Friday, September 28, 2007

Field Trip to Portland, OR

A few weeks back I visited Michelle Ratcliffe, Urban Sprouts’ co-founder, at her home in Oregon. Michelle is an inspiring crusader in the world of school gardens, farm to school, and family farm life! She showed me around her world in and outside of Portland.

First stop, straight from the airport, she whisked me away to the Learning Garden Laboratory, a project of Portland State University. Students from local public schools visit this urban farm and even have their own garden plots they care for throughout the year. In one very inspiring project, the garden offers paid internships for students’ adult family members. The family members cultivate a garden plot using traditional methods from their home countries in order to share their techniques with others. Family gardeners from Africa and the Caribbean had sown crops like hibiscus, okra, and squash, not in straight rows, but in curvy beds that spelled out the word L-O-V-E.

Next stop, we visited Jean's Farm, an urban farm tucked away in a residential Portland neighborhood. We turned from the city street down a dark, green tunnel of trees, only a small circle of light at its end. We emerged into a lush farm, surrounded by trees, with beds of diverse crops, a cooking area, and a cob oven!

Michelle also showed me around her rural life – living with her husband and baby on farm land about 20 mins outside Portland – and her urban life – working at Ecotrust in Portland’s hip and fun Pearl District. In her position as Farm-to-School Manager for Ecotrust, Michelle has been working to pass state legislation supporting school gardens and farm-to-school throughout Oregon. They’ve won lots of support, especially from the state Department of Agriculture. Also, she’s the Western Region contact for the National Farm-to-School network, so if you need support she’s a great resource!

For more photos from my trip, click here!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Urban Sprouts Has FUN!

Britt Bravo of Have Fun * Do Good is hosting a Blog Carnival called How Does Your Nonprofit Have Fun and Do Good? Here are my responses to her theme!

Two ways that Urban Sprouts (a school garden nonprofit) has fun: by collaborating with these projects.

1. Meet the Greens. This is a website (with "webisodes" and a blog) about two middle school kids who are green. Literally. They have green skin and teach kids and adults how to take care of our environment. (OK, they're cartoon characters. But they seem really real!) What's really fun, is that they interview real kids about how they're working to protect the environment. Izz and Dex, the green kids, recently interviewed me and Walter, a middle school student from Urban Sprouts, so our interview should be published soon! Check back later in October.

2. Trash Mash-Up. This local SF group helps kids make costumes and other really fun stuff out of trash! Our summer program kids made garden decorations (that also function as scarecrows/bird repellers) out of old CDs and cool masks out of old soy milk containers. Here we are wearing our masks!

We at Urban Sprouts try to keep ourselves, the "grown-ups" having fun as much as possible, too. The youth always keep us laughing--usually something to do with eating worms or salting snails. Our work really is fun--besides the youth, working in the garden, eating tasty food, and enjoying nature make us feel good. We love what we do! We take time to enjoy these things ourselves, by taking staff field trips to visit farms or other beautiful places that re-energize and inspire us. Some of our favorite spots are: UC Santa Cruz Farm & Garden and Life Lab, Occidental Arts & Ecology Center, and Hidden Villa.

To do good and have fun, you have to take time to enjoy yourself. For me, working with people I really care about and taking a moment to enjoy the garden in the peaceful early morning hours, before the school bell rings and the rush begins, is really the essence of fun.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Better Nutrition, Better Thinking!

The SF Examiner reports- San Francisco's Mayor Newsom, is supporting better nutrition options at schools with a $500,000 grant to the SFUSD Student Nutrition Services (SNS). What will be done with the money? SNS is planning to install salad bars at 25 SF schools this year, including three schools with Urban Sprouts gardens: June Jordan School for Equity, Excelsior Middle School and Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School. We hope it comes true. Our students have been organizing Salad Days to feature fresh salads with lunch for the past four years. Students have clearly demonstrated that they love fresh seasonal food. Urban Sprouts is looking forward to supporting the success of the salad bars at our schools sites.