Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Happy Days

The first of the flowers I planted to bloom this summer.
I have to say, being a summer-born child, I adore the summer months. Give me 90 degrees over 40-50 degrees any day. One of the things I love so much about summer is the fresh food. Especially the fruit. I'm so excited when spring rolls around because I know that strawberries will be in season and for two months I gorge myself on them every chance I get. One of my favorite desserts is strawberries with espresso balsamic vinegar and homemade whipped cream. As the summer months progress and different fruits come into season I manage to get a plethora of vitamins through their consumption. Plus, I get to watch my garden grow and blossom. It's so exciting to see the first fruits growing on my plants. I'm currently excited that it is blueberry season (especially since I found a local source to glean from). I'm also patiently awaiting the much loved peach season; bring on the canning projects!

I love summer breakfasts! Greek yogurt, granola and fresh blueberries!
 This year, I have news of a different kind to celebrate as well. :) I have managed to accomplish several of my goals regarding the Conway GARDEN Initiative, which is the official name for the garden project I'm starting at Theodore Jones Elementary School (TJE).  I worked with the Principal and staff at TJE to get a grant proposal in to UAMS for a startup school garden grant. This grant would provide $7000 for the initial cost of building the garden and starting the garden program. I was so excited when I was creating the budget for this grant because I managed to include the garden, all first-year seeds, an irrigation system, and the materials for beginning an on-site composting program. We will hear back by June 30th on the funding decision and I am very optimistic that we will be funded.

However, I have good news even if we aren't funded. Steve Whitaker at Double Helix Farms has offered to provide seeds for the garden (and plants if he has them) for free if we are not funded. The brothers who own the Freyaldenhoven Greenhouse have agreed to allow us space to start the seedlings for the students, which will mean higher production yields. We learned at the Love Your School project that the germination rates with students planting seeds are not very high (too many variables for errors). Kevin Haggerty, who is the current GardenCorps member working with the North Little Rock Community Farm has offered railroad ties to build the frames for the garden beds, as well. So, really, the only thing I haven't secured without funding is the soil for our garden.

That said, I am very much hoping we are funded because I would like to be able to purchase seeds to give back to the community, since that is the overall point of the project. I would also really like the rotating composting bins so that we can start a composting program in the cafeteria.

My associate, Joshua Stadther, has created an amazing resource for our after-school curriculum. He has developed an extensive encyclopedic database on all of the plants we will be planting in the garden. Also included is notes on composting and vermiculture, so we can fully explain to the students how composting works and what is needed to yield the best results. I am so excited to begin using these resources and cannot tell you how much I appreciate his help with this.

Tennis Ball Lettuce grown from the Slow Food Seed pack my mom bought me for Christmas. Isn't it beautiful?
I really will try to update this more often, but considering it is summer (and I have no internet at home these days), I am unsure how often I will manage it. Just know that good things are in the works!

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