Sponsored By Slow Food Noosa
Peregian Beach Community College
The program at this school started in term 2 2008. Years 4,5,6 and 7 are involved. This program runs once a week for 12 months.
I was first approached by a parent 8 months ago who then sought further support within the school community for the project. The Principal, being a part time farmer loved the idea and has been a real asset to the program. I held a meeting with the teachers and decisions were made about who would be involved with the edible school gardens program. This school has a very supportive and helpful groundsman as well.
The students learned about permaculture and came up with some great design ideas which we then took outside to the site. Actually laying the design out on the ground using ropes, garden hoses and bricks really gives the students an idea of what the design will look like and if it will fit and be practical. The older students are especially good at this and have a better understanding of design and space.
Donations of second hand materials started arriving at the school and quite a few ute loads of old macadamia mulch from the principal's farm arrived. Getting ready for set up day is extremely busy as all donations and products must be on site before our set up (garden make over) day.
Set up day was strongly supported by the wonderful members of Permaculture Noosa who come to help with each of these set up days. The surrounds of the garden are old railway sleepers which will be built up to 2 high to stop hares getting in and a fence of bamboo and wire will be erected to discourage other wildlife from visiting. At the moment it is not an issue as we have had so much rain that there is enough food in the surrounding bushland to keep the animals happy and they don't need to come into the school for food.
The students have been tasting the salads greens throughout the garden each week and enjoying picking all the mushrooms that have grown out of the mushroom compost which we placed in the garden as one of our layers of the no dig garden. Some of the teachers have cooked up the mushrooms for the students to eat.
A lunchtime gardening club has started with one of the teachers for the younger students which is very encouraging.
Term 3 will see cooking in the garden with chefs from Slow Food Noosa (sponsor). They will come and cook up mouth watering meals with and for the students. The whole food experience - growing, cooking and enjoying it is an important aspect of the program.
Jan 2009 Update:
Term 4 still saw an abundance of food coming from the garden and
this term it was a race to see who could get to the strawberries
first, organic strawberries, so big and sweet. Pumpkins
were trailing across the garden beds and the students learnt
about pollination, pumpkins and zucchini
being easy flowers to demonstrate this procedure. We have
emptied 2 lots of 1m x 1m compost onto the garden, beautifully
broken down and full of life. The students especially love
exploring all the different life within the compost and the
garden. As for pest control, you never need pest control
when you have children ready to do that for you, remembering also
that not all insects and bugs are bad and there are many more
good bugs then bad.
We have focused on food miles and where food comes from and the different 'standards' other countries may have to our food standards, garlic from overseas being the main one the students wont forget and will educate their parents to only eat garlic grown in Australia.
We've played lots of games along the way as a way to understand permaculture gardening processes and the natural systems.
As we prepare for the end of the year, we are doing more eating than planting, we have had the pleasure of having several chefs from Slow Food Noosa group including Ann Marshall, Daniel Mosedale (Blue Angel organic restaurant) and Katrina Ryan (Spirit House Restaurant), yes, a culinary treat. One of the benefits of having Slow Food Noosa as our sponsor is having access to many worldly experienced chefs.
The students harvest all the produce in the morning and have it all washed and laid out for the chefs arrival. Once the chefs arrive with their magic and ability to build confidence in these students to cut, chop, fry, toss, present and savour in the joys of our organic growing and yes the eating. Several of the students took to the task of setting the tables with table cloths, placemats and serviettes (all cloth and re usuable) and arrowroot leaves as plates (and later compost). Flowers were collected and tables decorated. We had our own version of the longest lunch.
Most of the garden beds have been cleared and planted up with green manure crops, mung bean and millet. Any plant material taken from the garden has been used to make a Berkeley method compost and black compost bins also. As for cane toads, yes they can all be composted. These bins will be ready to use on the garden the start of term 1. The teachers are aware that my contract finishes around term 2 so are keen to get garden tasks into their curriculum, the school is also looking at employing another person to train with me and become the new edible school gardens educator, which is very encouraging.
The principal Mr David Manning has spend many hours in the permaculture garden with students and spent a lot of his own time collecting bamboo, compost material, rocks etc for the garden. He has really driven the project and has seen the benefits. We will miss David as he retires at the end of 2008. But as good as he is, we won't compost him!!