Last week we were invited to do an interview with a much more established garden group up in Bonbeach.
Amy and Jade have a great set up, please check out their website growinggreenthumbs.com.au and there are other details at the bottom.
Here is what they sent us (in italics) and “our” answers.
“Growing Green Thumbs: our goal is to inspire and build a sustainable future for our kids and the planet through community connections. In a series of interviews, we aim to draw attention to our environment through our community’s best sustainable practices.
Who interests us? – Families’ who practice permaculture principles in their homes, business’ who promote and use sustainable practices and farmers’ who grow bio-dynamically or organically.
We think you are a great fit and would love to feature you!
Our message: We are dedicated to educating children and their families about the origins of food, the relationship we can form with nature and the joys of giving back to the earth by living sustainably.“
- How does your home, farm or business relate to our message?
We are a School Kitchen Garden focused on engagement. We have a large number of people each doing small amounts of work. We are a community.
- How would you quickly describe yourself?
We are an organically formed loose collective of parents, kids and teachers at a small school outside Melbourne. We have created a completely decentralised model where each class within the school gets to decide what they will do with their own section of the School Garden. We found a way to welcome all sorts of people into the community even if their fingers are not very green.
- What is the nature of your business, its motto and best practices?
We are not a business. No-one gets paid. We don’t really have a motto but “Growing Up Healthy” is a bit like a slogan for us.
4. Who or what inspired you to do what you do?
We were inspired by our children. The school had previously had a vibrant garden mostly driven by a few energetic teachers. When the major protagonists left, lost interest or no longer had the time the garden would fall into disrepair. Boom and bust, boom and bust. The majority of the time the brilliant teachers involved simply had less and less time to do things in the garden due the changing nature of their roles as teachers. We didn’t want it to become a little fiefdom with committees and politics and so on.
- What is your location?
Somers, on the south coast of the Mornington Peninsula looking out at Phillip Island and the Southern Ocean.
- What are your best practices for living more sustainably? Compost organic waste, use less plastics, recycling etc…
Where to start? Ours is a root and branch approach but each class group does it’s own things.
We make our own compost and worm farms process waste food.
The vast majority of our garden set up is made from recycled materials.
We use, re-use, repair and re-purpose anything.
We have interacted a lot with the science and art programs which brings in a lot of ideas and short term projects, some of which become part of our system.
We apply a lot of principles shared with permaculture and biodynamics but we are unaligned pragmatists, we pretty much had to be.
- If you grow food, how big is your growing space, what do you grow in? i.e.: raised earth beds, apple crates, containers.
Our space was significantly impacted by some new demountable classrooms in the last few years. We have a corner of the school grounds about 100 sq metres. The success of our program means that we are out growing that and we are slowly occupying other under used spaces around us. We have to be imaginative, collaborative, diplomatic and patient. It is going very well. We were well backed by the last principal who retired last year. Our new principal is fantastic. (Thanks Hugh!)
We have 12 classes in the school now after rapid growth over the last 5 years or so. Each class and the pre/post school care group has one Raised Earth Garden Bed. Each bed is made from recycled materials and built by the less green fingered souls among us.
Each bed is approx 2 metres squared. Each class forms its own plan for the garden and we help them form a team. The team involves the kids, the educational supports staff, the teacher and one or more parent volunteer.
The amount of work for each class can be tiny. The parents come and give 30-60 minutes every week or two. It is not much more time than leading a reading circle.
Around the beds we have shared areas for kids to work in, several fruit trees, compost heaps, a falling down shed or two and more.
- Why do you grow food?
Each class decides what to grow. Most of the time we grow food. We do encourage the kids to grow food producing plants but we do not dictate.
Why do we encourage food growing? We do so because we see an enormous opportunity to connect the school kids and school community with all the processes involved in bringing healthy food to the table and bringing healthy habits to our lives.
We encourage food growing as a part of a greater project focused upon reinforcing healthy living messages; being outdoors, having hands in the earth, being active, understanding how food is produced, understanding what grows locally, understanding how the food grown in the garden differ from the food available in a supermarket, understanding the work required to make what we survive on, understanding what foods are healthy and why, understanding that food is not something that comes from a factory; it is chaotic, muddy, unpredictable, labour-intensive, diverse and seasonal. By working with nature any of us can grow food.
- What do you do with the food you grow?
We share it. We have a parallel healthy eating program which uses the produce from the garden. We have a small produce stall outside assembly each Monday which is a combined healthy eating and maths project; three kids assist every week and do all the maths associated with pricing, weighing, working out individual prices and dealing with the cash takings.
- Do you use any organic, permaculture, hydroponic, bio-dynamic methods? Or keep chickens or bees?
We take from permaculture, bio-dynamics and other systems of food growth. We are almost organic but we don’t claim the label as we take donations of things like pea straw and manure which may or may not be certified organic. Any time we can choose organic substrates we do. We encourage organic processes, we promote moon-planting, we are re-purposing an old structure for a green house and we have plans to introduce chickens.
- What are the biggest rewards for you from your garden?
The Somers Primary School Kitchen Garden works like a community garden (& kitchen) based within a school. The biggest reward is the genuine community that has formed around the garden and now extends beyond it. The kids are part of families, the families are part of the community and the community is stronger and more connected due to their combined efforts.
- What is your greatest challenge in your urban farming or business endeavours?
Even though we have a very spread out work load there remains a risk that, after certain hard working personalities leave the school, the momentum could be lost. We have been planning for succession since the project was re-invigorated in the last couple of years. Recruitment has not been a problem but succession might be.
- Do you have any favourite tips to share?
Yes; Share. Share everything. Share the load. Share the benefits. Share the credit. Share the joy. Share the knowledge. Share the fruits of your labour.
- Are you involved with your community? Food is free project, community gardens, seed saving, share waste, volunteering?
Our project is 100% volunteer driven. The aim is to create a self-sustaining community garden within the school. The major projects closely associated with us would be the healthy eating program, the weekly free fruit days, the healthy lunch days once a term, the local Boomerang Bags group and several others
- What inspiring message would you like to give to the community?
You are already good enough to do what you want to do. Don’t let anyone, yourself included, hold you back. What you don’t yet know you will learn along the journey.”
Check out the Growing Green Thumbs people below;
Growing Green Thumbs
play. grow. eat. share
Hey Folks! Do you have a Working With Children Check?
It is important that we all get these checks done in order to volunteer with the kids in the school garden.
It is free and it is easy.
Go to the dedicated Victorian Government website by clicking here.
Select Volunteer and send it off. The school will require that we all have one of these.
Please, start it today, it is not hard and it is important. You start here;
I just did it and it took me 7 minutes. I did have my drivers licence and passport to hand.. At the end you get to this point;
Then you have to go to the Post Office. It really is really easy.
That was pretty easy.
So one large section 1-6 A-F was covered in tomato plants and it was a sad end to a sad life.
In short we had a poor crop from all but the Roma and the tigerella. Today we ended their pain and ended the festival of predation.
End result; a different strategy for next year and lots of little time green tomatoes.
Enter the inter web and Milwood Permaculture.
The Stall is Back. Mrs P’s class is helping run the Produce Stall this year.
The Stall will run from 08:30-09:30 every Monday for the rest of this term, and all of terms 2 & 3 except the first and last weeks of each term.
Come and check us out and watch the kids from 3A use their Mathew skills as they run the money side of the venture.
The existing staff definitely needs some help! If you have any excess produce from your garden or from a school garden bed you help with please consider donating it to the 3A Produce Stall!
Later this year 3B will be in charge!
This Somers School Garden News Update will appear in the School Newsletter this week.
1. The working bee was great
2. The Healthy Eating initiatives have already started.
3. The Produce Stall starts next week 19.3.18
4. Is your child’s teacher one of the following; Pilgrim, Aitken, Edwards, Harrison, Shemmell, Christie, or Mills?
1. The working bee was great again.
Sunday 4.3.18 we had one of our laid back working bees. Two new families got stuck in and all the essential work was completed. The 13 beds were totally cleaned out and heavily composted. The nets were refitted. All paths and communal areas were weeded and repaired. The compost heaps and sheds were tamed.
There were kids everywhere, helping and playing. We all had a nice lunch, including garden produce, provided by Ana Hughes and the Healthy Eating project.
We did not make progress the “poly tunnel” and aquaponic systems. There is a great area, just beside the veggie garden, that is under utilised and could be the home of some great school based projects; a green house for easy seedlings, an aquaponic project, chickens? Pop in when you are at the school and have a look. This is a great example of how people with out especially green fingers can really make an impact in the school garden. Maybe you know how to work with Poly tunnels, or chickens, or aquaponic systems? Get in touch if you want to know more about what is happening in the school garden or if you can help out with anything.
2. Free Fruit Tuesday
This year we are trying to encourage healthy eating in our kids. Everyone knows what a challenge it is getting our kids to eat healthy food at home. Hugh Greer, Ana Hughes and Jill Midlovets, with the help of many more wonderful people, are trying to help our kids grow up healthy by reinforcing these messages at school too. One initiative is Free Fruit Tuesday, funded by moneys raised by the Produce Stall and Arts Fair Stall and from donations received by the Garden from Bendigo Bank (Balnarring and District Community Bank Branch). Each Tuesday several volunteers came and slice up fresh fruit and distribute it to each class before break. It takes surprisingly little time. This week we had 6 volunteers and we were missing most of the 5/6 classes and we were finished in less than 30 minutes. Do you have a little spare time after dropping your kids to school on a Tuesday? If you want to help out contact Ana Hughes via SomersSchoolGarden@gmail.com
3. The Produce Stall starts next week; Monday 19.3.18 from 08:30 to 09:45
Mrs Pilgrim’s and Miss Shemmell’s classes (3A & 3B) have decided to use the Vegie Garden and the “Produce Stall” as a maths project. This is a great use of the garden and will form a part of their “Real Life Maths” teaching. Each week three kids will be selected by Mrs Pilgrim to join the Produce Stall and help out. There will be weighing, adding, subtracting, multiplying, handling produce and handling the money.
The Produce Stall sells only fresh produce, all grown by the families of the kids at school. We either source it out of the school garden itself or by donations from kids, parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts. It is a stall representing the greater community. If you have an excess of anything in your garden, or you would like to contribute to our fund raising efforts for the kids School Garden and Healthy Eating Projects simply bring along (or send a load with you children to drop off) whatever you have: lemons, zucchinis, fruit, silverbeet, whatever you have thats fresh!
We do not sell anything cooked at the Monday morning Produce Stall (we need a “food permit” and it is a lot more complicated) but if you love making preserves, jams, pickles, fowlers vacola preserves, dehydrated stuff…. anything…. and you would like to help out please get in touch because we do have a food permit at the Arts Fair. Last year we were given a lot of jams and pickles for our Arts Fair Stall and we can stockpile a huge treasure chest of jams and so on. Last year stall did very well and all the money is already going straight back to the kids.
The Produce Stall will run for the last two weeks of this term and then every week of Terms 2 and 3 except the first and last weeks. Got veggies? Please get in touch SomersSchoolGarden@gmail.com
4. Is your child’s teacher one of the following; Pilgrim, Aitken, Edwards, Harrison, Shemmell, Christie, or Mills?
We have 9 (nine!) families volunteering to be Parent Gardeners for their kids classes. This is brilliant! We do still have gaps as we have 13 garden beds. The families that are helping out are not spread out over all the classes. So 1A, 2C, 3A, 3B, 3/4C, 5/6A and 5/6B are all in need of a Gardener. If you have a little time to help with one tiny garden bed please talk to your child’s teacher or contact Doug Lynch at SomersSchoolGarden@gmail.com . Many of the teachers mentioned above are super competent gardeners themselves so these are really good classes to garden with.
Please check out our website; www.SomersSchoolGarden.wordpress.com
Please follow us on Instagram; @SomersSchoolGarden
Please follow us on Twitter; @SomSchooGarden
Please talk to your teacher or email us; SomersSchoolGarden@gmail.com
Saving seed from outstanding performers of summer (remember to label with date, specie and location)
Cut back and dry herbs finishing up for the summer
Perusing the bulb catalogue and consider planting some bulbs for a winter/early spring show
Get ready to catch autumn leaves for your compost
Make the most of new season apples on our peninsula!