:05:22 Rick


00:05:23 Jessica Eves

So yeah. So the kids wanted a garden. And as I'm going to be talking on Monday on my lightning talk, they got a garden and it's, you know, it just kept just, I mean, it just kept evolving and growing and getting bigger.

00:05:35 Rick

So it there’s two kind of courtyards in your place. One was a good picture of how it used to look it was just grass, which is pretty common in places and my experience a lot of those courtyards aren't really well used, until they're a garden and there are really well used. It's such a neat use of space. So. So how did that evolve?

00:05:59 Jessica Eves

Well, you know, I went to my admin with the idea that these kids had for garden. She just said yes and it was just yes. Every time after that they had the school fund having the grass removed.

Like you saw, there was a grass side on the other side and then there was where used to be. Grass is now where our gardens at and she was just always. Yes, she was so excited to do and create this program with me, and that I am so grateful for that.

00:06:23 Rick

Not only is it just a garden, you know, like I've, you know, people say sometimes. Like sometimes there's a stigma. It's like, oh, gardens are just for growing food. You grow stuff. But then you teach, you have a cooking, cooking class where you teach all the kids. Tell me a little bit about that.

00:06:43 Jessica Eves

So the garden started as just a garden. And then when we got our first award from the Sage Garden project, it gave me the opportunity to show how we could really utilize the garden to its fullest right because we just gave away the food in the beginning and some teachers might. No. And but the kids weren't getting a chance to see how you could easily make veggies taste amazing. And that's my goal is getting kids to love veggies. And when I hear the kids ask for more veggies, they're just like or...

00:06:58 Rick

There's nothing wrong with that.

00:07:11 Jessica Eves

Just yesterday, one of my students said, what did you do to this broccoli? It tastes so good, you know, and that's music to my ears.

00:07:19 Rick

Yeah. And let me tell you guys out there about her student leaders. She has junior Master Gardeners out there and you know, a little elementary aged kids, but they look you right in the eye and they speak to you and they're on tests. They had these little leaders that took us around. And I asked this, this one little young lady who was our leader. And I said hey, what's what do you want to be when you grow up? and she goes I want to be a garden teacher just like and she talked about you and that was what she wanted to do. And it just it just made my heart melt. It was so cool.

00:07:54 Jessica Eves

So sweet. I know that makes my heart melt, hearing that.

00:07:57 Jessica Eves

00:07:58 Rick

It's always good you make a difference. You don't realize how much we make a difference when we're teaching kids about food and stuff, you think it's such a small thing, but you know, they associate that garden with the school. So. But I saw all the posters in your room of like, they do. You do taste that we had did a taste test today. We did Carrot Top pesto and it was delicious. I've never had that before and I will make it myself. You know, but I’m like you. I usually have an overabundance of basil, but it's really nice to have that option too. But the point is, all the kids, you know, like they vote on their taste tests and they, you know, and there's I saw so many of them tried, tried everything and they're getting to like the foods and they're at least giving it a try and hardly there was a very small percentage of people that didn't care for it and stuff. So it was, it was really neat.

00:08:48 Jessica Eves

Sure, sure. I might have mentioned in your group, just giving the kids the space, right?

00:08:56 Rick


00:08:57 Jessica Eves

They're comfortable enough to try the food, and once they've realized the food that I serve them is very tasty, they're eager. They're eager to come back and try something new, right, which is fun.

00:09:07 Rick

Do you have any goals for? Like you know what's going to happen in five years from now at your school with, you know, 10 years or?

00:09:16 Jessica Eves

Yeah, you know, so I mean it, this program grew so much in such a short period of time and it's only been five years and now, I mean, I moved from being a classroom teacher from 19 years into this full time position as a garden and cooking educator. But what I would love to see is, I mean, the kids love the cooking aspect of this program so much. They just want to eat, and they're so excited to eat, I would love to be able to transform our classroom into a true culinary kitchen, a culinary lab where the kids could be even more hands on. Yeah, I mean, we try to get as much as we can, but, you know, you saw this setup. It's a good setup. I'm really grateful to have it, but it's still pretty basic and we're still limited. So I would love to be able to find grant money or a sponsor that can help clean up that space and make it.

00:10:01 Rick

Well, if anyone could do it, you can. You're a go getter. I've. It reminds me of someone we just interviewed a couple months ago, Kelly Douglas. She's that same mindset, somebody who just refuses to take no for her answer and can fundraise and do things and just be a Dynamo. So I really applaud you and appreciate what you do for the for the kiddos.

00:10:27 Rick

Jessica, is there any one thing take away that you would want to tell the audience of your job or what you do or how you empower students lives?

00:10:41 Jessica Eves

You know, that's a good question. I feel food is definitely a way that we show love, right? And you know that we, you know, a lot of hopefully a lot of us grew up having, you know, an abundance of food in our houses. And sometimes our students do not.

00:10:48 Rick


00:10:55 Jessica Eves

And so the fact that I, you know, provide them with food and I do it with love. You can see that they are so appreciative. You know, some kids come really hungry to school. So for me, the fact that I can, you know, reach kids in a different way than I did as a classroom teacher, I reached them through food. We get connected through food. That's how you know it. Food brings people together. And I am so excited. I get to have relationships with students around food, and we get to share a meal together or, you know, or taste like you did.

00:11:25 Rick

Well, I saw that love today by the kids? I mean, they just they just to give up their Saturday and it's sunny, sun-shiny and beautiful. And San Diego, CA I would be at the beach if I was a kid. You know?

00:11:32 Jessica Eves

I know, right?

00:11:41 Rick

That it that is just so awesome. And they'd love to be there. You could see it in their eyes. They were just they were so happy.

00:11:45 Jessica Eves

They're that's great kids.

00:11:46 Rick

Well OK. I want to thank you so much for being here today and it's so nice to get to know you.

00:11:53 Jessica Eves

Thank you.

00:11:57 Rick

So I'm still at the growing school garden summit in San Diego, CA, where it's currently beautiful out in 75°.

00:12:05 Daniel

So nice.

00:12:06 Rick

And I'm with Daniel. Daniel, can you say your full name?

00:12:11 Daniel

There. Yeah, I'm Daniel Barrera. I actually have two last names: Barrera, Ortega, Daniel Barrera Ortega That's my full name.

00:12:17 Rick

Ohh, that sounded so cool when you said it like that. You need your own podcast!

00:12:21 Daniel

Nobody should trust me with the mic, yeah.

00:12:26 Rick

So Daniel, where do you work?

00:12:28 Daniel

So that is actually a very good question because I currently work at two different places as of this week, I dedicate half my time to fresh farm footprints, which is a food, food systems organization based out of DC and I work for their education branch called footprints.

00:12:46 Rick

OK. And you live in DC?

00:12:48 Daniel

DC is my is where I reside, OK and then as of literally last week, I am a program specialist for the school Garden Support Organization network. Yes, yes.

00:13:00 Rick

OK. Yeah. And I met you the other day. And so I knew you were doing that. So how? How did that fit into your life? Did you wake up one day when you know I don't know, Like you're in high school and said I want to work in farm to school and school gardens. How did you get into this line?

00:13:19 Daniel

So that's so funny because we talked with some people about how a lot of us. This is a found path for a lot of us. Yeah. So for me it looked like I was doing undergrad and I didn't really know if I wanted to go to grad school, and I was basically a lab rat. My undergrad is in plant science plant genetics. So he did a lot of really intensive lab work.

00:13:42 Rick

Oh wow. Is that like, horticulture?

00:13:49 Daniel

No so botanist, apparently like kill plants to learn about them. And then we have the planned scientists who grow them to learn about them both necessary.

00:14:00 Rick

OK. Thank you. That's really clarifying. OK.

00:14:00 Daniel

But I actually didn't know what I wanted to do, but I knew I liked food and I liked children. And he got involved with a school garden program in Gainesville, FL. I went to USF for undergrad go Gators.

00:14:18 Daniel

Go Gator. Go Gators.

00:14:21 Rick

You can't see me doing the Gator Chomp.

00:14:23 Daniel

Yeah, and I really enjoyed it. So I ended up doing food core for two years. Uh food Core is an AmeriCorps. I'm basically I was a garden educator in a school in Washington, DC and I just was like, I really like teaching and I really liked teaching gardens and food. And that's kind of the beginning.

00:14:47 Rick

Did you come up to Portland for orientation?

00:14:47 Daniel


00:14:51 Rick

That was fun. I used to go to those. Just to eat the good food at you know that place.

00:14:54 Daniel

Yeah, right - Lewis and Clark campus is beautiful and you know you're coming out of underground, getting flown out to Portland. They don’t do that anymore.

00:15:01 Rick

No, probably ever since COVID, I think. Yeah, you know, maybe they'll start that up again. I'll have to talk to my buddy Aaron, see if they'll do that, but yeah. I think so.

00:15:10 Rick

Yeah. So that that's an interesting journey. I haven't really heard that before. That plant science stuff. So yeah, it's good.

00:15:21 Daniel

It was, I mean, it was found. There wasn't something that I just wanted. The original plan was it was going to be kind of like a gap thing to.

00:15:29 Daniel

Find whatever was next, whether it was grad school or this very traditional ABC path. And then I was like, actually, I want to stay here and here I am six years later.

00:15:34 Rick

Yeah. That's a good question. So you want to stay here? What do you envision yourself for like 5 years down the road, 10 years where you're super old, like me, you know?

00:15:48 Daniel

Ten years. I'm not even going to be my 40s. I just aged myself down. But you know, in 10 years I really see myself as more of an expert in the field. I think when I thought about myself five years ago.

00:16:07 Rick


00:16:08 Daniel

Like my vision was to be someone where people would come to you to ask questions to be like, oh, you know who you should talk to? You should go talk to Daniel. And I think in five years in 10 years, I think it's similar but different in the sense that I now I'm learning to be more of a facilitator and connector of a lot of things, having come from working classrooms and facilitating with other teachers and children, yeah. And then also I really love training. I love interacting with people and being the same. I just notifies the idea of I just like connecting with people, bringing heads together, and I think that's the next step is how to get our movement to connect more deeply to make our mission happened, which is have every school have a school garden. Every child have access to school garden education.

00:17:01 Rick

OK, cool. That really resonates with me and you have the right kind of mindset for that, that passion that I see, so that I applaud you for that.

00:17:12 Daniel

So yeah, I'm just out here doing my best, yeah.

00:17:15 Rick

That's all we can do. Well, Daniel, thank you so much for sharing your life and stuff and stay in contact and everything and we'll talk another time to you later.

00:17:23 Daniel

Yeah. Absolutely. Go Gators!

00:17:26 Rick

OK, go Gators.

I'm still at the growing school garden summit in beautiful San Diego, CA and I am with Mr. Hasim Bennett. And you're from New Jersey. I see you’re biology teacher at... I cannot pronounce that name that high school, so…

00:17:42 Hashim

It's OK. It's like my first name, Hashim. And then the school is Weequahic.

00:17:45 Rick

Yeah. Weak. Weak, weak, weak….

Weequahic. Yeah, it's an Indian name comes from the Lenape Indian.

00:17:51 Rick

So Hashim, can you tell me a little bit about your job at your at the high school there. And I still won't pronounce it yet until I say it like 10 times.

00:18:09 Hashim

Yeah. So most people say weak-way. If that makes it any easier?

00:18:14 Rick

Week way

00:18:15 Hashim

So Weequahic is in Southern Newark, NJ, it's the southernmost ward of Newark, NJ and it's pretty unique because it's on the other side of the highway that separates it from the rest of the city, but it's a very historically prominent school. It's been around for quite a while. Einstein visited it was at one point the number one high school in America, and now we are looking to regain that title.

00:18:37 Rick

Ohh wow. So, I'm picturing an old brick stately building that's been there.

00:18:47 Hashim

Absolutely. Very art deco. It sits on the hill.

00:18:50 Rick

Yeah. OK. How many students go there?

00:18:52 Hashim

Right now, we're at about 600. The school is not as full as it used to be. There's actually a charter school that takes up the top two floors of the building just to help fill it out and give us some other opportunites.

00:19:07 Rick

OK. And so a high school in in New Jersey, NJ is the Garden State. Do you guys have a school garden there?

00:19:14 Hashim

You know we do. I was able to work with the Greater Northern Conservancy to get a couple of grants, and we're on the 2nd iteration. We put in a couple of grow beds. We have a section on an unused portion of the campus and my principal has now said go do whatever you like.

00:19:21 Rick

Ohh, it's so great to have supportive administrators that let you do whatever.

00:19:37 Hashim


00:19:37 Rick

You do that so you're a biology teacher. So do you get a certain amount of, like, classes that you can kind of teach out there as you as you wish or so?



00:19:48 Hashim

I actually teach Allied Health, which is all of the health related careers. And so with that, I don't get a chance to do as much of the growing gardening that I would like to do. So I started the club after school club and we talk about a lot of the nutrition that goes with or hand in hand.

00:19:53 Rick


00:20:08 Hashim

With allied health and you know the parts that are not in the Curriculum.

00:20:14 Rick

OK. How do you think your kids .. I'm picturing high school kids that it's tougher sometimes, like the elementary kids in my I was just at a garden today and the kids are on fire for stuff. And the kids. I know how in high school you have to be cool and stuff. How? How do you think the litmus test is for your students? How do they respond to the garden? You know the growing in the school gardens and all that? Do they really get into it?

00:20:40 Hashim

Ohh man. Ohh they love It, they love it.

00:20:43 Rick

All that's so good. Tell me. Tell me more?

00:20:45 Hashim

Well, you know, I think a lot of them want more of it and they don't get as much exposure. Like you say, the elementary schools and middle schools have the gardens. There's a lot of work there, but when the kid gets to high school, you're playing sports. So you have after school practice as much as they're looking for jobs, you know, they got a, a little girlfriend or boyfriend that they might be entertaining.

00:20:57 Rick

Yeah, yeah.

00:21:06 Hashim

They need date, money and so if they're going to stay out after school, they want to be able to get paid as much as the garden is there and they're attracted to it, there's the challenge is to sometimes keep them there. But I found a way to work with some of these agencies, like the Greater N Conservancy to be able to get them paid. And that's usually during the summer student workforce development. And it's where these agencies have said, if you want to keep them working, we'll keep paying, so it's extended into the fall and now the spring we're getting them back in the garden to help plant for the new season.

00:21:40 Rick

ohh that's great. And then you know they can put that on their job applications and stuff like that. So that's that's really good. I applaud you for doing that. That's so awesome. So what do you see? Do you have any long term goals like in five or ten years? What? What you could be doing there at the school if you're still there?

00:22:00 Hashim

And that's the money question, Rick. Yeah, I see it as a lifelong installation, if you will. I plan to have an agricultural location installed where we can now say this is where you go in this city. You're going to go to Weequahic High School to learn agriculture. Oh yeah, of course there's a lot of legwork behind it, but actually, they have a lot of it instilled already. The standards are there, they have the CTE pathways lined out. It's just a matter of having a school with the resources, with the staffing and the passion to be able to carry the program.

00:22:37 Rick

We're starting to do that in Oregon now. The CTE kind of things. Back when I was in high school, we had wood shop classes and we made shelves, checker boards. And now they're doing framing. And like real life applications that they'll teach them job skills, and then they have the whole gardening part and the culinary part. So that's I really like that. I think that's the best way. It's just getting the students to the CTE campus, you know, but which is tough so.

00:23:02 Hashim

Yeah, yeah. Well, you know, you build the interest and they'll come. I I'm outside working. They see me with the power tools cutting up wood. And I want to do that. What are you doing? Mr. Bennett, can I come over there with you? And that's how you start them out and just give them what they want.

00:23:27 Rick

OK, well, I'd love to stop by sometime and say hi, If I'm ever in your neighborhood and get a get a tour.

00:23:31 Hashim

Please do. Absolutely. Hopefully we'll have a lot more plants by the time you get there.

00:23:37 Rick

Yeah, well, it's the Garden State again, right. So you kind of have to.

00:23:40 Hashim

There you go. See, that's what I'm gonna say to the mayor when I give him this proposal. Thank you. There you go.


Yeah. Alright, Hashim. Thank you so much for being on the show. I really appreciate it. So it was nice meeting you.

00:23:49 Hashim

Yeah, right. I appreciate you too, Rick. Thank you so much.

00:23:55 Rick

OK, great. Thanks. Hey everybody. We'd like to thank all of our guests for being a part of our show and thank you for listening today.

00:24:10 Michelle

Wow, what a gift to hear folks share their stories. Farm to school was written, directed and produced by Rick Sherman and Michelle Markesteyn, with production support from Leanne Lochner from the Oregon State University. This podcast was made possible by a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture.

00:24:28 Rick

The content and ideas on the farm to school podcast does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Oregon State University's Oregon Department of Education and the United States Department of Agriculture, the USDA, Oregon Department of Education, and Oregon State University are Equal Employment providers and employers.

00:24:48 Michelle

Want to learn more about Farm to school? Connect with us? You can check out other episodes, show notes, and send us your ideas for other episodes at . That's all one word farm to

00:25:06 Rick

We would love to hear from you too, so stop by the website just mentioned to say hello or give us an idea for a future podcast.

00:25:13 Michelle

Thanks everyone for listening.

00:25:14 Rick

Thanks everyone. Bye.

Join Rick "on assignment" as he travels to the Growing School Gardens Summit, in San Diego California. Rick interviews a dozen people with amazing stories. This is part one of a four-part series.


The Farm to School Podcast is produced by Rick Sherman, Farm to Child Nutrition Program Manager at the Oregon Department of Education and Michelle Markesteyn, Farm to School Specialist at Oregon State University Extension with production support from LeAnn Locher, OSU Extension. The show is made possible by a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture.

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