The Garden at Oswegatchie School is a sustainable organic garden where children get a hands on experience learning where their food comes from while developing an appreciation and respect for nature. The Garden will be a learning center to teach gardening as well as incorporating art, music, literature, math and science. It is a place where children are encouraged to join in and participate in the process of creating, developing and maintaining the garden!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Our vision for "The Garden" or why we grow the way we do...

Our Vision for "The Garden"

This garden project started as an idea to create an organic school garden where we could share our passion of gardening and healthy food with others and as a place to teach children where their food comes from.

When we began this project last April, we wrote a mission so we could outline what we hoped to accomplish and list what goals we wished to obtain.

Here is an updated  outline of our vision:

The Garden at Oswegatchie School is a sustainable, organic garden where we grow strictly open pollinated, organic and heirloom varieties while using only natural practices to grow in harmony with nature. 

The Garden is a place where children will not only learn where their food comes from but also get a hands-on experience growing, harvesting and preparing food.

It is a place for children to connect with nature and develop an appreciation and respect for the earth.

The Garden is a learning center to teach organic gardening and sustainable agricultural practices as well as incorporating art, music, math, literature and other subjects.
We are working on developing an eco-cycle model by creating a closed eco-system, relying on examples from natures to grow sustainably while replenishing the soil. Our growing practices include the following:
· building the soil by adding organic matter
· starting seeds using soil blocks, eliminating the need for plastic trays
· applying compost tea to add nutrients and grow healthy plants,
· planting bio-intensively to reduce water consumption, reduce the need to weed and achieve greater yields in less space, all while replenishing the soil,
· planting winter cover crops to build and protect the soil
· crop rotation
· companion planting to attract beneficial insects, reducing the need for pesticides,
· organic pest management
· seed saving, growing out regional heirlooms that are adapted to our area, protection the diversity of seeds
· winter gardening to provide fresh greens year round
· composting
· growing for nutritional value
We are also working on developing sustainable practices to reduce the impact on the earth. Some of the practices that are currently in development are:
· developing a rainwater collection system for irrigation
· designing a self-sufficient greenhouse that can produce its own electricity to run heating mats, cooling & ventilation system, drip irrigation system (collected rainwater) and lights.
Our intention is to make The Garden a child friendly place where children are encouraged to join in and participate in every process of creating, developing and maintaining the garden.
We plan on incorporating the food grown in the garden into the school lunch program as well as offering a natural school snack and vegetarian lunch option. We also plan on creating an Oswegatchie CSA and Farmer’s Market for local families to participate in and provide food to families in our community that otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford healthy, organic food.

Some people have asked us what specific terms mean, like sustainable or open pollinated, so I'll try to explain the meanings and why we chose to grow this way: 

Sustainable - Means capable of being continued with minimal long term affects on the environment.

We want the garden to be self-sustainable, meaning that once it is up and running, it will be able to support itself. The garden will do this through processes like composting to build the soil structure and saving seeds to reduce the need to purchase seeds each year. It will also do this financially by the selling of seeds and seedlings from the garden in the spring.

Organic - Organic means without chemicals.

We grow using only organic seeds in the garden because we don't want chemicals in our food or food grown from seed that was sprayed with chemicals. It's been proven through scientific studies that organic food has a higher nutrient content than food grown with chemicals.

Open pollinated - Open pollinated means pollinated by insects, birds or nature.

 Selecting open pollinated seeds means that when you save your seeds, you will end up with the true variety you are saving from. If a seed is a hybrid, it will revert back to one if it's parents and won't grow true.

Heirloom - Heirlooms are non-hybrid, open pollinated varieties that have been grown for generations and saved because of their characteristics like taste or adaptability.

We choose to grow mostly heirlooms because these varieties have history. They have been passed down from generation to generation and connect people all over the world with the stories they hold. Growing heirloom varieties and saving seeds also helps preserve varieties that may become lost due to the creation of hybrid and GMO seeds.

Bio-intensive - Bio-intensive planting means planting intensively, spacing plants as close as possible.

Bio-intensive planting reduces the need to water because the leaves shade the soil, reducing the amount of evaporation. It also reduces the need to weed because weeds usually don't grow in the shade.

Soil blocks - A compact square of soil used to grow seedlings in.

Using soil blocks not only reduces the need for plastic seedling trays, it is also better for the plants because it reduces root shock when transplanting. The seedlings will grow to the edge of the soil block and stop, sending the energy into the plant instead of becoming root bound. The result is healthier plants.

This has been one of the most rewarding projects we have worked on. We get inspired each time we set foot in the garden. Seeing it come to fruition and grow, as it has in the past year, has been an incredible experience.

We have so much more in store for this project. The teaching possibilities are endless and we plan on taking full advantage of this resource to bring awareness of healthy food and the importance of preserving our food supply to as many as we can!

~Rob & Cynthia Terry

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