The Humboldt County Office of Education (HCOE) received $436,000 in grant funding last year from the California Department of Food and Agriculture, for their Nutrition Programs and Services.
With this grant the office of education officially launched their School Garden Collective, encouraging and supporting Humboldt County’s on-site school gardens.
Garden educators and leaders from schools across Humboldt County gathered at Alice Birney Elementary in Eureka over the weekend to kick off the official School Garden Collective.
HCOE Farm to School Coordinator, Erin Derden-Little has been focusing on Farm to School programs in Humboldt County for at least 10 years, and is excited for what is to come with the School Garden Collective.
“We’ve been doing farm to school programming for a while, primarily around our Harvest of the Month program, where we feature local produce as part of our education program that sends prospective classrooms once a month and after school programs,” Derden-Little said. “We’re expanding our efforts to really support school gardens as well, which is another important area of Farm to School.”
The collective will help school gardens and garden educators from all over the county with support and resources.
“We’ve been starting a lot of outreach to schools and their school garden leaders and educators to invite them to join the community, to get support for their efforts and build enthusiasm and hopefully just give school gardens the support they need,” Derden-Little said. “We have so many districts in the county and everybody operates on their own, and kids can feel alone sometimes.”
Jesse Alm, who goes by “Farmer Jesse,” has been working as a garden educator for years both in the bay area and in Humboldt. Alm now works as a garden teacher at Alice Birney.
Having experienced a garden collective in the bay area, Alm explained the goals he has for Humboldt’s new School Garden Collective.
“We got together, we shared ideas, curriculum, recipes, stories, inspiration […] I want to create something like that in Humboldt County,” Alm said. “The school gardens are not just an extracurricular activity that gets either put on by a teacher who’s already working 80 hours a week or something that gets neglected. I want to take it seriously and have it be a legitimate thing where teachers get paid.”
The benefits of school gardens are much more than education–it can be a way for kids to develop a sense of community and connect with nature.
jesse: “While we would love for every kid to grow up with a garden at their home where they live, that is not the case, so creating garden programs in schools creates opportunities where they didn’t exist before,” Alm said. “I think that we can learn about ourselves […] we can learn about caring for each other– our community agreements at our garden here, Alice Birney are: care for self, care for others, care for earth.”
Principal of Alice Birney Elementary told me more about the benefits she’s seen within the school because of the garden.
“The garden provides a very fundamental element of instruction, so when we are in this area, we’re learning self-regulation tools, we’re learning how to calm ourselves, we’re learning how to respect and love our community and the earth that we’re around,” Sobilo said. “We grow together here, so our garden has created an entire motto for our school […] If something’s hard in class, we’ll say, ‘hey, we grow together here,’ if we’re angry at each other, ‘hey, we grow together.’” Sobilo said.