Sunday, April 13, 2014

Earth Day in the Garden


Marie Curie Elementary School garden
courtesy Western Growers Foundation
Earth Day brought lots of garden news, including info on the ways kids celebrated the event. In San Diego, children at Marie Curie Elementary went to their school garden to plant dwarf avocado, apple, oranges, kumquat and grapefruit trees, purchased with a grant from Western Growers Foundation.

Last summer, Western Growers sent Marie Curie a $1,500 school garden grant, an irrigation kit and additional teacher resources to support the school’s nutrition gardening program. Through support for planting school gardens, the foundation’s mission is to establish a garden in every California and Arizona school to help children learn hands-on the lessons of planting food and nutrition of fresh produce. So far the foundation has helped plant 475 gardens in schools across the West.

“In this day and age, kids play with computers more than they are outside,” said Marie Curie's school garden coordinator Mary Ricci. “This gives kids the opportunity to plant and grow things that they aren’t able to do at home. Not only do the children learn firsthand the benefit of nutrition and fresh produce, they also experience the joy of ownership and adventure in the whole process."

Western Growers Foundation supports innovative nutrition education projects and programs to create healthy individuals and communities. These projects include online consumer education through Producepedia.com and school-age outreach with the School Garden Program.

At the same time kids were digging it in San Diego, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that Washington State University will develop and run the People's Garden School Pilot Program that will serve an estimated 2,800 students attending 70 elementary schools in Washington, New York, Iowa and Arkansas. The Healthy Gardens, Healthy Youth pilot aims to help improve K-12 education by getting kids into the garden.

"School gardens hold great promise for educating our kids about food production and nutrition," said Vilsack. "Learning where food comes from and what fresh food tastes like, and the pride of growing and serving your own fruits and vegetables, are life-changing experiences. Engaging kids in our efforts to end childhood hunger and curb childhood obesity is critical if we are going to succeed."

The $1 million pilot program is authorized under the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act. The schools selected to participate in this pilot come from urban, suburban, and rural communities and have at least 50 percent of their students qualified to receive free or reduced-price school meals.

The initiative is part of a the USDA People's Garden Initiative which establishes community and school gardens across the nation to help unite neighborhoods in a common effort and inspire simple solutions to challenges facing our country – from hunger to the environment. The announcement comes as First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative celebrates National Gardening Month (April).


Ducklings hatched from rescued eggs
And, each spring Lundberg Family Farms® in Northern California takes special care to rescue duck eggs before preparing its rice fields for planting. Lundberg calls in help from farm crews and the District 10 Wild Egg Salvage Program. Volunteers, including local school kids, assist in this effort to preserve local bird life. This year’s Egg Aid included children from a school in Chico, CA and children of Lundberg employees.

How does one find a duck egg in a huge agicultural field? Volunteers start at the field's edge and walk slowly, carefully, shoulder to shoulder, looking in the grass. When an egg is found, the line stops and gatherers collect them for hatching. For more details about Egg Aid, visit http://www.lundberg.com/Commitment/Egg_Aid.aspx

Since 1937, the Lundberg Family has been growing rice and producing rice products at their farms in the Sacramento Valley. For more information about Lundberg Family Farms, visit http://www.lundberg.com/.